The Waggoner Building: Reach for the Sky

On February 12, 1919 rancher and oilman W. T. Waggoner (1852-1934) used the Star-Telegram to announce his plans to build what would be, at sixteen stories, the tallest building in the city when completed in 1920.

But note that the Star-Telegram story said four more stories could be added to the planned sixteen.

Sure enough, in March W. T. Waggoner decided to add four floors to the building. The demand for more office space was certainly there as Fort Worth boomed with oil money: By the end of April half the building’s twenty floors had already been released. But the story goes that Waggoner added the four stories in order to out-skyscrape a building that was being built at the time in . . . wait for it . . . Dallas. The twenty-story Waggoner Building was now projected to be the tallest building in the state. But the Waggoner Building would hold the title only briefly: A few blocks away in 1921 the new Farmers and Mechanics National Bank Building opened at twenty-four stories. The poor Waggoner Building suddenly seemed to slouch in defeat.

Both buildings were designed by Sanguinet and Staats.

skyline 1918BFor reference, this 1918 photo looks south down Main Street. The tallest building in town was probably the twelve-story Burk Burnett Building (Sanguinet and Staats, 1914), labeled “B” in blue.

waggoner freeze 12-9-19Clip is from the December 9, 1919 Star-Telegram.

both skyscrapers 9-28-19On September 28, 1919 the Star-Telegram featured three skyscrapers that were planned or under construction. Top row, from left, the Hotel Texas (note the preliminary design with arcaded entrance, gabled roof, and C-shaped footprint), F&M Bank Building, Waggoner Building. Sanguinet and Staats designed all three.

The Waggoner Building went up very quickly. This chamber of commerce photo was published later in 1919. In 1920 the Star-Telegram reported that the lights of the Waggoner Building were visible from fifteen miles away. The building is U-shaped with a deep central light well that makes the building look like two towers from some angles. (The 1922 Magnolia Petroleum Building in Dallas has a similar U-shape.) In front of the Waggoner Building are an early Piggly Wiggly store and, on the corner, the 1910 building that housed Thompson’s Bookstore. Behind, with its square tower, is the Board of Trade Building (1889). The Board of Trade was a forerunner of the Chamber of Commerce.

waggoner 8-2 dmn 8-4 s-tThe building opened on August 2, 1920. Clips are from the August 2 Dallas Morning News and August 4 Star-Telegram.

waggoner 20 cdAs the Waggoner Building opened, its tenants were mostly oil companies with a sprinkling of railroads on the fourth floor. Note that Sinclair Oil & Gas Company was on the top three floors. Sinclair would not get its own building until 1930.

Some views of Fort Worth’s twin towers:

The Waggoner Building at age ninety-seven. Another grand landmark owned and restored by XTO.

wagoner look upwaggoner look upwaggoner entry backwaggoner look up corner canopywaggoner lightwaggoner light 2

This entry was posted in Architecture, Downtown, Downtown, All Around. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to The Waggoner Building: Reach for the Sky

  1. Mark Howard says:

    My grandfather, Archibald Howard, was superintendent for Mr. Waggoner’s building. He told us of a secret room he built innMr. Waggoner’s office where he kept his alcoholic beverages. He also built Mr. Waggoner’s house near TCU. He formed A J Howard Construction and became a prominent contractor in the Fort Worth area until the depression forced him to close the business. After WWII, living in Houston and started Howard Construction with his four sons. They built a business based on integrity and quality. A J Sr. died in 1954 & his sons continued the business until 1986. His youngest son, AJ Howard Jr. is 95 years old & lives on Kingwood Texas, near Houston.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *