Wichita Falls’ Iconic Big Blue Was Almost Even Bigger Back in the Day?
Looks like the plan was to expand several decades, but that never came to be. So what happened?
So I saw a photo today posted by Chelsey Pirkle of a proposed expansion of First Wichita National Bank Building. Let's be honest, no one calls it that, it's the Big Blue building downtown for all of us. The photo shows a proposal to expand the iconic building back in 1982. This would be over sixty years since the building went up back in 1920.
So what happened with the plan? Well I happened to find an article from The Times Record News from 2017 talking about this very proposal. It was going to be a twelve story addition that would attach to Big Blue that would begin in the early 1980's and was supposed to be done by 1982. This was going to be 90,000 additional square feet of space for the property, which included expanding the bank lobby on the main floor.
As you can see in the photo above, this work did get started back in the day. Big Blue was expanded on the first floor and a couple of additional floors were put in as well above that. However, this is clearly not what that original proposal intended. This new addition was supposed to match the exact same height as Big Blue. Not look like a weird Tetris piece out of place.
Weird 1980's finding on Big Blue
Well...Times Record News doesn't know what happened either. Time to do some more digging. Well I found a full dissertation that Micahel Baker did for Texas Tech back in 1983 on the building. Yeah, one year after this new addition was supposed to be completed. He had a proposal to move the bank to Century Plaza in the area where Vernon College is currently standing. He made a freaking model of his proposed bank, along with a futuristic design of a new Big Blue. (Note Texas Tech will not allow me to add the pics, but you can check them out on their library archive in the links)
Crazy that someone that went to Tech had a project about this exact bank at the same time this proposed construction was taking place. Here is why I bring that up. I can't find anything in his report about this proposed expansion. You would think he would mention something like, "First National Bank is expanding it's current facility. I am proposing we move it and here's why."
I seriously can't find ANYTHING online from the 1980's on why this fell through. Believe me I have been looking all day for anything. I even found someone on EBAY selling a Big Blue matchbook. It can be yours for the low low price of $5.44. If anyone has any credible info for me, send it my way. Would love to dig more into some Wichita Falls history.