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Structures Trivia

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In December 2000, operators shut down the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, closing the doomed facility for good 14 years after it spawned the world's worst nuclear accident. Radiation at the plant was 16,000 times the safe limit.

In Dominican Republic is the University of Santo Domingo (established in 1538), the Americas' oldest university.

In Germany, the fairy tale-like castle of Neuschwanstein is one of the most famous castles in all the world. Each year, more than a million tourists visit the castle. It was built by King Ludwig II, believed to have been mentally ill, more than a century ago. His magnificent Neuschwanstein Castle is likely Germany's most famous sight. From a distance, the castle, sitting on a rocky peak of the Alps in Bavaria, is like a storybook picture. Walt Disney got many of his ideas for Sleeping Beauty's castle at Disneyland from Neuschwanstein Castle. Its full name, Schloss Neuschwanstein, translates to "Castle of New Swan Stone."

In India and Iran, the part of the house reserved for women is called a "zenana."

In Japanese homes, the translucent sliding panel of rice paper mounted on a wooden frame and used as a partition or door is called a shoji.

In Muddy, Illinois, the post office measures only 7˝ by 10˝ feet, about the size of a garden shed. If it wasn't for a sign hanging above the door stating, "U.S. Post Office, Muddy, IL., 62965," finding the tiny, wooden building could be difficult. It is believed to be one of the smallest post offices in the United States.

In North Korea, government-run nursery schools are called "palaces."

The White House is the oldest federal building in the capital.

The White House kitchen, with its five full-time chefs, is able to serve as many as 140 dinner guests, and hors d'oeuvres to more than 1,000 people.

The golden mosaic ceiling inside the main entrance of the Royal Ontario Museum is one of the museum's most magnificent features. The ceiling is made from cut squares of imported Venetian glass. Its sparkling gold, rust, and bronze background is inset with red, blue, and turquoise patterns, similar to the colorful mosaics of the Byzantine world and Eastern Europe. Worked out on the golden field are geometrical borders and panels. These frame decorative floral designs and sixteen pictorial images symbolizing different historical cultures.

The White House receives approximately 6,000 visitors a day and has 6 floors (two are basements), 132 rooms, 32 bathrooms, 147 windows, 412 doors, 12 chimneys, 3 elevators, and 7 staircases. It takes 570 gallons of white paint to cover the outside.

Sculptor Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi of France named his sculpture "Liberty Enlightening the World," but it is known today as "The Statue of Liberty." Bartholdi used his mother as the model for the statue's face and his girlfriend as the model for her body.

The Grand Canal of China, connecting the Yellow and Yangtze Rivers, is 20 miles longer than the Panama Canal--yet the Chinese constructed the waterway without modern machinery 1,300-plus years ago.

The White House was the biggest house in the United States until the Civil War.

Shangri-La, the presidential hideaway near Thurmont, Maryland, was renamed Camp David in honor of President Dwight D. Eisenhower's father and grandson on May 22, 1953.

The great cathedral of St. Cophia at Constantinople (Istanbul) has sustained for 1,600 years what was, until very recent times, the largest self-supporting dome ever constructed. Moreover, it has done so in an active seismic region.

The Winchester Mystery House, California Historic Landmark #868, is the former home of Sarah L. Winchester, heiress to the Winchester Rifle fortune. Located in San José, California, this 160-room Victorian mansion is filled with stained glass windows, ornate parquet floors, rich wall coverings, and stairs that lead to nowhere. Built to confuse the spirits of those killed by the Winchester rifle, the eccentric Mrs. Winchester kept carpenters busy for 38 years (1884-1922). The historic Winchester mansion is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and tours are offered year round.

Shaped like an Egyptian pyramid, the Luxor Hotel in Las Vegas is 36 stories tall, and required more than 150,000 cubic yards of concrete, 6,000 construction workers, and 18 months to build. It takes a specially designed window-washing device 64 hours to clean the sides of the pyramid, which are covered by 13 acres of glass. The Luxor atrium is the world's largest, and could comfortably hold nine Boeing 747 airplanes.

The Greenwich Observatory is currently located at Cambridge University's Institute of Astronomy in Central England. However, the site of the observatory was originally in Greenwich, and was arbitrarily established in 1884 as longitude 0 degrees. The observatory was moved because London's fog made celestial observations difficult. A plaque in the original structure marks the zero point from which longitude is calculated. The observatory was founded in 1675 by King Charles II to keep accurate tables of the position of the moon for the calculation of longitude by English ships. Photographs of the sun were taken daily at the observatory, conditions permitting, and a continuous photographic record of sunspots was kept starting in 1873.

The world's first gas station was opened by the Gulf Refining Company on December 1, 1913, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. This gas station was the first to start the eight-hour workday and to be open 24 hours a day.

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