Showing posts with label local item. Show all posts
Showing posts with label local item. Show all posts

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Statler Hilton Hotel

In 1954 The Statler hotel family was facing an unwanted takeover bid. In response E.M. Statler's widow accepted an alternative offer from Conrad Hilton to keep the Statler properties with "hotel people". The $111,000,000.00 deal became the world's largest real estate transaction and made Hilton the largest hospitality chain in the world. It was decided that such a momentous achievement needed a symbol of success. That symbol would be built in Dallas.

Designed to be the flaghip hotel of the new Statler Hilton chain, The Statler Hilton Hotel in Dallas built in 1956 was unique. The hotel was designed by the renowned architect William Tabler, who introduced several new and exciting construction techniques and materials. Using a cantilevered reinforced flat slab system, Tabler was able to create a soaring building while significantly reducing the obstructions of regular support columns. Outside he opted for colorful porcelain enameled steel and glass, making the Statler Hilton Hotel the first glass sheathed hotel in the nation. When completed at a cost of $16 million, it was hailed as the most modern hotel in the world.

Built with a thousand rooms, convention facilities, showroom and 2000 seat ballroom, the hotel offered unheard of amenities for it's day including a helipad and televisions in every room so you would not have to miss a single episode of GE Playhouse, Ed Sullivan or The ALCOA Hour. Not into television? No problem! Enjoy the rooftop pool, the Empire Room showroom, or just sway to the music in one of the first elevators in the nation to have music piped in for your relaxation.

Opening Day was a glittering four day event with Hollywood stars and politicos
entertained by the dancing Hiltonettes sporting elaborate headdresses representing "the ingredients of Dallas" (Can't you just see a scantily clad woman in an oil derrick hat topped with an ostrich plume "gusher"?). Too fabulous.

Over the years, the Statler Hilton in Dallas hosted headliners like Elvis, Liberace (who had $25,000 worth of jewelry stolen from his room over Valentine's weekend 1974. The thief was caught.), and Robert Clary. Remember Robert Clary? You know, Lebeau from "Hogan's Heroes"? Well, before that he was a Broadway star and had an award winning nightclub act that was booked for a three week engagement in the Empire Room in November 1963.

On November 22, 1963 former Vice President Richard Nixon was attached to a law firm representing Pepsi Cola. He was attending a bottlers convention at the Statler Hilton in Dallas and was enjoying Robert Clary's show with Joan Crawford and her husband who was at that time Pepsi's CEO. I'm afraid any conspiracy rumors connected with JFK's assassination a few blocks away the next morning are nonsense. Or are they? I've always been suspicious of men in berets.

Of course the dems were well represented at the hotel in those early days, too. On March 11, 1962, Vice President Johnson and Lady Bird attended a brunch hosted by the Texas State Society in the Imperial Ballroom where the Cherry Blossom Princess for 1962- Miss Lynda Bird Johnson was presented.

Time marches on. The hotel was subjected to countless "refurbishments", "modernizations", and ill-conceived "re-modelings". The vibrant neighborhood around it decayed and business travellers began frequenting more suburban hotels. In 1988, Hilton Hotels sold the property to Hong Kong investors who re-named it the Dallas Grand. Under their ownership, it really was not so "grand". The hotel grew more seedy and in 2001 it was closed for good.

Enter downtown revitalization! In 2003, the parking garage was razed by the city in order to build the upcoming Main Street Gardens park. The main building was spared and optioned to a California developer who was interested in turning it in to pricey loft style condominiums.

Oops! Remember when I told you that the structure of the building featured "reinforced cantilevered slabs"? That means the ceilings must remain a mid-century modern standard 8 feet high. They can not be raised or cut away without tremendous expense and the risk of collapse. Fine with me, but not so fine to overpriced condo developers.

Ironically, it was the decay of it's neighborhood that caused it's fall and it is now the gorgeous revitalization of it's neighborhood that puts it in imminent danger by increasing the value of the property on which the hotel sits. It seems however, that Dallas doesn't want to give up on her yet. Offering up to $15 million dollars in tax credits and replacement of the razed garage with underground parking, the City Council is trying to get investors to look at the hotel's potential for moderate income housing. The University of North Texas is also in discussions to use a chunk of the building as Student Housing for their new downtown Law School (Having a husband who went to law school during our early years, I can attest their income can not be any more 'moderate').

Despite all these exciting ideas, the building is still very much in danger of demolition. For those of us with a soft spot for the old gal, great news came today. The National Trust for Historic Preservation officially designated it on their 2008 list of the country's most endangered historic places. While an NTHP designation can not guarantee the safety of any building, it is extremely rare when a designee is actually lost. If you would like to see some amazing photgraphs and learn more about this historic Dallas landmark, click here.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Work, Work, Work

I am working weird hours at the office and trying to get ready for the launch of my new project and trying to keep up with home and family so I'm not posting as often this week. Bear with me while I shuffle priorities and figure out some sort of routine that will allow me to post something worthwhile. In the meantime, check out my new sidebar widget!

