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15 historic American skyscrapers that aren't the Empire State Building

By: Matt Hickman on March 4, 2016, 12:53 p.m.
Chicago Board of Trade Building

Photo: Brian Lauer/flickr

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Chicago Board of Trade Building

It’s easy to assume that the skyscraper originated in New York City.

However, a 10-story structure largely regarded as the world's first skyscraper, the Home Insurance Building, was erected in 1884 not in the Big Apple but in Chicago, hotbed of late 19th century innovation. The pioneering steel-framed structure was demolished in the early 1930s, during a period in which Chicago's skyline shot dramatically upwards. Perhaps the most iconic high-rise borne of the Windy City's skyscraper boom of the 1920s and '30s is the Art Deco grand dame, the Chicago Board of Trade Building (CBOT).

Completed in 1930, the 44-story CBOT Building, at 605 feet, was the city's tallest all the way through to 1965 and remains the world's tallest Art Deco high-rise outside of Manhattan to this day. Funny enough, the gray limestone-clad CBOT Building and the international-style skyscraper that unseated it as the city's tallest, the Richard J. Daley Center, have both portrayed Wayne Enterprises HQ in two different Batman films, "Batman Begins" and "The Dark Knight," respectively. Aside from its Bruce Wayne associations and considerable height (it's still one of 50 tallest skyscrapers in Chicago), the CBOT Building is famous for its ornate exterior statuary, including a 6,500-pound aluminum representation of Ceres that's perched atop the skyscraper's cooper pyramid topper. Considering that a blank-faced statue of the Roman goddess of grain presides over this classic Chicago high-rise located at the southern foot of LaSalle Street, it's no surprise that the building's first tenant was a grainy one: the Quaker Oats Company.