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-Dixon 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.

The ALICO building has not only served as office space, however. The tower became Waco's crisis center following the 1953 tornado that struck the surrounding downtown area and claimed 114 lives. The building suffered only superficial damage and, having been built with its own generator, was the only major downtown structure with electricity. Medical and military officials coordinated search parties and rescue efforts from the First National Bank on the ground floor.

In 1982, the Texas State Historical Commission designated the ALICO building a historical landmark. The state uses this program to commemorate and preserve sites that 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.



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...
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