Tower Life Building

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Tower Life Building
Tower Life Building, San Antonio, 2011 cropped.jpg
The building seen in 2011
Former namesSmith-Young Tower, Transit Tower
General information
TypeOffice building
Architectural styleLate Gothic Revival
Location310 S St Mary's St, San Antonio, TX
Coordinates29°25′22″N 98°29′29″W / 29.42278°N 98.49139°W / 29.42278; -98.49139Coordinates: 29°25′22″N 98°29′29″W / 29.42278°N 98.49139°W / 29.42278; -98.49139
Construction started1927 (1927)
Completed1929 (1929)
OpenedJune 1, 1929; 93 years ago (1929-06-01)
Design and construction
DesignatedNovember 13, 1991
Reference no.91001682

The Tower Life Building (formerly the Smith-Young Tower and the Transit Tower) is a 31-story building and a historical landmark in Downtown San Antonio, Texas, USA. Built in 1929 and standing at 404 feet (123 m) tall, the Tower Life Building was the tallest building and structure in San Antonio until the Tower of the Americas was completed in 1968, and the Marriott Rivercenter surpassed it as the tallest building in San Antonio in 1988. As of 2023, the Tower Life Building is the 4th tallest building in San Antonio and the tallest eight-sided structure in the United States.

The building opened in 1929 and was originally named the Smith-Young Tower and is the central component of a partially completed development called the Bowen Island Skyscrapers. The eight sided, neo-gothic brick and Ludowici green terra-cotta tower (complete with gargoyles) was designed by noted local architectural firm Ayres & Ayres (Atlee & Robert M. Ayres).[1] While the exterior uses traditional materials such as brick, the internal structure is reinforced concrete on the lower floors, and steel frame on the upper floors. The building also housed San Antonio's first Sears, Roebuck and Company store in its lowest 6 levels.[2]

The other completed building in the development is the former Plaza Hotel (also designed by Ayres & Ayres), which opened in 1927. The property became the local outlet of Hilton Hotels in 1956 and was converted into the Granada Apartments in 1966. Subsequent structures in the development were never built as a direct result of the Stock Market Crash of 1929 and the Great Depression.

In the 1940s the building was renamed the Transit Tower for the San Antonio Transit Company, which the Smith Brothers purchased in 1943. In 1953 a television transmission tower was added to the structure. Renovations in 2010 removed the obsolete television mast in favor of the tower's original design, a copper tophouse with a 114 ft (35 m) tall flagpole.

The building is now named for its current owner, Tower Life Insurance Company.

In 1991 the building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Cocke 1989, p. 42.
  2. ^ Cocke 1991, p. 11.
  3. ^ "Tower Life Building". Emporis. Archived from the original on May 12, 2015. Retrieved 29 July 2021.


Preceded by Tallest Building in San Antonio
Succeeded by