World's Littlest Skyscraper

If you start comparing skyscrapers from the tallest downwards, you have to stop somewhere and one has to be the smallest. But which one? Luckily, we have that question answered for us.

Newby-McMahon Building is called the “world’s smallest skyscraper”. It is located in downtown Wichita Falls, Texas, has 4 floors, roof on 12.2 m and is built in 1919. The building came to be in a strange way (or maybe not that strange). In 1912, near a small town of Burkburnett in Wichita County, Texas, a large petroleum reservoir was found. Burkburnett and nearby places exploded overnight with populations and economies rising very quickly. By 1918, some 20,000 new settlers came to live there and many Wichita County residents became wealthy. One of the nearby towns was Wichita Falls which was also seat of Wichita County and because of that perfect place for office spaces of the new oil companies. Town was underdeveloped and oil companies had their quarters in tents or in open space. Enters J.D. McMahon, a petroleum landsman and structural engineer from Philadelphia who had his offices in the Newby Building, a one-story brick building in downtown Wichita Falls. Local legend says that, in 1919, a J.D. McMahon spread the word that he wants to build a high-rise annex to the Newby Building as a way out of the problem of low office. Investors, also oil company owners, were fast to seize the opportunity to become even wealthier. McMahon collected, from the group of naïve investors, some $200.000. He made blueprints of the future building and distributed copies of it to investors which they approved with signatures. Small problem - dimensions in blueprints were not marked at all and while inventors assumed they were in feet (building was supposed to be 480 feet tall), McMahon built the building in inches - 480 inches in height (if we can call that a height). He also never verbally stated that the actual height of the building would be 480 feet.

McMahon used his own men to build the McMahon Building near the Newby Building, also “forgetting” to obtain prior consent from the owner of the property who was away living in Oklahoma. As the building began to rise, investors realized that they will get a 12m building instead of 150m and tried to sue McMahon. Local judge declared a construction deal legally binding because McMahon had built exactly according to the blueprints that were signed by investors. Some money was returned by the elevator company, which refused to honor the contract after they learned of the con McMahon pulled. Construction was complete and McMahon disappeared.

After that, Building housed two oil firms, barber shops and cafés, was boarded up, burned and even was scheduled for demolition on several occasions but saved every time. In 1920 it was featured in Robert Ripley's Ripley's “Believe It or Not!” which gave it the name "the world's littlest skyscraper" which bears even today. Today it stands as a monument to the human greed and gullibility.