15 January 1759

The British Museum opens.

In 1753 Sir Hans Sloane, an Irish-born physician and naturalist, left his collection of 71,000 books, manuscripts, natural specimens and other objects to the nation in his will, in return for a payment of £20,000 to his heirs. The collection was used as the basis for the British Museum, the world’s first national public museum, which was established by an Act of Parliament on 7 June 1753. It opened on 15 January 1759, offering free admission to all “studious and curious persons”.

The museum was first located in Montagu House in Bloomsbury. During the 18th century it attracted around 5,000 people per year, but its popularity increased greatly in the 1800s. In 1823 George IV donated the King’s Library to the collection and this led to the construction of the main quadrangular building and the circular Reading Room that are the centre of the museum today.

These were completed in 1857. To allow room for expansion, the museum’s natural history collection was relocated to a new building in South Kensington during the 1880s, which is now called the Natural History Museum.

The book collection, which had been housed in the Great Court around the Reading Room, moved to the new British Library building in St Pancras in 1997. The Great Court, which had effectively been closed to the public since 1857, was then refurbished at a cost of £100m, including the construction of a new glass and steel roof that made it the largest public square in Europe. Today, the British Museum has over 3.5 million objects on display and attracts more than six million people every year.

15 January 1943

The Pentagon is dedicated in Arlington, Virginia.

The world’s largest office building, construction began on the Pentagon on September 11, 1941. Designed by architect George Bergstrom, approved construction contracts totaled $3.1 million. The original site for this government facility was Arlington Farms, which was shaped like a pentagon. This is why the building is shaped as such. However, concerns that the building might obstruct the view of Washington, D.C. from Arlington Cemetery, President Roosevelt opted for the Hoover Airport site.The Pentagon took less than two years to complete and was dedicated on January 15, 1943.

Some interesting facts about this historical building:

Design work for the building proceeded during actual construction. Sometimes construction would get ahead of design and different materials were used than specified in the final plans.

Due to racial segregation, the Pentagon was constructed with separate dining and toilet facilities. In June 1941, President Roosevelt ordered the end to discrimination and to remove the “Whites Only” signage. At the time, and for many years after completion, the Pentagon was the only building in Virginia where segregation was not allowed.

Construction contracts were approved on September 11, 1941 and construction began that same day.

Due to steel shortage the building’s height was capped at just over 77 feet and was built as a reinforced concrete structure. This explains its vast “sprawl” across nearly 29 acres.

Rather than elevators, concrete ramps were built.

Engineers used 680,000 tons of sand from the Potomac River. Indiana limestone was used for the facade.

The Pentagon uses six zip codes and it’s registered postal address is Washington, D.C., even though it is located in the state of Virginia.

The square footage of the Pentagon is 6,636,360 square feet. The parking lot is 67 acres.

During the Cold Ware, the central plaza was referred to as “ground zero” based on concerns the Soviet Union would target nuclear missiles to that location.

While the Pentagon has undergone many improvements over the years, the core design of this unique structure remains intact. Today, nearly 3,700,000 square feet are used as offices, and the building houses about 28,000 military and civilian personnel.

15 January 1892

James Naismith first publishes the rules for the sport of basketball.

The person responsible for the popular game was Dr. James Naismith (1861-1939). Dr. Naismith was a Canadian-American Physical Education teacher at the School for Christian Workers located in Springfield, Massachusetts. In 1891, under direction from Dr. Luther Gulick, the head of the School, Naismith was given 14 days to create an indoor game. The goal of this directive was to provide a creative and healthy indoor “athletic distraction” for a rowdy class of students during the brutal New England winter.

It is believed that Naismith drew up the rules of his new game of Basketball in about an hour. Most of these rules still apply today. The game of Basketball became an instant success. The students found the game easy to play and the rules easy to understand. Moreover, the idea of getting a good exercise workout without having to go outside in the very cold winter was very attractive to the players and the coaches. The fans also liked the idea of not having to go outside in the cold to watch this new and fun game.

Basketball became popular very quickly and its popularity spread widely. The graduates of the YMCA school traveled across the country and introduced their new game to people in towns and cities across the land. Naismith and his players disseminated the rules of Basketball freely and the need for an indoor sport by many schools and organizations helped spread the popularity of the game.