Various lists of the Top 10 wonders of the world have been compiled since antiquity till present, to catalog the world’s most spectacular wonders- both natural and man made. While these wonders are located all around the world, it is a fascinating fact that America alone houses an overwhelming number of architectural marvels. Structures ranging from the magnificent obelisk to the gigantic dams, structures carved in the indomitable mountains, structures that push the limit of physics beyond what was ever deemed possible and the structures that symbolize the very spirit of a powerful nation.
Here, I have compiled a list of top 10 man made marvels of the USA, where America’s can-do spirit and artistic side meet. This list will take you on a journey from the visionary ideas, through insurmountable difficulties, to the making of the America’s most revolutionary constructions.
10. Crazy Horse Memorial
The crazy horse memorial is the world’s largest sculpture-in-progress. It is a mountain monument complex that is under construction since 1948. Critics wonder why the project, which already has cost tens of millions of dollars over six decades, remains incomplete ! Though it is not complete yet, and in fact its construction seems far from completion at this point of time, I have nonetheless included it in this list, because when completed, it will become the world’s largest sculpture, as well as the first non-religious statue to hold this record since 1967. Being constructed on the land in the Black Hills, South Dakota, it lies only a few miles away from Mount Rushmore and depicts Crazy Horse, an Oglala Lakota warrior, riding a horse and pointing into the distance.
9. Willis Tower
Willis Tower, formerly known as Sears Tower is a man made wonder located in Chicago, Illinois. Currently the second tallest building in the United States and the eighth tallest freestanding structure in the world, this 108-story skyscraper building rises to a breathtaking height of 1,451 feet ! For about 25 years, it stood as the tallest building in the world surpassing even the World trade center towers in New York. It’s home to large well known companies as well as hundreds of thriving businesses, but more than an office building, it is today a cultural landmark and iconic Chicago tourist attraction.
8. St. Louis Arch
The Gateway Arch built in Saint Louis, Missouri is the tallest man made monument and a very famous landmark in the United States. It was originally built to commemorate the pioneering spirit of the explorers who forged the westward expansion of the nation; though through the eyes of the mathematician, it is a symbol of the discoveries made by many great mathematicians of the world in the field of differential calculus. Clad in the shiny stainless steel, this magnificent catenary curve rises above the Mississippi river to a height of almost 200 meters. Interestingly, it is exactly as wide as it is tall. The arc was designed by Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen and German-American structural engineer Hannskarl Bandel in 1947.
7. Golden Gate Bridge
Situated in North California and named after the waterway it crosses, The Golden Gate Bridge is the first non-building structure to receive the “Distinguished Building Award.” Joseph Strauss was the chief engineer of this project when it started in 1933. The construction of the bridge was completed in 1937, way ahead of its predicted schedule. Today the Golden Gate Bridge stands as one of the most internationally recognized symbols of San Francisco, California and the United States. Millions of visitors make their way to San Francisco each year to travel across the expanse of this marvelous bridge. No wonder it was reported in Frommers guide as “possibly the most beautiful, certainly the most photographed, bridge in the world”.
6. Washington Monument
It doesn’t matter where in the world people come from, one glimpse of this and they know they are in Washington, DC. Built to commemorate the George Washington, commander-in-chief of the Continental Army and the first American president, the Washington Monument is a sight that is forever linked to the history of America. Originally, the monument, that is in the form of an obelisk situated on the National Mall in Washington D.C., was constructed to serve as the focal point of the capital city. Built from marble, granite and bluestone gneiss , construction of the monument took more than fifty years. Today, this 555 feet tall monument is the world’s tallest stone structure and the world’s tallest obelisk.
5. Empire State Building
Built in 1931 during the Great Depression, New York’s Empire State Building stands as a testament to the determination and pride of all Americans. It is rumored that the plans for the building began when Walter Chrysler of the Chrysler Corporation and John Jakob Raskob of General Motors entered into a competition to see who would come up with the taller building. As one of the most famous skyscrapers, the Empire State Building reaches a roof height of 1,250 feet with its antenna spire included. It is interesting that the construction of this high a building lasted only one year and 45 days, thanks to the fact that the posts and windows were constructed in factories and shipped to the site by train. The rapid rise of the building was the talk of the country at the time.
4. Hoover Dam
Regarded as one of the largest and the most difficult structures ever built in the United States, Hoover Dam is seen as a visible reminder of the ability of the country to construct such a large scale project during the most difficult economic periods in the nation’s history. Though the discussion over the construction of Hoover dam across the Colorado river lasted for about 60 years, the actual construction of the dam was completed in only five years (1931-1936). More than 20,000 men worked on the project to build this two hundred twenty one meters tall dam, that was in fact the largest and the tallest dam in the world at that time. The construction of this dam also created Lake Mead, the largest man made lake in America.
3. Seattle Space Needle
Originally designed and built as the central structure of the 1962 world’s fair, Space Needle has since then become the symbol of Seattle, and one of the most recognizable structures in the world. Although this 605 feet tall structure does tend to sway on occasion, it was originally constructed to withstand winds of up to 200 miles per hour, double the requirements in the building code of 1962. Designed by Edward Carlson, this one hundred eighty four meter tall structure was constructed to look like a “flying saucer”, a vehicle that was popular in space travel fiction. The idea worked and this structure was able to draw over 2.3 million visitors during the fair leading to nearly 20,000 people a day using its elevators daily !
2. Brooklyn Bridge
“The contemplated work, when constructed in accordance with my design, will not only be the greatest bridge in existence, but it will be the great engineering work of the continent and of the age” These were the sanguine words of John Roebling who proposed the building of the first steel wire suspension bridge of the world, the Brooklyn Bridge. No doubt the pioneering construction of this majestic bridge was a monumental achievement that reflected the technological progress of that age. Built across the east river, it was the longest suspension bridge at that time. Even before its completion, it was seen as a symbol of greatness in New York and people were often mesmerized by the gigantic size and the ingenuity of the project.
1. Mount Rushmore
Widely regarded as one of the most magnificent and impressive man-made wonders of the World, Mount Rushmore, attracts more than 3 million visitors every year. Situated in the majestic beauty of the black hills of South Dakota, it is as much a work of art as it is an engineering marvel. Sculpted by Danish-American Gutzon Borglum and his son Lincoln Borglum Mount Rushmore symbolizes in stone the very spirit of a nation through four of its most revered leaders – George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt. Borglum and his crew used dynamite to carve more than 90% of the memorial. It is said that the Powder Men became so skilled in the use of dynamite that they could grade the contours of the cheeks, chin, nose, and eyebrows to within inches of the finished surface.