WICHITA FALLS, Texas – A few miles south of the red river, the rolling hills of Wichita County haven’t changed much over the years. The faint sound of a locomotive still serves as beacon to the biggest town in the county that turned into a roaring city 100 years ago when many landowners struck it rich overnight.
“Once oil was discovered here, people were doing deals out on the street just with pieces of paper, writing names on, trading money,” said lifelong resident Marvin Groves.
Once the town started booming, oil companies were in desperate need of a place to do business. So a salesman with a silver tongue proposed that he construct a building to accommodate their ever-growing needs. They got a little bit less than what they bargained for.
“There’s only one World’s Smallest Skyscraper, and this is it,” Groves said.
Since 1919, this 40-foot-tall building has stood the test of time despite being small in stature. Who knew Texans would celebrate something small in our state?
“You’ll never see anything like it anyplace else,” said Groves. “There’s only one smallest skyscraper, and Wichita Falls has got it.”
Groves along with a local architectural firm brought this building back to life back in 2000 and it cost nearly as much now as it did to build it back then. You see, it was J.D. McMahon who was the fast talking pitch man who got investors to sign off on a set of blueprints that was apparently scaled in inches and not feet, according to local legend. By the time everyone started scratching their heads and wondering at the design, McMahon and their $200,000 were gone.
“The people that invested in this building who thought they were going to get a monster building just missed the details,” said Jan Saville, resident. “It’s sort of remarkable that it happened and nobody noticed until it was far too late and the money was gone.”
Jan Saville and her husband Mike now run an antique consignment shop in the adjoining building and they lease out the floors of the skyscraper.
“The first floor is the store, and it is all of the consignment items. Second floor is an artists’ studio, Vickie Harding, artist. The third floor is a boutique… and the top floor is just our penthouse and visitor center,” Saville said.
As you walk up the narrow stairway to the next floor, it’s like each 9 by 12 section of the building has its own story. Vickie Harding rents out about 100 square feet of space, one entire floor to be exact, to work on her art.
“For me, it’s the lights, and I feel that, when I look out the window, it’s just so beautiful out there and I feel like I’m in New York City or LA or somewhere, and I’m in Wichita Falls, Texas,” said Harding.
Being such a curious construction, the building was saved despite being empty for over 70 years and now that’s a tourist attraction along with a shop and art gallery, visitors are always on the lookout for the world’s smallest skyscraper skyline view.
“When you see them out here in the hot sun or in the rain walking around looking for something, you can walk out the doors, drive down the street and say, well, I know what they’re looking for,” Groves said.
So the next time you whisk into Wichita Falls, stop by the world’s littlest skyscraper, and climb the 48 stairs to the top floor for a look at a tiny piece of Texas history with a big view and a tall tale.
“When I tell people the story they laugh and they think I’m making it up, and the fact that it really happened is why I think people should come and see it. It’ll be something that will go off their bucket list,” said Harding.