Scott Van Voorhis is out today with what is simply a terribly irrelevant story about plans to construct a 1,000-foot office tower on Winthrop Square, in Boston’s financial district.

Why this story made the cover is one question (well, mostly it’s because of the accompanying graphic, to be sure, a parody of which I’ve included, below).

tommyvanvoorhisI think you can count on one hand (and maybe a second thumb) the number of people who care about this issue.

I guess it’s what passes for news, these days.

Someone is quoted in the story as saying the John Hancock Tower casts a shadow over the entire length of Boston Common, at 4:00 PM, in the afternoon.

I don’t even think that’s possible. I’ll check it out, tomorrow. (The person may have been confusing the Common with the Public Garden, and even that is questionable.)

Here’s where I think Mr. Van Voorhis got his estimate of the sun’s effects on shadows: Sandburg Center for Sky Awareness. Here’s data on the height of the Hancock tower:

So, based on what it says on the Emporis site, the Hancock tower is 241 meters, sixty stories, or approximately 790-feet tall (including antennas?).

Now, as the sun sets, it goes from 90 degrees (directly overhead) to 45 degrees (horizontal to the horizon … um, yeah). So, we want to look at where it falls, in between.

At its longest shadow’s length, 5 degrees, we can estimate that the tower casts a shadow 9029.74 feet (almost two miles) long. Or, it would, if there weren’t any buildings between the Hancock tower and the Common.

But of course, there ARE buildings between the Hancock tower and the Common. These buildings are what, in fact, keep the Hancock tower from casting any shadow on the Common.

If you look at any Google map, you’ll see that it’s impossible for the shadows to even reach the Common at that time of day. The buildings at 500 Boylston Street block the tower’s shadow, from about 3:00 PM, on. The sun is lower in the western sky, after that, so the sun is not at an angle where it can reflect off the top of the tower.


More: Shadow of a doubt – 1,000-foot tower to put Common in dark – By Scott Van Voorhis, The Boston Herald

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Updated: January 2018

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