Dallas’ Treasured Landmark Hides a Storied Past Behind its Magnificent Granite & Brick Façade
A historic Dallas haunt that boasts a history as remarkable as its Beaux Arts-style architecture, the Adolphus Hotel ( located at 1321 Commerce St, Dallas, TX ) is just as resplendent today as it was when the doors officially opened in 1912. Once the tallest building in the city, it has played host to a litany of dignitaries and celebrities, including Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, as well as Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, George H. W. Bush, and then-senator Lyndon B. Johnson. American icons like Amelia Earhart, Babe Ruth, and Joan Crawford – who sent an infamous ten-page list of demands to the staff before she arrived – were also guests at one time. There are even reports that the 19th floor is haunted by the ghost of a jilted bride.
Before all of this, however, the hotel was merely an idea inside the mind of one Adolphus Busch, who had big plans for Dallas in the early 1900’s. Co-founder of the Anheuser-Busch empire, he also owned Dallas’ thriving Oriental Hotel, the success of which, along with urging from some prominent Dallas businessmen, encouraged him to continue developing properties in the area. Specifically, he wanted a second hotel – and thus the Adolphus Hotel was born. In 1910, Busch sank a cool $1.8 million (about $45 million today) into construction, and two years later the Adolphus’ original tower was completed. It was every inch the world-class hotel he’d hoped for, with its Parisian-inspired exteriors, opulent furnishings, and even an entire power plant in the basement. Sadly, he died before ever seeing it in 1913.
Construction Of The Original Tower
Today, The Adolphus Hotel’s first tower is still by far the most recognizable of all four buildings that comprise it as a whole. In fact, despite efforts over the years to make their combined appearance more cohesive, some casual passerby might not even be aware that the other towers belong to The Adolphus. Interestingly, despite being the oldest of them all, it’s the original tower’s 22-story granite, brick, and limestone façade that has changed the least over the years. Designed by Tom P. Barnett, who was heavily influenced by French Renaissance architecture, the finished product remains a feast for the eyes, featuring ornate stone work, massive scroll brackets, bronze grillwork, and a collection of highly detailed statues that include carved granite depictions of various Greek gods.
Standing on a base of red granite, which owes its color to a presence of iron oxide or potassium feldspar within the stone, the first three floors of The Adolphus’ original Tower One are clad in an expanse of gray granite, out of which five, arched openings were carved in a manner resembling large windows. The fourth through twelfth floors are a perfect complement to the first three, covered in tapestry brick, with belts of gray granite used to delineate each level. Switching back from brick to stone temporarily, the fourteenth floor’s exterior is dominated by a beautiful granite balcony that wraps around half of the building. The next two floors feature more brickwork, but past that is the façade’s most elaborate section yet, faced entirely in gray granite with stunning antique bronze statues.
Building on Success
By 1916, The Adolphus Hotel was a triumph, and plans were announced to build a second tower. It wasn’t possible at the time to purchase the buildings that directly adjoined the hotel’s western wall, so then-prominent architectural firm Lang & Witchell included a 50-foot long iron passageway between the two towers in their schematics. Designed to visually reference Tower One, but as a much-simplified version, all eleven stories of Tower Two were completed by January 1, 1918, providing the hotel with an additional 230 rooms. Still, while its façade was constructed of the same brick used for Tower One, the two were still stylistically out of sync. Over the years its exteriors have changed rather significantly, with the removal of a street-level terrace in favor of columns, and a coat of stucco added to the building.
Just over six years after Tower Two was completed, it was announced that The Adolphus would be expanding once again. Notable New York architect Alfred Blossom was hired to design Tower Three, and he did so with the goal of uniting Towers One and Two in mind, as their dissimilar appearances weren’t exactly working in harmony. He came up with a narrow, 22-story tower, and decided to set it back from the street. This helped because it made symmetry between the buildings seem less important; a feat that managed to offset some of the visual differences between Towers One and Two. The first-floor exterior was clad in red granite, and the upper floors gray granite, with some ornamental detailing borrowed directly from Tower One, although not nearly as elaborate.
A New Era
In 1949, a little more than twenty years after Tower Three was finished, controlling interest of the hotel was purchased by Dallas property developer Leo Corrigan. Corrigan hired Wyatt C. Hedrick to design a fourth, 20-story tower, and construction started right away in 1950. The new building was actually built on top of the Main Street Arcade, a shopping area that connected Tower Three to the street, and the arcade’s original façade was swapped for one of red granite. Tower Four’s exteriors were clad in buff-colored brick for the most part, but some stucco was added as well during an $80 million renovation in the 1980’s. Ever since then, The Adolphus Hotel’s granite and brick face has barely changed, even despite a very recent interior renovation. Of course, with over a century of glamour and excellence under its belt, and still no signs of losing relevance, why fix what clearly isn’t broken?