Under Construction: 9 of the World's Most Famous Structures Had Surprisingly Humble Beginnings

RealClear Staff


They are some of the most iconic structures on the Earth. But even the Empire State Building (above) started just like the construction of your house: With an initial shoveling of dirt.

1. Eiffel Tower

 Gustave Eiffel's masterpiece began construction in 1887 and opened in 1889. The view above was taken in 1888.

2. Golden Gate Bridge

A groundbreaking engineering feat, the structure that connects San Francisco with Marin County in California began construction in 1933 and opened in 1937. As you can see, when building a suspension bridge, you have to build the suspension first! It has been declared one of the Wonders of the Modern World by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

3. Mount Rushmore

Carving the likenesses of  presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln into the granite face of Mount Rushmore in South Dakota was a mammoth undertaking. Work began in 1927, and the likenesses of the presidents were carved between 1934 and 1939.The monument covers 1,278 acres.

4. Washington Monument

The world's tallest stone structure and the world's tallest obelisk almost didn't make it there. One of Washington D.C.'s most iconic structures began construction in 1848, but the project was stalled for nearly a quarter of a century -- from 1854-1877 -- because of a lack of funds and the Civil War. It was eventually completed in 1888, but when the project was restarted, a different source marble had to be used, the reason for a change of coloring from the bottom up (below). When it opened in 1888, it was the world' tallest structure -- until the Eiffel Tower in Paris opened the next year.

5. Tower Bridge

One of London's most iconic structures came about because increased commercial development in the East End of London led to a requirement for a new river crossing downstream of London Bridge. Construction began in 1887 and was officially opened on June 30, 1894 by the Prince of Wales (the future King Edward VII).

6. Hoover Dam

Constructed between 1931 and 1936 to provide electrical power to much of the Southwest, the engineering marvel located near the Nevada-Arizona border once looked like the above photo, taken in February 1934. 

7. Empire State Building

Stunningly, the Empire State Building was built in a little over one year! When it opened in 1931, it was the tallest building in the world, until the World Trade Center surpassed it in 1970 (it's now the 29th-tallest skyscraper in the world).

8. Sydney Opera House

Australia's iconic performing arts center was so complex in its ambitious design that it took 14 years (1959-74) to build. The wait was worth it; it is now on  UNESCO's World Heritage Site.

9. World Trade Center

We end with three beautiful views of our dear departed World Trade Center. The Twin Towers were built between 1968-1973. On a typical weekday 50,000 people worked in the towers, with another 200,000 passing through as visitors. The complex was so large that it had its own zip code: 10048.



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