Archive Gallery: 138 Years of Architectural Landmarks

PopSci's first looks at the Empire State Building, the Hoover Dam, the Golden Gate Bridge, and more

We’ve heard it said that Rome wasn’t built in a day. And while Popular Science isn’t old enough to have witnessed the Colosseum going up, we have covered in our pages some of the 20th century’s most important architectural achievements rise from nothing but a dream and a blueprint.

We’ve combed the archives to gather some of our most important first looks at the buildings and structures that went on to define skylines around the world.

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Considering the extent to which suspension bridges, skyscrapers, and towering monuments have become symbols of human progression, it’s hard to believe that just a hundred, even fifty years ago, our most beloved landmarks only existed as blueprints dreamed up by earnest young engineers. Mount Rushmore had no faces on it. Commuters in San Francisco still rode ferries across the Bay. So-called towering skyscrapers rose only thirty floors.

In 1927, when New York’s 57-story Woolworth Building was still the world’s tallest high-rise, we continued to ponder the mechanics of installing elevators for high-rises. “Forty thousand people within four walls!” we exclaimed. “Edison and others warn us against threatening chaos.”

At times, the process of planning and construction did involve a lot of chaos. Hundreds of workers died while building the Hoover Dam. Even Mount Rushmore’s main sculptor, Gutzon Borglum, didn’t live to see his masterpiece completed.

Needless to say, finishing projects was no easy feat, so we combed our archives to see how engineers turned empty lots, untended fields, and undisturbed bedrock into the past century’s most iconic man-made structures.

Launch the gallery for PopSci’s first looks at the Empire State Building, the Pentagon, and more.