Only one more week until my idol arrives in Dallas to sign her new book. That's right, Jen Lancaster of Jennsylvania is coming here and she will be close enough for me to pet, er stalk, um ask to have my picture taken with her. I'm sure once she signs my copy of her new book and I force her to take present her with a jar of homemade goodies, she'll want to be my best friend forever and she'll come to my house and make soup with me and we'll try on each other's cute shoes and pearls and share doggy rescue stories and we'll have a rollicking good time. Either that or she'll take out a restraining order. No matter, I'm happy because Jen Lancaster is coming to Dallas, y'all!

Now for those of you wondering how Bear spent his first paycheck, I'm pleased to say he bought a very sensible pair of shoes at Payless and appalled to say he also bought this:

My husband told him it was very cool. My mother told him it was cute. I am a lady and therefore will not tell you what I told him.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

But I Ain't Drinkin' It

I thought this little snippet on last night's local news was interesting: Crazy Water Works. For those of you who've never heard of Mineral Wells, TX and it's famous Crazy Water, it's the stuff of teenage fantasy and geriatric dreams.

Mineral Wells was once a bustling resort town with a military base and and a grand hotel built over (you guessed it!) a healing mineral well. Ft. Wolters closed in 1973. The old Crazy Water/Baker Hotel is now a towering deserted relic, but in it's heyday it hosted celebrities from Capitol Hill, Hollywood, Broadway and most deliciously, the crime underworld.

As a kid I was particularly fascinated by the rumors that the mineral wells had special powers that channeled spirits. As with most stories of this nature, there was always some kid with an old indian legend to "prove" it. The grand old Baker certainly has a colorful enough history to make these legends even more enticing.

My favorite Baker Hotel ghost story is of the lady who apprently came to town for the healing waters and dropped dead before checking in. So here is this Jane Doe and the town decides the best way to get her identified is to give everyone a chance to see her. So what do they do? They prop her up in the hotel lobby window! Yep, there she stayed with a big sign asking if anyone had seen her. In the end, she was never identified, poor dear.

Of course there are also the more gruesome stories like the the chambermaid who was stabbed to death in a most excessive fashion by a cook and the sad tale of the elevator boy who was cut in half by a malfunctioning elevator in the 1950s. Add these incidents to the damp, crumbling grand lobby visible to prying eyes from the street and you have the stuff of campfire tales for years to come.

So, I perked up my ears when I heard that someone had actually done an analysis of Crazy Water and found that it really does aid digestion, arthritis, and depression. Now how cool is that?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A Prayer For The Poor & Pretentious

My world is collapsing. My local Nordstrom Rack outlet store sent me a personal note (because we are close like that) to tell me they are closing January first forever. A few miles away and not to be outdone, The Bombay Company announced that they are in chapter 11 and will close All of their stores after Christmas. Where the hell am I supposed to buy a mahogany finished tea caddy now? Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the corporate bigwigs my Neiman's Last Call to keep. If it should close before I wake, I pray the Allen Premium Outlets my purse to take. Amen.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Call Me Irresponsible

This one really gets to me. Here's the myspace profile of Evelyn Mezzich. In 1996 she was driving drunk going 65 in a 35 mph zone and wrapped her car around a pole. Her two roommates from UT Austin were in the car with her. One was paralyzed. The other was killed. She was charged with intoxicated manslaughter. About a year into her court proceedings, Evelyn Mezzich skipped bail and fled to Peru where she had family and holds dual citizenship. In 1997, Peru did not have an extradition treaty with the United States that would allow her to be brought back to stand trial.

May I draw your attention to some of the more interesting items on Evelyn Mezzich's myspace page? Let's start at the top shall we? The quote that she believes best represents her is: "Life's too short to b* live it up!".

She then goes on to tell us that she loves to : "travel, surf (the waves here are incredible...I'm that an expert but I can stand up and haven't broken any bones...or my board), have drinks with friends, go dancing... like at my bachelerette party!!!"

Her video of choice? "Paris In Jail-the music video"

In May of this year, U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Austin, made certain inquiries with the U.S. State Department regarding Evelyn Mezzich's case. His office discovered that after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the U.S. and Peru negotiated a new treaty that provided for extradition for any crime punishable in both countries by more than one year. "The extradition papers are being processed in the State Department as I speak," McCaul said.

Welcome home, Evelyn. We look forward to seeing you again.

Today I give thanks for the good work of designated driver campaigns and stricter drunk driving laws. In particular, I give thanks to everyone who is helping to make our roads safer this holiday season.