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Jul 14, 2022

What A Big Building, I Can’t See The Top

By 1898, construction had begun on several boardwalk-side buildings that so exceeded the previous maximum building height that they caused a city-wide stir. Of course, early skyscrapers had been constructed before, closer to the city centre, but these new buildings’ proximity to the ocean was a cause for excitement and, in some cases, concern. Would the ocean winds knock them over? Was it an act of hubris to situate such a tall building so close to the waves? 

These questions, however, were the purview of city folk. Those on the boardwalk were mostly disinterested by the whole situation, or irritated by the construction noise, or confused as to why the skyscrapers were called for at all. 

Elliott Callahan, writing in the summer of 1898, and seized with the “skyscraper spirit”, asked a local organ grinder to “let loose a tune commemorating the new buildings that [he] might put it to paper.” The resulting tune did not reflect the spirit in which it was requested. 


Some kinds of buildings are houses. 

Some kinds of buildings are shops. 

Sometimes they even take the shops that I mentioned,

And they put a little house right on the top. (Combination!)


Everybody loves buildings. 

Everybody loves ‘em tall. 

Everybody needs buildings,

And the highest ones up are best of all. 


Today I will sing about the skyscraper. 

Today, I will sing and never stop. 

I’m looking over there at the great big building.

And I cannot - no, I cannot - see the top.


Featuring: Austin Walker, Art Martinez-Tebbel, Jack de Quidt, Janine Hawkins and Keith J Carberry

Music & Description by Jack de Quidt

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