World’s Strangest

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The World’s Littlest Skyscraper


Image: Solomon
Chaim/Wikimedia

The world’s smallest skyscraper is a four-story Newby-McMahon Building
in downtown Wichita Falls, Texas. It’s only 40 feet (12 m) tall.

So, why is it called a skyscraper? The whole thing began with a scam.

In 1919, oil man and engineer J.D. McMahon claimed that he would build
a highrise and courted people to invest. With just a simple blueprint,
McMahon raised $200,000 (over $2,500,000 in today’s dollar).

After the structure was built as a 40 feet building instead of a 480
feet one that people were expecting, McMahon calmly explained that it
was his plan all along. The 480 figure in the blueprint was in inches
– not feet! When he was sued, the judge threw out the lawsuit because
the blueprint was technically correct. McMahon promptly fled Wichita.

The Newby-McMahon Building was an instant embarrassment to the city –
it didn’t even have stairs, so people had to use ladders to reach the
upper floors! It was featured in a Ripley’s Believe It or Not! column
as "The
World’s Littlest Skyscraper
" and the name stuck ever since. Today,
the building is a Texas Historic Landmark and is listed on the National
Register of Historic Places.


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