The Tallest Buildings In Washington, DC

The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception is the tallest building in Washington, D.C. Editorial credit: Victoria Lipov /
The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception is the tallest building in Washington, D.C. Editorial credit: Victoria Lipov /

The history of skyscrapers in Washington DC can be traced back to 1894 when the first tallest high rise building was constructed. The Cairo Apartment Building became the first tallest building in Washington DC with a height of 164 feet and had 14 floors. There was a rapid development of more skyscrapers until Congress passed a new Height of Buildings Act in 1910. The Act limited the height of buildings to 130 feet high or the width of the adjacent street. The restriction of the building heights has dramatically slowed down the development of tall buildings in Washington DC. Currently just a couple of buildings are under construction while a few have only had their plans approved. According to 2011 high-rise building statistics for the city, 313 high rise buildings had been completed.

The Tallest Buildings In Washington, DC

The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception

Construction on the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception began in 1920. It was dedicated before completion in 1959 and was finally finished in 2017 after the completion of the trinity dome. The building was designed by Maginnis and Walsh architect and has Neo Byzantine-Romanesque architectural design. The basilica is the tallest building in Washington DC, with a height of 329 feet. The exterior of the shrine measures 500 feet by 240 feet, and it is 237 feet tall to the top of cross-dome. The main trinity dome of the basilica has an outer diameter of 108 feet and an inner diameter of 89 feet with a height of 159 feet. The Basilica is the largest Roman Catholic church in North America.

Old Post Office Building

The Old Post Office Building is located on Pennsylvania Avenue. Willoughby J. Edbrooke Architect was responsible for the initial design of the building. The architectural style of the original building was Romanesque while the modernist style was used for the central atrium. The plan of the building was approved in 1890, and the construction started in 1892 before finally being completed in 1899. The total cost of construction was $3 million. The building is the second tallest inhabitable structure in Washington, DC with a height reaching 315 feet and has a clock tower on top. Before the beginning of the WWII, the building housed the city’s general post office. The renovation of interior space of the building was done from 1979 to 1983 while the expansion of the retail space took place from 1988 to 1992.

Washington National Cathedral

The Washington National Cathedral is located at Wisconsin and Massachusetts Avenue. The foundation was laid in 1907, and the cathedral was completed in 1990. The lead architects in the construction of the cathedral were George F Bodley and Henry Vaughan. The architectural style of the building is Neo-Gothic. The 301 foot tall cathedral is the third tallest building in Washington DC. The Bethlehem Chapel was opened for use in the unfinished cathedral in 1912. The construction of the cathedral was halted by the WWI and later continued under the supervision an architect Philip Hubert Frohman who supported the project to completion. The cathedral has been designated as a national prayer house for state funerals, memorials, and presidential prayer services.

The Difference Between Tallest Buildings and Tallest Structures

Technically, the Washington Monument and a radio tower called the Hughes Memorial Tower are the tallest structures in Washington, D.C. However, as they are not technically buildings, they have been excluded from this list. In order to qualify for this list it must be possible for humans to enter a structure.

The Tallest Buildings In Washington, DC

RankBuilding NameHeight (ft)Height (m)FloorsYear
1Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception32910011959
2Trump International Hotel (Old Post Office Pavilion)31596121899
3Washington National Cathedral3019271990
4United States Capitol2898831863
5One Franklin Square21064121989
6700 Eleventh Street20061131992
7Healy Hall200614.51879
8Onyx on First19760142008
9Thomas Jefferson Building1955971897
10Renaissance Washington DC Hotel18757151986
111090 Vermont Avenue18757121979
121111 Pennsylvania Avenue18055141968
13The Tower Building17754141929
14Avalon at Foxhall17754141982
151900 K Street17152131996
16Capitol View17152132007
17National Archives Building1675181935
18The Pennsylvania North16450141990
19Cairo Apartment Building16450141894
20Capitol Place III16450121985
211101 New York Avenue16450122007

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