World's Littlest Skyscraper

Sep 19, 2011 4 comments

Located at 701 LaSalle Street in downtown Wichita Falls, Texas, is the Newby-McMahon Building, a smallish structure 10 feet by 18 feet in area and four-story in height. Since 1920, this Neoclassical style red brick and cast stone building has been referred to as the ‘world’s littlest skyscraper’ –a sobriquet it received from Ripley's Ripley's Believe It or Not! because of the building’s amusing origins.


Photo Wikipedia

In 1912, a large petroleum reservoir was discovered near the town of Burkburnett, in Wichita County, Texas. Soon Burkburnett and its surrounding communities started experiencing explosive growth in their populations and economies. By 1918, approximately 20,000 new settlers took up residence around the lucrative oil field, and the city was running out of office space. As a solution, a petroleum landman and structural engineer from Philadelphia named J.D. McMahon announced in 1919 that he would build a high-rise annex to the existing Newby Building. Eager to seize the opportunity to become even wealthier, investors pooled in their money and McMahon collected $200,000 in no time. Blueprints for the proposed skyscraper were drawn and distributed, but nobody noticed that the scale of the blueprints was in inches rather than feet.

As the building began to take shape, the investors realized they had been swindled into purchasing a four-story edifice that was only 480 inches tall, rather than the 480 feet structure they were expecting. They brought a lawsuit against McMahon, but to their dismay, the real estate and construction deal was declared legally as McMahon had built exactly according to the blueprints they'd signed off on. The deceived investors managed to recover a small portion of their investment from the elevator company, which refused to honor the contract after they learned of the confidence trick. There was no stairway installed in the building upon its initial completion, as none was included in the original blueprints. Rather, a ladder was employed to gain access to the upper three floors. By the time construction was complete, McMahon had left Wichita Falls and perhaps even Texas, taking with him the balance of the investors' money.

With the passage of time, the Newby-McMahon Building has become a monument to a long-gone era. It has survived tornadoes, a fire, and decades of neglect to stand as a monument to the greed, graft, and gullibility of the oil boom days of North Texas. Aside from serving as a local tourist attraction, today the building is home to an antiques dealership, The Antique Wood, which opened in 2006 on the ground floor. The third floor has been converted into an artist's studio.

The building is currently part of the Depot Square Historic District of Wichita Falls, which has been declared a Texas Historic Landmark.


Photo credit


Photo credit


[via Wikipedia]


  1. Where should I send the invoice for use of my photo above?
    The top photo is mine, and I was never contacted for permission to post it here.

  2. If you don't want your photo to be used, please let me know and I will have it removed.

  3. Actually the way it works is if you WANT to use a photo ASK FIRST!

    My fee for this is $500.00, where should I send the invoice? Afterall, you've been using my photo since 19 Sept 2011.
    How much have YOU made from advertisers in that time? Hmmmmmmm.

  4. I understand how it works, but the thing is: most people don't reply to messages or even leave a proper address for correspondence. I have tried this method earlier, and sometimes I have to wait weeks to get a Yes or No. Some never reply. This unnecessarily delays publication of articles. So I do it the other way. If anybody dislikes using their materials, I remove them. No questions asked.

    You will be disappointed when you learn how much dollars I made from your picture. People like you who think that they can snap a picture of a public monument and sell it for $500 can't appreciate the effort it takes to research, acquire resources and write an article, often for peanuts.

    Honestly, I can't even understand how anybody can copyright a mediocre picture of a mediocre building on a public place. But then, copyright laws are all messed up.

    I have removed your picture. Where should I send my condolence note for your lost $500?


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