The Biggest Little Skyscraper in Texas – A Wichita Falls Original Scam
While Texans refuse to admit it, not everything is "bigger" in the Lone Star state.
Long before oil booms meant $100k lifted trucks and inshore 'Salt Life' stickers, they meant development, good jobs, and big-buck real estate deals. Gaining grounds not only in the oil patch but staking a claim in a convenient urban area and putting down bricks.
The biggest problem though is, back in this day, you couldn't just pop across the state or country to see how your investment dollars were being spent. One had to just rely on trusting your partner.
Dirty, rotten, scoundrels.
The Newby-McMahon building in Wichita Falls is a prime example of mail-order investment.
During the early oil boom days after the turn of the 20th century, Wichita Falls was the growing hub city in the North Texas Oil Patch. Since it was, like most young towns, on the small side, there was a real need for space and expansion to accommodate a growing industry. In order to keep up with Dallas and Houston, a man named JD McMahon decided to take on the task of modernizing The Falls.
McMahon had deep and unending relationships in the oil industry. He ran an oil-rig construction company, so he knew all of the key players he'd need to invest in his big idea.
He successfully pitched the idea of building a sprawling skyscraper in Wichita Falls on the lot next to his office and seeing how productive the surrounding area was, investors lined up.
Shut up and take my money!
JD quickly collected $200,000 from East Coast oil investors, which would be a little over $6-million in today's hyper-inflated FJB market, and went to building his iconic high-rise... but upon completion, a lack of communication was discovered.
While investors happily signed checks to build what they thought would be a 480-foot skyscraper, it turned out to be a 480-inch "skyscraper." McMahon never clarified the measurements in his pitch, but he also never intentionally hid them from investors... according to him at least.
Imagine rolling up to your skyscraper and seeing four stories of mostly unusable space that somehow cost you six million dollars. I reckon this probably should have ended in the street at high noon, but to the courts, it went.
Curiously enough, because the original structure blueprints that were pitched to investors signified inches with " instead of the traditional feet ', the judge upheld the legality of what McMahon sold... but the story didn't end there.
As it turned out, while McMahon occupied space in the building next door to his skyscraper, he didn't own it or the land... so he built his temple on someone else's property, but by the time this hitch made it to the court, JD had disappeared with the leftover investment money to anonymously live out his days a rich man.
The Newby-McMahon building still exists in Wichita Falls, famously known as The Littlest Skyscraper In Texas.