Greg Beato on Skyscrapers


In the late 19th century, as ever-taller buildings began to lift man closer to the heavens in Chicago, New York, and other American cities, they inspired awe, envy, and, of course, regulatory efforts to impede their development. As Greg Beato notes, early skyscrapers were charged with "rampant individualism," "robb[ing] pedestrians of light and air," and even threatening public health by "blocking the salubrious rays of the sun." In 1891 Boston outlawed buildings greater than 125 feet in height. In 1904 Baltimore set the limit of architectural aspiration to a measly 70 feet. The country's most avid architects and industrialists eventually overcame such restrictions, Beato reports, but only at great cost.