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San Antonio’s first skyscraper — Tower Life Building

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You’re looking at SA skyline history. | 📸 : @jaycastruita

It’s a bird, it’s a plane — well actually, it’s the Tower Life Building.

This iconic skyscraper has been an integral part of the San Antonio skyline since 1929 when it first opened under the name Smith-Young Tower.

We suspect many of our readers weren’t around to witness the tower’s construction — although if you know someone who was, email us (we’d love to talk about their legacy in San Antonio).

So, we thought it would be fun to revisit the fun facts about the tower and its importance to the Alamo City.

  • The 30-story building was at one point the tallest structure in San Antonio up until 1968 when the Tower of the Americas debuted.
  • Architect Robert M. Ayres designed the tower in a Gothic Revival fashion, reflecting his influence from his alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania.
  • The building originally housed San Antonio’s first Sears in the lower two stories, with offices above.
  • The building is adorned with gargoyles (carved figures projecting from the gutter of a building).
  • In 1961, the name was officially changed to Tower Life Building after the current owner’s insurance company.
  • It was not until 2010 that the tower’s original copper tophouse + 100 ft-tall flagpole that you see today was re-added.
  • The tower is now predominantly occupied by office space you can lease for around $25-30 per sqft with the smallest offices around 1000 sqft for ~$2500 per month.—

As we look ahead to all the wonderful developments coming to our city over the next few years, it’s nice to look back at where we started + where we’re headed.

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