THEN AND NOW: What 10 famous US landmarks looked like when they were first built

National Park Service/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain, Travel Stock/ShutterstockThe Golden Gate Bridge then and now.
  • The Statue of Liberty was first built in Paris, then shipped to the US in 350 pieces to be rebuilt.
  • The idea for the shape of the Seattle Space Needle started as a doodle drawn on a napkin.
  • St. Louis’ Gateway Arch was originally called the “Jefferson National Expansion Memorial.”
  • Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more stories.

Famous monuments, statues, buildings, and bridges may seem like they have been around forever. But many well-known US landmarks were constructed more recently than you might think.

Even though some famous landmarks tend to turn into tourist traps, they’re crowded for a reason.

Here’s what 10 US landmarks looked like while they were first being built.


The Statue of Liberty was a gift from France dedicated in 1886 by President Grover Cleveland.

Hulton Archive/Getty ImagesThe Statue of Liberty under construction.

The statue was first built in Paris in 1884, then shipped to the US in 350 pieces to be rebuilt.


At 305.5 feet, the Statue of Liberty was the tallest iron structure ever built when it was completed.

Shutterstock/Matej HudovernikThe Statue of Liberty today.

The base of the statue contains a plaque with the famous Emma Lazarus poem, “The New Colossus.”


Construction on the Golden Gate Bridge began in 1933 to connect northern California to the San Francisco Peninsula.

National Park Service/Wikimedia CommonsThe Golden Gate Bridge in progress.

It took four years to complete the bridge, which spans 8,981 feet and weighs 887,000 tons, and another year before it was open to vehicles.


The bridge is painted a custom colour called “International Orange.”

Travel Stock/ShutterstockThe Golden Gate Bridge as it looks today.

According to NPR, it takes between 5,000 and 10,000 gallons of paint to annually retouch the bridge’s 10 million square feet of steel.


The Empire State building was the tallest building in the world when it was completed in 1931.

Lewis Hine, The New York Public Library collectionsThe Empire State building before it was finished.

The Empire State building is 1,250 feet tall and has 102 stories. Its 200-foot antenna was added in 1950.


The New York City landmark attracts around 3.5 million visitors every year.

The building is also a mainstay in pop culture thanks to movies like “King Kong” and “Sleepless in Seattle.”


Mount Rushmore was sculpted from 1927 to 1941.

U.S. National Park ServiceMount Rushmore under construction.

Gutzon Borglum crafted 60-foot sculptures of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln.


It’s a bucket-list item for anyone who loves monuments and national parks.

WikimediaMount Rushmore as it looks today.

Nearly 2.5 million people visited Mount Rushmore in 2016, according to the National Park Service.


The Hoover Dam was the largest dam in the world when it was completed in 1936.

Bureau of Reclamation/Wikimedia Commons/Public DomainColumns of Hoover Dam being filled with concrete in 1934.

Construction of the 726-foot-tall dam began in 1930. It contains over 4 million cubic yards of concrete.


It’s still the highest concrete arch dam in the US.

Wikimedia CommonsThe Hoover Dam.

Every year, 7 million people visit the Hoover Dam, which powers a hydroelectric power plant.


The Hollywood sign, which was first built in 1923, used to read “Hollywoodland” as an advertisement for a real estate development.

The sign was first built in 1923, but fell into disrepair in the 1940s. The sign was refurbished to display just “Hollywood”in 1949, then demolished and reestablished again in 1978.


Each letter of the sign is 45 feet tall.

Getty ImagesThe new and improved ‘Hollywood’ sign.

Of the 45 million tourists that visit Los Angeles every year,10 million go to Griffith Park to see the Hollywood sign.


The Space Needle was built for the 1962 World’s Fair, and took only eight months to construct.

Seattle Municipal Archives/Wikimedia Commons/Creative CommonsAn aerial photo of the Space Needle under construction in 1961.

The idea for the shape of the structure started as a doodle thatSeattle hotel executive and chief organiser of the 1962 World’s Fair Edward E. Carlson drew on a napkin.


It remains a defining feature of the Seattle skyline since it opened.

canadastock/ShutterstockThe Seattle skyline featuring the Space Needle and Mt. Rainier.

A visit to the observation deck will give you panoramic views of downtown Seattle all the way to Mount Rainier.


Construction of St. Louis’ Gateway Arch began in 1963, and the monument was finished two years later.

Seattle Municipal Archives/Wikimedia Commons/Creative CommonsThe Gateway Arch under construction in 1965.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt had dedicated land for a “Jefferson National Expansion Memorial” in 1935. It was rebranded “Gateway Arch National Park.”


It may not look like it, but the arch is 630 feet tall by 630 feet wide.

amolson7/ShutterstockThe Gateway Arch in St. Louis.

The “Journey to the Top” experience includes a four-minute tram ride up to the observation deck where tourists can see views up to 30 miles in every direction on a clear day.


The Willis Tower, formerly known as the Sears Tower, was constructed in Chicago in 1974.

The building was built as a headquarters for Sears, Roebuck and Company, which was the world’s largest retailer at the time.


The tower is one of the tallest buildings in the world at 1,450 feet and 110 floors.

The name was changed to “Willis Tower” in 2009 when Willis Group Holdings leased 140,000 square feet of space including naming rights for 15 years.


It took 14 years to build the Brooklyn Bridge, from 1869 to 1883.

At 1,595 feet long, it was the longest bridge in the world until 1890, when the Forth Bridge was completed in Scotland.


The Brooklyn Bridge has earned the nickname “Times Square in the Sky.”

TTstudio/ShutterstockThe Brooklyn Bridge.

An average of 13,196 people cross the bridge on weekdays, and 32,453 people on weekends, according to the New York Times.

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