June 23, 2015

Buildings Up, Economy Down

It’s hardly an original observation: Whenever the “tallest building in the world” rises up, the world economy goes into a downfall.  It’s true even in individual cities, like Vancouver.

The tallest buildings in the British Empire, the Dominion Building (1910) and the Sun (or World) Tower (1912) respectively, were completed just in time for the Crash of 1913; the Marine Building (1930) was opened just in time to go bankrupt in the Crash of ’29, and Park Place (1984) got swept away in the downtown after 1981.

dnu-shanghai-tower-1-300x225The Real Deal updates the international list: Why this 2,073-foot Chinese building could be an omen of economic doom, and provides a timeline of other towers that got hit in economic gales.


The newly completed 2,073-foot-tall Shanghai Tower is officially the second-tallest building in the world (behind Dubai’s Burj Khalifa) and the tallest in China.


Equitable Life Building (1873) and The Long Depression, 1873–1878

equitable-life-building-1873-300x225The Long Depression, a pervasive US economic recession with bank failures, coincided with the construction of the Equitable Life Building in New York City in 1873.

The 142-foot building was the world’s first skyscraper. (You could stack 14 of these on top of one another, and they still wouldn’t be taller than China’s new Shanghai Tower.)


Auditorium (1889) and New York World (1890) and  the British banking crisis, 1890

auditorium-1889-and-new-york-world-1890-300x224Chicago’s 269-foot-tall Auditorium, completed in 1889, and New York’s 309-foot-tall New York World, completed in 1890, coincided with the British banking crisis of 1890 and a world recession.


Masonic Temple, Manhattan Life Building, and Milwaukee City Hall (1893) and the US panic marked by the collapse of railroad overbuilding, 1893

masonic-temple-manhattan-life-building-and-milwaukee-city-hall-1893-300x225Chicago’s 302-foot-tall Masonic Temple, the 348-foot-tall Manhattan Life Building, and the 353-foot-tall Milwaukee City Hall coincided with the US panic of 1893 marked by the collapse of railroad overbuilding.

It also overlapped with a string of bank failures and a run on gold.


Park Row Building and Philadelphia City Hall (1901) and the First stock market crash on the NYSE, 1901

park-row-building-and-philadelphia-city-hall-1901-300x225The construction of the 391-foot Park Row Building presaged the US stock-market crash and panic of 1901, as did the completion of Philadelphia City Hall, which stood at a height of 511 feet.


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  1. Follow Warren Buffet’s motto,

    Be Greedy when everyone else is Fearful,
    Be Fearful when everyone else is Greedy…..

  2. You forgot Vancouver’s own Marine Building:

    Midway through construction of the building, Wall Street crashed. The Marine Building, and the G.A. Stimson Co. that put it up, were in trouble. They had a lot of company, true, but Stimson’s experience could be called a paradigm of the collapse brought about by the Great Depression. By the time the building had opened for business, business was dying. Many of the offices stayed empty.