There are two things most major American cities have in common, silly laws and skyscrapers, among other things as well, but that is another topic. For example, New York City's tallest building is One World Trade Center at 1776 feet, and the city has a law, which has probably never been enforced, were a fine of $25 can be levied for flirting. In Chicago, the tallest building is the Willis Tower, aka the Sears Tower, at 1451 feet and a city ordinance that kites may not be flown within the city limits. In Los Angeles the tallest building is the U.S. Bank Tower standing at 1018 feet and just in case you were wondering it is still illegal for dogs to mate within 500 yards of a church. I think you are getting the point, but could there be a major American city that set a height limit on its buildings? Doesn't that sound kind of un-American? Well, there is such a city and that city is ironically, Washington DC and it's Heights Building Act of 1910.
Most people have heard that buildings in Washington DC can not stand higher that the Capital Building. This is where fact meets myth. It is true there is a height restriction but the limit is not the Capital Building. In reality the law comes from the previous Heights of Building Act of 1899, that and the construction of the Cairo Apartment Building. The Cairo was built in 1894 and was 12 stories higher than the surrounding buildings, and stood at 164 feet tall. This caused two things to happen, first residents of DC freak out and dub the build "Schneider's Folly," after the buildings designer, Thomas Franklin Schneider. Second the upset residents petitioned Congress to stop other potential "skyscrapers" from being built. The Heights Act of1899 was passed and enforced under the idea that the new technologies used in building these "skyscrapers' were untested and ultimately doomed to fail. Not wanting the nations capital to became a chaotic scene of destruction from faulty construction the law stood and no residential building could pass 90 feet, while commercial buildings were allowed to be as high as 110 feet.
By 1910, Washington DC was growing and the city need more building space. Instead of scraping the Heights Act of 1899 they simply amended it. Section 5 was added in 1910 and made a few adjustments.I won't bore you with the measurement details but basically buildings in DC would now be allowed to be built a few feet taller and wider, but it depended on where the building was as well. Now, why did the city wait ten years later to change their building codes? Well, the building techniques were...