The Littlest Skyscraper stands at the corner of LaSalle and 7th Street in Wichita Falls, Texas, at a towering height of forty feet (four stories), and is ten feet wide by sixteen feet deep; that is four rooms, total – one room per floor. The “skyscraper” was built in 1919 during the early oil boom of North Texas.
There is much speculation and myth about the origins of the building; however, there is one legend as to its conception that is more widely accepted than the others:
During the 1910s there was so much new business in Wichita Falls due to the oil boom in the city and the cities surrounding that office space was hard to come by. A confidence man from Philadelphia had plans drawn up for a new office building promising to solve all of the space issues.
The con man found plenty of newly moneyed people in this booming city willing to invest in the building of the office building, and raised $200,000 for the project (that is around $2.25 million today). After the money was raised the man disappeared, with all the money (never to be found), and it was soon discovered by the contractor that plans had been drawn up in inches, instead of feet. The town was of course outraged, but the contractor had to build the tower for legal reasons.
The true story of the origins of the building, however, is a little bit more dull:
It is true that office space was hard to come by in these boom days, but land to build office space on was equally as hard to come by. At the corner of 7th and LaSalle stood a one story structure called the Newbie Building. One of the tenants of this building was a builder named McMahon. Without contacting the owner of the building, who lived in Oklahoma, McMahon used his own crews to construct the four story tower on the small unused piece of property next to the Newby Building, which was named the McMahon Building, but survives today with the name "the Littlest Skyscraper." Originally six companies occupied this tiny building until the boom ended and office space was not so hard to come by.
The true story is not half as interesting as the myth and legend that surround the building. However, the building itself is so unique that it begs for a "Texas Size" story.
The building is actually so small that, according to local legend, it did not originally have a staircase to the upper floors, only a ladder. The architectural design of the building is quite beautiful (for what little there is), showing off classical details and intricate brick work.(photographs may be viewed at any of the many sources below).
The building is said to have been named by the column Ripley's Believe It or Not! as “the world’s littlest skyscraper,” which is a name that has stuck with the building ever since.
The building was abandoned during the Great Depression, but soon housed barber shops and cafes. The building suffered a fire in the 1930s and has been close to demolition several times in it's history. In the late 1940s the building changed hands many times and by the 1980s eventually ended up in the hands of the City of Wichita Falls and has been preserved as a Historic Landmark and is part of the Depot Square Historic District.
Today the skyscraper, and its attached building, have only in the past year begun housing an antique shop, and is undergoing a restoration.
This building, that originally brought much embarrassment to the city, is now an endearing monument to its past.