You are here

Tower Life Building (Smith-Young Tower)

-A A +A
Smith-Young Tower
1929, Atlee B. and Robert M. Ayres. 310 S. St. Mary's St.
  • (Photograph by Gerald Moorhead )

Completed at the onset of the Great Depression, this thirty-story building remained the tallest structure in San Antonio until 1968, when it was surpassed by the Tower of the Americas ( SA63). Designed by Robert M. Ayres, the tower reflects his having graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, whose campus was dominated by nineteenth-and twentieth-century Gothic Revival designs, and the fashion for Gothic Revival in high-rise buildings in the 1920s following Hood and Howells's Chicago Tribune Tower. The tower, which has an irregular six-sided geometry following the bend in St. Mary's Street, housed a department store in the lower two stories, with offices above, including those of the Ayres firm occupying the top floor. The elevator lobby, though small in scale, has elaborate Gothic detailing, including a vaulted ceiling. Ayres hired the noted graphic artist Hugh Ferris to execute a perspective view of the building, which they hung in their office library.

Writing Credits

Gerald Moorhead et al.


What's Nearby


Gerald Moorhead et al., "Tower Life Building (Smith-Young Tower)", [San Antonio, Texas], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Cover: Buildings of Texas

Buildings of Texas: Central, South, and Gulf Coast, Gerald Moorhead and contributors. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2013, 155-156.

If SAH Archipedia has been useful to you, please consider supporting it.

SAH Archipedia tells the story of the United States through its buildings, landscapes, and cities. This freely available resource empowers the public with authoritative knowledge that deepens their understanding and appreciation of the built environment. But the Society of Architectural Historians, which created SAH Archipedia with University of Virginia Press, needs your support to maintain the high-caliber research, writing, photography, cartography, editing, design, and programming that make SAH Archipedia a trusted online resource available to all who value the history of place, heritage tourism, and learning.