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Wichita Falls, Texas: The World’s Smallest Skyscraper

The World’s Smallest Skyscraper
Built in 1919, the Newby-McMahon Building in downtown Wichita Falls (701 La Salle, Wichita Falls, TX) is more commonly referred to as “the world’s smallest skyscraper.”

Here’s the story behind this quirky structure and how it got its nickname:

J.D. McMahon was an engineer and oilman from Philadelphia who breezed into Wichita Falls with blueprints to build a high-rise building in the downtown area. McMahon must have been a good talker, because it didn’t take him long to raise $200,000 (a fortune for that time) from local investors.

The Difference Between Feet & Inches
At a glance, it appeared that the finished building would stand 48 stories high, and McMahon never said otherwise. Unfortunately for the investors, none of them noticed that McMahon’s beautifully detailed blueprints indicated that the building would stand 480 inches tall, not 480 feet tall, as they all assumed.

Angry investors sue… and lose!
Since McMahon constructed the building using his own crew, it took a while for investors to realize they had been duped. When they sued McMahon, however, the judge ruled in his favor. Why? Because McMahon had followed his plans to the letter and the investors had signed off on it every step of the way!

In the end, McMahon split town with a big chunk of cash, and the city was left with an embarrassing reminder for the importance of always reading the fine print.

World's Smallest Skyscraper in Wichita Falls (photo by Tui Snider)
World’s Smallest Skyscraper in Wichita Falls (photo by Tui Snider)

Texas Historic Landmark in Wichita Falls
This odd little building is still standing and has been designated a Texas Historic Landmark. When I visited Wichita Falls, it was undergoing renovation and was not open for touring. Even so, it is worth driving by if you happen to be in town.

For more tales like this, read Unexpected Texas
For more quirky tales, offbeat and overlooked travel destinations and day trip ideas for the Dallas – Fort Worth region, check out my Amazon Best Selling travel guide, Unexpected Texas, from which the above excerpt was adapted for this blog post.

Published inTravel Photo Essays

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