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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.
Wainwright Building in St. Louis

Photo: joevare/flickr

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Wainwright Building, St. Louis

In a city with a modest handful of 400-foot-plus high-rises and one very big arch, it's easy to overlook the Wainwright Building. After all, the red brick office building at 709 Chestnut Street in St. Louis is rather unassuming and, at just 10-stories, not very tall.

The Wainwright Building is, however, an important work — some would say masterpiece — from the "father of skyscrapers" himself, Louis Sullivan. Completed in 1891 and declared a National Historic Landmark in 1968, the Wainwright Building is not the first skyscraper although some might beg to differ. As PBS explains in the series "10 Buildings That Changed America," "Before the Wainwright Building, no one had yet designed a tall building that embraced its tallness. The tall building was a new phenomenon — and before the Wainwright, architects were designing structures with disparate segments stacked one on top of the other, as on a tiered wedding cake." Executed as a very large classical column with a mighty brown sandstone base and intricate frieze up top, Sullivan himself remarked on the nature of the tall office building: "It must be tall, every inch of it tall. The force and power of altitude must be in it the glory and pride of exaltation must be in it. It must be every inch a proud and soaring thing, rising in sheer exultation that from bottom to top it is a unit without a single dissenting line."