Hey there,

I’m writing from Outside Magazine. We’re working on a history of buildering and I was wondering if you’d be willing to help me out.
Let me know if we could talk for a moment of if you could point me in the right direction of buildering hallmarks.

Claire G | Research Assistant | Outside Magazine
400 Market Street | Santa Fe, NM 87501

Hey Claire,Here’s a brief timeline of buildering great moments:

Pre-1899: People have been scaling walls since the dawn of civilization. Invading armies, fleeing prisoners, thieving thieves, adulterous lovers, ninjas…surely there was a lot of wall climbing going on. Pinpointing when people started climbing for sport, however, is a much more difficult task. The Greeks certainly weren’t buildering in the early Olympics, nor are they today.

1899: The Roof Climbers Guide to Trinity – by Geoffrey Winthrop Young is published. A small book claiming to contain “a practical description of all routes” for this Cambridge college, it is the earliest known literary work devoted to buildering.[1]

1905: Harry H. Gardiner begins his buildering career in America. He will successfully climb over 700 buildings, pioneering the “Human Fly” craze of the early twentieth century.[2]

1917: John “Jammie” Reynolds climbs a building in Washington, D.C., with a slogan or advertisement (unreadable) pinned to his back. This may be the first recorded instance of buildering to promote a sponsor or cause.[13]

1920-1940: The first “Golden Age” of buildering at Cambridge. Various route descriptions are published in student papers such as the Cambridge Review and the Cambridge Mountaineering Journal.[1]

1922: Bill Strother scales a six story building in Los Angeles. Film maker Harold Lloyd witnesses the stunt, and uses Strother as a stunt double for his next movie Safety Last. Safety Last contains multiple fully exposed and real buildering shots by Strother. Harold Lloyd performs the iconic “hanging from the arms of a clock” scene, however with a safety platform located just outside of the shot.[3]

March 5, 1923: H.F. Young, another “Human Fly,” dies after falling 9 stories from the Hotel Martinique in New York. Two others die in stunts in 1924. Local legislation is passed in many cities forbidding buildering.[4]

Aug 27, 1924: Henry “Dare Devil” Roland falls 35 ft from the Davis County Courthouse in Bloomfield, Iowa. He breaks his hip. Intent on pursuing his career as a human fly, Roland vows to successfully climb the building.[5]

June 29, 1932: Henry “Dare Devil” Roland successfully climbs the Davis County Courthouse. He tells the papers “If that old building could talk, I’ll bet it would say ‘Roland you’re a good climber after all'”.[5]

1937: The Night Climbers of Cambridge – by Noel Howard Symington (aka Whipplesnaith) is published. This tome, containing over 70 photos, meticulously details the buildering exploits of an elite group of miscreants. The ethos of Night Climbers, one of stealth and rooted in a mountaineering background, is markedly different from the “Human Fly” grandeur of the age. This underground movement continues amongst campuses worldwide, and remains largely undocumented.[6]

1940-1960: Very little is known about buildering during this time. Perhaps people weren’t feeling too playful after a major bummer of a war.

August 7, 1962 – present day: Alain Robert is born. Starting as a talented rock-climber and free soloist, Alain turns his attention towards buildings. Alain climbs over 80 of the world’s tallest skyscrapers, almost all without protection, earning the alias “Spiderman.” His high profile climbs are viewed by millions. Not all illegal ventures, some marketing savvy building developers pay Alain to legally climb their structures. This, combined with advertisements printed on his back, allow Alain to earn a living buildering.[7]

1963: A Cragrat’s Guide to UBC – by Dick Culbert is written: a one-off, typewritten guidebook with glued in black and white photographs.

May 25, 1977: George Willig climbs the South Tower of the World Trade Center (417 m), using custom made clamps designed to slide along the building’s window washing trolley tracks.[8]

May 25, 1981: Daniel Goodwin climbs the Sears Tower (442 m) in Chicago, using suction cups and metal clips for support. This is the longest vertical ascent of its time, as noted in the Guinness World Book of records.[9]

August 20, 1999: Alain Robert climbs the Sears Tower using only his bare hands, and no protection. Foggy weather makes the last 20 floors wet and slippery. To this day, Alain cites this as his toughest climb ever.[10]

July 25, 2001: Buildering.net created. Tooth bleaching metrosexuals unite.

Dec 25, 2004: Alain Robert climbs Taipei 101 (508 m), the world’s tallest building to date. The climb is sponsored by the Taiwanese government, as part of the 101 grand opening festivities.[7]

Sept 12, 2006: Dan Goodwin encourages congress to adopt the Skyscraper Defense Act — proposing the creation of a “super elite rescue team” capable of climbing burning buildings, and training SWAT teams to builder in order to better combat “skyscraper hijackings”. [11]

June 5, 2008: Alain Robert climbs the New York Times Building to unfurl banner reading “Global warming kills more people than 9/11 every week”. Random passerby Renaldo Clarke sees Alain climbing and follows him up. [12]


1. http://cucc.survex.com/archive/jnl/1983/roof.htm
2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_Gardiner
3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Safety_Last!
4. http://info.detnews.com/redesign/history/story/historytemplate.cfm?id=124
5. http://daviscountycourthouse.com/humanfly.html
6. http://nightclimbers.blogspot.com/
7. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alain_Robert
8. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Willig
9. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dan_Goodwin
10. https://www.buildering.net/interviews/alain
11. http://www.skyscraperdefense.com
12. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/07/nyregion/07climb.html
13. http://www.shorpy.com/node/5405