On August 28, 1565, the feast day of St. Augustine, a Spanish admiral named Pedro Menéndez de Avilés sighted land in Florida. His men founded a settlement there which is still called St. Augustine, making it the oldest European-founded city in the United States. This August, we've asked Jeopardy! champ Ken Jennings to cast his keen, cosmopolitan eye on American cities coast to coast, the better to debunk some misinformation about them that's as old as the hills, almost as old as St. Augustine itself.
The Debunker: Why Does Washington, D.C. Have Its Strict Limit on Building Height?
Visitors to the nation's capital often remark on Washington's broad boulevards and lovely vistas of the city's monuments, just like city planner Pierre L'Enfant drew things up in 1791. Washington's spacious vibe wasn't a happy accident; it was a result of Congress passing the Height of Buildings Act of 1899, which keeps high-rise development out of the District of Columbia. As many Washingtonians will tell you, backed by any number of books and articles and tourism bureaus, this far-sighted measure was taken to preserve the supremacy of the city's landmarks—by law, they say, no building in town can be higher than the Capitol dome. But that's not why the height limit was enacted at all.