In the Rogers and Hammerstein musical Oklahoma, cowboy Will Parker sings with amazement about a Kansas City landmark: “They went an’ built a sky-scraper seven stories high, about as high as a buildin’ orta go!”
Around the same time Will was marveling at a seven-story building, architects in Chicago and New York were dreaming of much taller towers, and developing the technology to build them. In the 1880s and ‘90s, Chicago architects Louis Sullivan, Daniel Burnham, and John Wellborn-Root pioneered new designs using steel-frame construction that sent buildings soaring skyward.
Eventually skyscrapers became serious business. Cities competed to claim the title of “world’s tallest building,” and the winners became sources of community pride and brand awareness. Art Deco towers dominated urban skylines in the 1920s and ‘30s, with the Empire State Building in 1931 winning worldwide public recognition.
Even before construction began on the Empire State Building, citizens of Fort Wayne, Indiana watched their own titan rise. In 1928, the leadership of Lincoln Bank and Trust charged designers to create a sky scraper that would rival the Tribune building in Chicago, the world’s most famous skyscraper at the time. The result was the Lincoln Tower -- an Art Deco masterpiece inside and out, rising 22 stories, sheathed in granite, marble, terra cotta, and Indiana limestone.
The Lincoln Tower remained the tallest building in Indiana until 1969. Like the Empire State Building, it has an observation deck at the top that offers dramatic, panoramic views. The deck is open the first Wednesday of the month, May through October, at 4 p.m. A visit requires a reservation. Contact Tippmann Group, 260-490-3000.
The history of skyscrapers