Amicable (ALICO) Building

After the Amicable Life Insurance Company opened for business on April 2, 1910, the owners began searching for a location to house their new business. The owners of First National Bank, located at Fifth Street and Austin Avenue, also served as members of the board of trustees for the Amicable Life Insurance Company (ALICO). The bank owners decided to sell their lot to ALICO, and in 1910, the insurance company demolished the old bank to break ground for the new building.

Construction began in August of 1910 on what was originally planned to be an eight-story building. Yet when the Adolphus Hotel in Dallas planned a taller building, ALICO increased the number of floors to seventeen. The hotel also increased its planned height, and ALICO ultimately decided to construct a twenty-two-story building. Construction finished exactly one year later in August of 1911. The Amicable building stood out from other buildings in the South in many ways. Though most buildings at this time were composed of concrete or masonry, the Amicable building boasted a steel frame. Also, the elevator system within was quite advanced for the time. In addition to these modern innovations, the ALICO building stood as the tallest building west of the Mississippi River and south of the Mason-Dixie line until 1929.

The building itself stands for the strength and stability of the Waco community and of downtown. While many businesses have come and gone throughout the history of downtown Waco, the ALICO building has stood strong since its creation in 1910. It weathered everything in Waco, from the Waco tornado of 1953 to urban renewal. The architects, Sanguinet and Staats of Fort Worth and Roy E. Lane of Waco, wanted to design a building that could survive any major catastrophe. They designed the building with a steel frame that could resist a hurricane-force wind. The bottom half of the outer façade was composed of granite and other stone, while the top was made of brick and terra cotta. It was designed to be sturdy but to have a look that was classic and appealing to the eye.

The first few floors of the building housed the First National Bank. The fourth floor through the twentieth all contained the same floor plan for office spaces, while floors above the twentieth consisted mostly of storage space. The Amicable building became the center of downtown, making its office space highly desirable and the shopping center immensely popular. People came to the Amicable building not only to shop but often just to marvel at the building itself. Until the mid-1940s, the ALICO building was bustling and full of offices that were not necessarily ALICO offices. For instance, radio station WACO was founded on the eighth floor of the building. This changed when the Amicable Life Insurance Company rapidly grew and needed to start buying back some of the offices because of their growing need for space.

In 1982, the Texas State Historical Commission designated the ALICO building a historical landmark. The state uses this program to commemorate and preserve sites which have impacted state history. The first of its kind in the Southwest, the ALICO building became the focal point of activity in Waco for generations. Today, the ALICO building still towers above the Waco skyline, holding the offices of the now American-Amicable Life Insurance Company of Texas, as well as providing office space for other businesses located in downtown Waco.

Images

Digging Deep

Digging Deep

To ensure the stability of the foundation, the construction team dug forty feet down to bedrock. While digging, workers discovered a subterranean lake beneath the soil. For days artesian water poured out of the pit and down the streets of Waco while the rest of Texas endured a severe drought. Later, this water supply was converted into a well for the building. | Source: Image courtesy of the Texas Collection, Baylor University | Creator: Fred R. Gildersleeve View File Details Page

Amicable Building Framework

Amicable Building Framework

Employees of the Westlake Construction Co. of St. Louis work on the steel frame of the building. The steel H-beams were shipped from New York City to Galveston and then sent by rail to Waco. | Source: Image courtesy of the Texas Collection, Baylor University View File Details Page

A Feat of Daring

A Feat of Daring

Notable Waco photographer Fred Gildersleeve documented the entire construction process of the Amicable building. In this photograph, Gildersleeve stands atop a steel beam which is being lifted by a crane to the upper portion of the building in order to get a better vantage point. | Source: Image courtesy of the Texas Collection, Baylor University | Creator: Fred R. Gildersleeve View File Details Page

Amicable Life Insurance Company Founder (September 1911)

Amicable Life Insurance Company Founder (September 1911)

Artemas Roberts was originally a teacher but desired to do something different with his life. He worked his way up through several insurance companies and in 1908 took advantage of the mass exodus from Texas of twenty-three insurance companies due to changes in Texas regulations. In 1909, Roberts and his board members chartered the Amicable Life Insurance Company. | Source: Image courtesy of the Texas Collection, Baylor University | Creator: Fred R. Gildersleeve View File Details Page

Towering Hub

Towering Hub

The Amicable building became the center of city life in Waco. Between 1911 and 1940, the building boasted many businesses in addition to the ALICO offices, such as the First National Bank, the Old Corner Drug Store, an onsite beauty emporium and barbershop, and several doctors' offices. | Source: Image courtesy of the Texas Collection, Baylor University View File Details Page

Interior Hallway

Interior Hallway

All of the staircases in the building, from the first floor to the roof, are composed of white marble imported from Italy. The ceiling ornamentation featured Roman gold fixtures and chandeliers. Three high-speed passenger elevators are pictured on the right. | Source: Image courtesy of the Texas Collection, Baylor University | Creator: Fred R. Gildersleeve View File Details Page

Office Space

Office Space

Every floor above the fourth consisted of the same floor plan. Each suite had the marble floors and ornate detailing characteristic of the building, as well as brass fixtures on all of the doors with “ALICO” inscribed on them. | Source: Image courtesy of the Texas Collection, Baylor University | Creator: Fred R. Gildersleeve View File Details Page

Biplane Circles Amicable Building in Famous Flight

Biplane Circles Amicable Building in Famous Flight

Local photographer Fred R. Gildersleeve captured this image of a Wright Brothers-built biplane circling the Amicable building on October 19, 1911. Piloted by Calbraith Perry Rodgers, the biplane soared above Waco as part of the first transcontinental flight. | Source: Image Courtesy of the Texas Collection, Baylor University | Creator: Fred R. Gildersleeve View File Details Page

Souvenir Postcard

Souvenir Postcard

Part of Roy E. Lane's vision for the "indestructible building" included making it fireproof. The exterior of the building was entirely composed of steel, concrete, and tile. The Waco Tribune-Herald reported the window shades were the only parts of the building made of wood. | Source: Image courtesy of the Texas Collection, Baylor University View File Details Page

Prized Landmark

Prized Landmark

The Amicable building quickly became the focal point of Waco city life, and many stories arose about its fame. For instance, a West Texas visitor once grew frustrated when he asked for directions and three different Wacoans responded by providing him with directions from the Amicable building. | Source: Image courtesy of the Texas Collection, Baylor University View File Details Page

Audio

Watching the Elevators

Anna Gladys Jenkins Casimir explains her experiences of visiting the tall building and watching the elevators in the 1910s. | Source: Casimir, Anna Gladys Jenkins, interviewed by Lois E. Myers, June 22, 1995, in Waco, Texas. Baylor University Institute for Oral History, Waco, TX. View the full interview View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Kyle Baughman and Amanda Sawyer, “Amicable (ALICO) Building,” Waco History, accessed May 23, 2017, http://wacohistory.org/items/show/23.

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