Whereas square footage is the currency for evaluating residential real estate, acreage is generally the measurement by which land buyers and sellers understand the relative value of a piece of land. But given the huge size and diversity of land and rural real estate for sale, the actual physical dimensions of a single acre amidst hundreds of square miles, for example, can be quite difficult to visualize in the mind’s eye.
In asking the question, “How big is an acre?”, it is helpful to step all the way back to medieval England for the origin of the word. Today’s acre derives from the Old English word for an open field, “æcer.” An acre in those days was considered to be the amount of land tillable by a yoke of oxen in a single day.
How big is an acre?
- 4,045 square meters
- 4,840 square yards
- 43,560 square feet
- 0.404686 hectares
- 0.0015625 square miles
Today the measurement of one acre is certainly more scientific—43,560 square feet, to be exact—but in many cases still connotes the approximation of a certain area of land that’s not entirely symmetrical in the ways in which it can be measured. Of course, acres over the centuries have been measured through changing lenses by different European cultures and countries that gives the idea of acreage, not to mention measurement of things like miles and yards, a certain fluidity compared to their modern-day metric counterparts (yes, hectares, we’re looking at you).
Beyond the time-traveling nuances contained within this one-syllable word, today’s modern technology means calculating the exact size of any piece of land is now a mere mouse-click away. Which is what lead us to the space-warping power of Google Earth as a tool to put the size of one acre into some sort of satellite-framed perspective. So the next time you’re wondering to yourself, “How big is an acre?”, perhaps it’ll help to know that it’s the equivalent of about three-quarters of a full-length football field or 16 tennis courts in a four-by-four grid—or the base area of Alcatraz’s main prison block.
ALCATRAZ | SAN FRANCISCO | CALIFORNIA
The main prison block, dining area and administration block in the center of the famous Bay Area prison measure a shade over one acre. The entire island is 22 acres.
WRIGLEY FIELD | CHICAGO | ILLINOIS
The baseball diamond and outfield of the newly crowned—and heretofore long-suffering—World Series’ champs measure two acres in total. About the perfect size to graze a billy goat recently put out to pasture?
THE WHITE HOUSE | WASHINGTON, D.C.
The grounds of the Trumps’ future home cover a total of eight acres, though we’re guessing the residents of this iconic Washington, D.C., mansion wish it was more like eight million given the visibility of the job.
COLOSSEUM | ROME | ITALY
A satellite view of the Eternal City’s Colosseum calculates that the World Heritage-listed ruin covers a base area of six acres. On the ground, the stories it tells go far beyond a simple unit of measurement.
THE MALL OF AMERICA | MINNEAPOLIS | MINNESOTA
The Mall of America covers almost 100 acres, although the full scope of the massive cathedral of consumption is decidedly bigger. Consider these stats: the mall has eight acres of skylights and could accommodate 43 Boeing 747s.
LINCOLN MEMORIAL | WASHINGTON, D.C.
The iconic white-marbled memorial at the western end of the National Mall in Washington, D.C., has a footprint of one acre. This single acre is one of the country’s five most-visited National Park Service sites, attracting almost eight million visitors in 2015.
PARTHENON | ATHENS | GREECE
Talk about historical perspective. The .75-acre Parthenon that sits atop the Acropolis in Athens, Greece (7.5 acres), has been presiding over almost 2,500 years of human history.
LIBERTY ISLAND | NEW YORK CITY | NEW YORK
Liberty Island in New York Harbour covers an area of 15 acres, though all eyes are on the torch-wielding lady at the center of it all, who weighs in with some impressive stats: 35-foot waistline, eight-foot-tall face and a total weight of 225 tons.
BUCKINGHAM PALACE | LONDON | UNITED KINGDOM
A Google search for “How much land does the queen own?” tells us Queen Elizabeth is the legal owner of a mind-boggling 6,600 million acres of land around the world (if you include entire Commonwealth countries like Canada as her property, which might be a stretch). The immediate grounds at her London pad measure about ten acres from a satellite view, although the entire area of Buckingham Palace and its gardens and grounds measure some 40 acres.
THE PENTAGON | WASHINGTON, D.C.
The U.S. military’s five-sided HQ may be low-slung but that’s all that’s modest about this WWII-era federal building. Covering 35 acres, the Pentagon’s 6.5 million square feet and 17 miles of corridors make it the world’s largest office complex.