Famous Landmarks in Wichita Falls – Our Top Five
When we start talking about landmarks in Wichita Falls, many names, most of them famous come to mind: Joseph Kemp, Frank Kell, Mia Hamm. OK, so Mia Hamm really does not have a landmark around here these days, though I’m told there is a shrine planned in her honor. Just kidding. No shrine for Mia. Seriously, Wichita Falls is filled with history. And just like any other city, we have landmarks that are unique, mysterious and sometimes just odd. If the walls could talk….
#5–The Hamilton Building
It’s one of the tallest and most identifiable buildings in downtown. The ballroom on the top floor looks like something out of Jimmy Stewart movie. It’s been home to hundreds, if not thousands, of various business offices over the decades and remains a hot property in downtown Wichita Falls. According to skyscraperpage.com it was built in 1927. Talk about a landmark!
#4-The First Wichita Building
“Big Blue”as it is more commonly known these days, was finished in 1920. If it looks like it’s stuck in the 1950’s, that’s because the blue aluminum exterior was added in the 50’s, along with 5 extra floors, according to skyscraperpage.com. The giant display on top of this massive structure has flashed time and temperature to several generations of the Falls. It’s a historical landmark unto itself really! The color kind of grows on you.
# 3–The Kemp-Kell Building
Built in 1910, the Kemp-Kell Building ultimately became the Holt Hotel (1926). Everyone from Eleanor Roosevelt to Bonnie & Clyde stayed there. How’s that for historical? After many years of neglect, a group of folks decided it was time to make this old ghost come to life again as a crown jewel of downtown. It took lots of time and money (around $7 million dollars) to breath life back into the Holt. The project was completed in 2006 and now the Holt is home to some of the finest apartments in the city, as well as an art gallery. Sorry, we’re told all the apartments are taken and there’s a waiting list.
# 2–“The Littlest Skyscraper”
This building has housed very little over the years we’re told. And with good reason; it ain’t very big. Here’s the short of it (pun intended): A guy named J.D. McMahon came to Wichita Falls during the oil boom days of 1919 and offered eager investors a nice, new high rise office building. Since office space was non-existent and much-needed, the over-anxious boys signed off on the deal. What McMahon failed to tell them was that his prints were scaled in inches – not feet. And the result is a laughable but loveable historical landmark that has now become a regular tourist attraction. Ain’t it cute? Thanks to Texas Co-op Power Magazine for some details!
#1–Kell House Museum
Frank Kell came to Wichita Falls in 1896. And he had no idea that the beautiful home he would build just a few years later would become one of the hottest historical landmarks in North Texas. In 1909, he purchased a small tract of land on a bluff that overlooked the ultimate location of all the above-mentioned structures. Sitting on what is now appropriately named Bluff Street, the Kell Home is truly the lynchpin in our city’s history. It’s one of the (if not the) oldest homes in Wichita Falls. The man who commissioned its construction had a hand in everything from the railroads to Midwestern University to the construction of Lake Kemp. The home remained in the Kell family until 1980, when the Wichita County Historical Society purchased it and established the Kell House Museum. Can’t you just imagine Frank Kell standing on that wooden porch looking east and wondering what would happen to this city in the future? If he could be here to see it today, what would he think? Visit the WCHS website to learn even more!
Take a complete Virtual Tour of all of historic Wichita Falls to see more of our historic landmarks.