History | Did You Know

The Truth Behind 5 Of The World's Most Famous Buildings

The Independent / The Balance

You may recognize these structures from movies, newspapers, or really any form of popular culture. They stand out for their beauty, architectural style, and historical value, but how much do you really know about their hidden chambers?

Taj Mahal

Likely the most recognizable building on Earth, the Taj Mahal draws 4 million visitors to India from around the world every single year. But for all the attraction, not many people know much about this complex building.

The Taj Mahal was originally constructed as an extravagant tomb for an emperor's wife who died in childbirth. There are rumors that after it was finished being built the emperor wanted to make sure nothing could compete with it's beauty, and so had the eyes and hands removed from the people who worked on it.

Of course, the most-visited room in the building is the chamber where the sarcophagi are held for the royal husband and wife. However, these ornate caskets are actually empty. In fact, the real graves are humbly preserved under the garden inside the palace.

White House

The palace of power in our nation's capital, the White House, has been the focal point for America's history since it opened in the year 1800. Everyday tours are led through its hallowed halls, but here are some things you may have missed about our president's abode.

Firstly, that this is not the original building. That was burnt down in 1814 following a British attack on the capital. But it was remade and even expanded into its form today, and even has a twin, which is now the parliament buildings in Ireland.

Ever wonder where the leader of the free world goes to get his dental work done? Well, it turns out there is an underground strip mall beneath the executive offices that holds a dentistry, carpenter's shop, and flower shop. This way, the president never has to wait in line!

Leaning Tower Of Pisa

Close behind the Taj Mahal in fame is the tower that everyone likes to pose with. The Leaning Tower of Pisa has a noticeable tilt to it that has brought tourists to the small city of Pisa for centuries. But do you know its "crooked" history?

It was originally built in the 12th century as a way to show off to the rest of Italy. The economy was good, they had an important role in regional politics, and their military prowess was strong. So strong, that they had amassed a collection of treasures stolen from nearby countries they had conquered, and so went about designing what was supposed to be the largest bell tower of the era.

Unfortunately, midway through production, it became clear that the foundation wasn't sturdy enough to support the project. But they continued and finished over a century later. Despite having leaned every which way in its long history, the tower has now been safely secured!

Empire State Building

If you have traveled to the Big Apple, then you have definitely seen the towering giant that is the Empire State Building. It was built specifically in a world-wide race to construct the largest building, and was even being redesigned as it was being constructed!

It took a total of 20 months to finish, which was a record in the early 1930's. The world's tallest building for 40 years was unveiled by President Hoover, when he symbolically flipped the switch on the skyscraper's lights.

The spire was added in part to win the competition for largest building, and it replaced the original design of a blimp docking station. The idea was for it to be an easy way for top business executives to get around, but was found to be too difficult to manage.

Big Ben

The most visited destination in the UK, Big Ben has been keeping time in England capital since 1858. However, you're probably taking pictures of the wrong attraction.

Big Ben is actually the name of the 16 ton bell that sits inside the tower, and chimes every 15 minutes throughout the day. The name comes from Sir Benjamin Hall, who oversaw the rebuilding of the Houses of Parliament after the great Fire of 1834.

The clock itself is also massive. Each of the dials is 23 feet in length, and each face on every side of the tower has 312 panes of glass, 1,248 altogether. And you thought your grandfather clock was hard to clean!

Ever wonder what the Latin inscription said? It reads "Oh Lord, keep safe our Queen Victoria the First." The tower, commonly referred to as the "Clock Tower", was actually renamed Elizabeth Tower after the present Queen's Diamond Jubilee. Keeping it all in the royals!

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