Anybody that’s ever gone to a Toronto Blue Jays game at the Rogers Center can’t help but be distracted by the CN Tower next to it. That’s of course assuming the roof of the Rogers Center is open.

Visible on a clear day or night from Lewiston on this side of the border, the CN Tower is the tallest free-standing structure in the Western Hemisphere.

And for 34 years it stood as the world’s tallest free-standing structure. It’s not only a symbol of Toronto, but a symbol of Canada.

But that’s not why it was built. Back in the late 1960’s and early 70’s skyscrapers were going up all over the downtown area. Many of them were apartment buildings and back when cable was just emerging and satellite TV was years away, broadcast TV signals were bouncing off the buildings. And because microwave dishes depended on line of sight from point to point – all those new buildings were interfering.

The solution was to build a tall tower. The original design was much shorter but once they realized it could become a world record-high tourist attraction they made a few changes and went ahead with it.

Construction began in February, 1973 and they poured concrete continuously for more than a year.

The antenna was raised into place in 36 pieces. Originally it was going to be a crane doing the job, but the United States Army sold off a fleet of Sikorsky helicopters for civilian projects and instead of six months, the helicopter got the job done in three weeks.

The CN Tower opened to the public for the first time in June 1976.