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Solomon Chaim, WikimediaCommons // CC-BY-SA-3.0
Solomon Chaim, WikimediaCommons // CC-BY-SA-3.0

The World's Littlest Skyscraper

Solomon Chaim, WikimediaCommons // CC-BY-SA-3.0
Solomon Chaim, WikimediaCommons // CC-BY-SA-3.0

Burj Khalifa. The Shanghai Tower. One World Trade Center. Willis Tower. The Newby-McMahon Building?

One of these things is not like the others. Standing a mere 40 feet tall, the Newby-McMahon Building in Wichita Falls, Texas, is absolutely dwarfed by actual building behemoths. But what the World’s Littlest Skyscraper lacks in size, it makes up for in story.

In 1912, Wichita Falls was doing a big oil business—a gusher had been hit in the nearby town of Burkbennett, and thousands of people rushed to the area to stake a claim. One of them was a businessman named J.D. McMahon—but he wasn’t there to drill for oil. Instead, McMahon surveyed the town and realized it was sorely in need of a professional space where people could manage their oil dealings. He quickly drew up plans for a towering building worthy of the riches that were surely in Wichita Falls’ future.

Despite the minor detail that he didn’t actually have permission to build on the property, McMahon managed to secure $200,000 ($2.7 million today) from investors. They were reportedly thrilled about the building’s prime location across the street from a bustling hotel and not far from the train depot. They weren’t so thrilled upon the building’s completion in 1919, when they realized they had invested in more of a tall tale than a tall tower.

It seems that in the rush and excitement to capitalize on the boom town, no one bothered to check the dimensions of McMahon’s plans. By the time they figured out that it soared to the grand height of 480 inches instead of 480 feet, McMahon was long gone. What’s more, a judge ruled that the investors didn’t have a case, anyway—the blueprints were clearly labeled, and the financial backers should have reviewed them more carefully.

That’s not to say the space went unused. Six oil companies rented desks in the building, which, in addition to being rather squatty, was just 10 feet by 16 2/3-feet wide. It also gained fame when Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! column deemed it “The World’s Littlest Skyscraper” in a 1920 cartoon. The oil boom fizzled out a few years later, however, and the small structure was abandoned. After a fire took it completely out of commission in 1931, the remains of the burned-out “skyscraper” served mostly as an embarrassing reminder of Wichita Falls’ once-grand aspirations.

Though there were talks of demolishing the building, locals fought to have it saved, spending nearly $200,000 to purchase and restore all four stories. Their efforts paid off—the World’s Littlest Skyscraper was named to the National Historic Register and still stands today, housing an antique shop and an art studio.

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History
The Secret World War II History Hidden in London's Fences

In South London, the remains of the UK’s World War II history are visible in an unlikely place—one that you might pass by regularly and never take a second look at. In a significant number of housing estates, the fences around the perimeter are actually upcycled medical stretchers from the war, as the design podcast 99% Invisible reports.

During the Blitz of 1940 and 1941, the UK’s Air Raid Precautions department worked to protect civilians from the bombings. The organization built 60,000 steel stretchers to carry injured people during attacks. The metal structures were designed to be easy to disinfect in case of a gas attack, but that design ended up making them perfect for reuse after the war.

Many London housing developments at the time had to remove their fences so that the metal could be used in the war effort, and once the war was over, they were looking to replace them. The London County Council came up with a solution that would benefit everyone: They repurposed the excess stretchers that the city no longer needed into residential railings.

You can tell a stretcher railing from a regular fence because of the curves in the poles at the top and bottom of the fence. They’re hand-holds, designed to make it easier to carry it.

Unfortunately, decades of being exposed to the elements have left some of these historic artifacts in poor shape, and some housing estates have removed them due to high levels of degradation. The Stretcher Railing Society is currently working to preserve these heritage pieces of London infrastructure.

As of right now, though, there are plenty of stretchers you can still find on the streets. If you're in the London area, this handy Google map shows where you can find the historic fencing.

[h/t 99% Invisible]

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Guillaume Souvant, Getty Images
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This Just In
For $61, You Can Become a Co-Owner of This 13th-Century French Castle
Guillaume Souvant, Getty Images
Guillaume Souvant, Getty Images

A cultural heritage restoration site recently invited people to buy a French castle for as little as $61. The only catch? You'll be co-owning it with thousands of other donors. Now thousands of shareholders are responsible for the fate of the Château de la Mothe-Chandeniers in western France, and there's still room for more people to participate.

According to Mashable, the dilapidated structure has a rich history. Since its construction in the 13th century, the castle has been invaded by foreign forces, looted, renovated, and devastated by a fire. Friends of Château de la Mothe-Chandeniers, a small foundation formed in 2016 in an effort to conserve the overgrown property, want to see the castle restored to its former glory.

Thanks to a crowdfunding collaboration with the cultural heritage restoration platform Dartagnans, the group is closer than ever to realizing its mission. More than 9000 web users have contributed €51 ($61) or more to the campaign to “adopt” Mothe-Chandeniers. Now that the original €500,000 goal has been fulfilled, the property’s new owners are responsible for deciding what to do with their purchase.

“We intend to create a dedicated platform that will allow each owner to monitor the progress of works, events, project proposals and build a real collaborative and participatory project,” the campaign page reads. “To make an abandoned ruin a collective work is the best way to protect it over time.”

Even though the initial goal has been met, Dartagnans will continue accepting funds for the project through December 25. Money collected between now and then will be used to pay for various fees related to the purchase of the site, and new donors will be added to the growing list of owners.

The shareholders will be among the first to see the cleared-out site during an initial visit next spring. The rest of the public will have to wait until it’s fully restored to see the final product.

[h/t Mashable]

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