Texas Over Time: Waco’s Alico Building-Architecture and a Changing City

February 13, 2019 geoff_hunt

By Geoff Hunt, Audio and Visual Curator

Texas has changed quite a bit over the years, as is readily seen in our vast photograph and postcard collections. To help bring some of those changes to life, we’ve created a “Texas over Time” series of Meta Slider’s that will illustrate the construction and renovations of buildings, street scenes, and more. Our collections are especially strong on Waco and Baylor images, but look for some views beyond the Heart of Texas, too.

Waco’s Alico Building

The 22-story ALICO Building, also known as the American-Amicable Life Insurance Company Building, was completed in 1911, and designed by architects Roy E. Lane and Sanguinet & Staats. When completed, it was the tallest office building in the southwestern United States. Additionally, its location at 5th and Austin Avenue was once part of the city’s central business district and the building was a vital part of the city’s economy. It even survived a catastrophic and deadly F5 tornado in 1953.

To remain economically viable, it needed to keep pace with the rapidly changing business climate of Waco in the 1960s. For example, structures such as Lake Air Mall were being developed in West Waco and others around Valley Mills Drive. Consequently, the city’s landmark ALICO Building received major exterior updates. The lower street-level façade and the recently constructed Alico Center and parking garage were all given a mid-century inspired design element. In 1964, Waco’s then mayor, Roger Conger, compared the groundbreaking to these facilities and modifications to “the historic groundbreaking for the Amicable building more than fifty years ago [1909].”

The closing down of a section of Austin Avenue to create the Austin Avenue Pedestrian Mall in the late 1960s also put the tall building and facilities at the front and center of one of the city’s many Urban Renewal Projects. However, this pedestrian mall project was short-lived and the street opened to traffic again in the mid-1980s. Adjoining structures with matching Alico Center façades were eventually pulled down. As a result, the building and its parking garage now stand as a lone reminder to this time when mid-century inspired architectural styling met a much older and traditionally designed skyscraper.

 

This Meta Slider shows the Alico Building in about 1926 and a recently taken image. Waco’s famous Old Corner Drug Store once occupied a portion of the building’s ground floor. The original design of the front and side facades are evident as well as the original design of the first few upper floors. Older image taken by Fred Gildersleeve (Waco Amicable Life Insurance Company records), The Texas Collection, Baylor University; and a recent picture by GH.

 

This Meta Slider shows a circa 1960 image by Windy Drum, (Waco Amicable Life Insurance Company records), The Texas Collection, Baylor University; and a recent picture taken by GH.

 

The structure’s upper floors remain virtually unchanged with the exception of the large red ALICO signs on both sides. On another side below the flag and above top windows, the letters A L I C O are placed. Recent photo taken by GH.

 

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