Construction began on this date in 1884 in Chicago for a radical new building design — destined to be America’s first skyscraper. It was the Home Insurance Company headquarters, designed by engineer William Jenney. For many centuries, thick outer walls supported multi-story buildings, limiting the height that could be safely or usefully attained. Jenney’s building used a metal frame for support, like a skeleton. The exterior walls were attached to the frame, and so these so-called curtain walls weren’t load bearing. Soon, skyscrapers using Jenney’s method thrust up across the country and today dominate city skylines around the world. Each year, the building construction industry in the U.S. erects more than $310 billion worth of private nonresidential buildings. You can find more facts about America from the U.S. Census Bureau, <www.census.gov>.