Texana Thursday: 3 Things You Might Not Know about San Antonio’s Tower Life Building

The Tower Life Building is a San Antonio landmark. The gargoyles stick out from the top two levels of the building. (Creative Commons license attribution, photo courtesy Paul Sableman)

San Antonio has its share of famous architecture. It has the iconic (the Alamo), the historic (the missions), and the modern (the Tower of the Americas).

The Tower Life Building sits to the west of the Tower of the Americas and fits all these criteria. It’s a fixture on the San Antonio skyline, though it blends in quietly, relatively speaking.

Some things you might know about the Tower Life Building include:

  1. 1. The building is 30 stories tall.

Construction on the Tower Life Building began in 1927, and was completed in 1929. From then until 1968, when the Tower of the Americas opened as part of HemisFair ‘68, the Tower Life Building was the tallest building in San Antonio.

The Tower Life Building stands at 404 feet tall (not including the flagpole). The Tower of the Americas stands at 622 feet.

The 100-foot flagpole replaced a television transmission tower that was added in 1953 and removed, when it was declared obsolete, in 2010.

2. The building has gone by different names over the years.

The building was named the Smith-Young Tower when it opened. It was later known as the Pan American Building (1938), and then the San Antonio Transit Building (1942).

In 1962, the building was renamed the Tower Life Building when it became home of the Tower Life Insurance Company.

It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1991.

3. The building is known for its gargoyles.

A gargoyle is a grotesque, mythical figure that, in terms of architecture, is a spout whose mouth is used to convey water from the roof away to the side of a building.

You have to look carefully to see them sticking out from the top and middle levels of the building. But they are there.