One of the most fascinating towers in the United States can be found in San Antonio, Texas.
In this post, you’ll discover the ultimate list of interesting facts about the Tower of the Americas.
1. The tower is located near Downtown San Antonio
The Tower of the Americas is an observation tower located in the utmost southeastern part of Downtown San Antonio, the 2nd most populous city in Texas and the 7th most populous city in the United States.
The tower dominates the San Antonio skyline as it’s still the tallest structure in the city with a height of 750 feet (230 meters) to the tip of its antenna spire.
2. It was built for a special occasion in the 1960s
One of the most remarkable facts about the Tower of the Americas is that it was built for the same reason as the Eiffel Tower in Paris was built in 1889. It was the centerpiece of the HemisFair ’68, the official 1968 World’s Fair.
This event took place between April 6 and October 6 of the year 1968 and the main theme was the “Confluence of Civilizations in the Americas.” There were over 30 nations that hosted pavilions on the fairgrounds during the event.
3. It was designed by a local architect
The main architect and also the main proponent to build the tower was local San Antonio architect O’Neil Ford (1905-1982). He was one of the leading architects in the area and remarkably the only person to be designated as a National Historic Landmark by the National Council on the Arts.
Ford has been referred to as “Texas’s Godfather of Modern Architecture” and his style can be described as a mix of modern European and early Texas architecture.
4. It wasn’t the first tower in San Antonio designed by Ford
A tower wasn’t the only proposition to become the centerpiece of the world fair in 1968. One idea was the recreate the Tivoli Garden in Copenhagen, but this and the other suggestions weren’t deemed profitable in the long run.
When the developers consulted the management of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, they got the reply that their tower “has been so profitable that it is immoral.” This was the answer they were looking for and reason enough to stick with the tower idea, even though some proponents considered it to be merely a copy of the Space Needle in Seattle which was built a couple of years earlier.
The reason why architect Ford was a proponent is that he had already designed a 166-feet (50 meters) tall tower in San Antonio in 1964 called the “Frank Murchison Memorial Tower” on the campus of Trinity University.
5. The Tower of the Americas was very expensive to build
The tower was developed by the city of San Antonio which sold 20-year revenue bonds in order to raise funds for its construction. And they needed to sell quite a bit!
The total construction cost of the tower was $5.2 million USD, the equivalent of nearly $39 million USD today!
6. How did they come up with the name of the tower?
The name of the tower was chosen by a competition launched by the developers as it was being constructed. There were a total of 3,400 submissions for the competition with some of the suggestions being the HemiSpire, Purple Peeple Steeple, the Mast of Columbus, Tall Texan Tower, Hi Ya Tower, San Antonio’s Spacienda, Wineglass of Friendship, and Cloudlift.
The reason why the management of the tower eventually chose the name “Tower of the Americas” was that this suggestion was made by exactly 68 people, a reference to the year of the 1968 world Fair for which the tower was constructed.
7. It was the tallest tower in the U.S. for nearly 3 decades
While the antenna spire reaches a height of 750 feet (230 meters), the roof of the tower is located at a height of 622 feet (190 meters). This made it the tallest observation tower in the United States upon completion.
This also means that it was the tallest tower from its completion in 1968 until it was surpassed by the Las Vegas Stratosphere Tower in 1996. This tower stands 1,149 feet (350.2 meters) tall and is still the tallest tower in the United States today!
8. A tower in Canada prevented it from being the tallest tower in the world
One of the most peculiar facts about the Tower of the Americas is that the management really intended to build the tallest observation tower of its kind in the world. They were, however, fooled by the developers of the Calgary Tower in Canada because they initially announced this tower to have a height of 614 feet (187 meters).
When the tower was completed, they announced the real height, which is 626 feet (190.80 meters), 6 feet taller than the tower in San Antonio.
Not that it really mattered too much because just 8 years later this record was shattered by the CN Tower in Toronto which stands 1,815.3 feet (553.3 meters) tall, nearly 3 times the height of both towers!
9. Constructing the tower didn’t go without issues
Even though the tower has been praised as an engineering marvel, especially since it was built in the 1960s, the construction faced one crucial issue which delayed the completion by nearly 3 weeks.
The top house of the tower, referred to by Ford as the “Doughnut,” was constructed at the foot of the tower and then lifted on top of its concrete base. Unfortunately, some steel cables that were hoisting this structure into position snapped, leaving it dangling on top of the tower.
They eventually managed to solve the issue using oil field pipes instead, but this resulted in the tower only being completed on April 11, 5 days after the World Fair officially opened.
10. The observation deck provides stunning views of San Antonio
The main attractions of the tower are the observation deck, which is located at a height of 579 feet (176 meters), a 4D Theater, and the revolving restaurant.
The tower’s restaurant was seriously renovated for about $8 million USD after Landry’s Restaurants took over its management in the early 2000s and turned it into one of its Chart House outlets.
Both the observation deck and revolving restaurant offer stunning views of the city of San Antonio!