Amarillo’s tallest building named to National Register of Historic Places

The tallest skyscraper in the Texas Panhandle, located in Amarillo, this week was named to the National Register of Historic Places.

The FirstBank Southwest Tower at 600 S. Tyler St. in Amarillo, next to the Sixth Avenue alignment of Route 66 in downtown Amarillo, earned the designation Wednesday, according to an email Friday from the National Park Service.

The skyscraper also has been known as the Chase Tower, SPS Tower, Bank One Center, Amarillo Tower and American National Bank of Amarillo. At 374 feet, the tower for a while redefined the city via the slogan “Greetings from Amarillo – Tall in Texas.”

The nominating petition summarized the building in this way:

The American National Bank of Amarillo and SPS Tower was built as the bank’s headquarters, and was designed by architects Kelley Marshall and Associates of Tulsa with associate architect Arthur Vaughan. The 31-story tower-on-podium building was Amarillo’s first skyscraper and remains the tallest building in the Texas Panhandle. Designed in 1968 and opened in 1971, the building housed the regional utility company, Southwestern Public Service Company, with the American National Bank of Amarillo as an anchor ground floor tenant. The result of private investment and public support, the New Formalist style building became a symbol of the city’s post-war development, economic stability, and a commitment to maintaining its position as a regional service center. American National Bank of Amarillo and SPS Tower is nominated to the National Register of Historic Places under Criterion A in the area of Community Planning and Development at the local level of significance. As the largest building in the city, it became the visual focal point of downtown as well as the center for business, helping to encourage local development after the closing of the Air Force Base in 1964. The building is also nominated under Criterion C in the area of Architecture at the local level as a distinct example of a reinforced concrete New Formalist skyscraper. The period of significance ranges from 1968-1971.

Despite two remodelings, the nomination states the building is “largely intact.”

Kelley Marshall and Associates also designed similar skyscrapers in Tulsa, South Bend, Indiana; and Fort Wayne, Indiana.

The SPS Tower also is home on the top two penthouse floors to the Amarillo Club, a businessman’s club established in 1947 that remains a local institution.

More recently, local tycoon Stanley Marsh 3, longtime owner of the infamous Cadillac Ranch art installation in Amarillo, had his offices in the skyscraper. Local police raided Marsh’s offices in 2012 during an investigation that would lead his indictment on 14 counts of sex with underage boys. Marsh died in 2014 before his case went to trial.

(Images of the SPS tower from a 1968 city directory and 2018 and of the Amarillo Club via the nominating petition)


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