Looking back on his 100th birthday in July, my Uncle Mort admits it could have been doubly sweet had he known of another 100th anniversary observation this year.
“If I had known I shared a birthday year with Dallas’ Adolphus Hotel, I might have swung a deal to have my party there,” he lamented.
Had there been that “dual party,” it would have been a study in contrasts — one sedate, the other garish; a melodious Steinway vs. barn dance fiddles; fine china in lieu of Styrofoam, and silk stockings vs. flip flops.
“My daddy was forever talking about the Adolphus,” Mort said, claiming it was the first hotel that didn’t have “and livery” in its name. “Staying there was beyond our dreams, but we walked through the lobby and picked up left-behind newspapers during our rare trips to Big ‘D.’”
Named and financed by St. Louis beer baron Adolphus Busch, the magnificent 22-story hotel set new hostelry standards. Greats and near-greats from around the globe have enjoyed old-world hospitality in a hotel known for 18th century design — inside and out.
If walls could talk, floors and ceilings couldn’t get words in edgewise. There’d be happy afterglow chatter about the Glenn Miller Orchestra; serious talk of two world wars, the Roaring ’20s and the Great Depression; seventh-floor political discourse at Texas’ campaign center for FDR’s 1944 presidential run and gambling whispers on Texas-Oklahoma football games.
Constructed at a cost of $1.5 million, it rose at the city’s epicenter, the corner of Commerce and Akard. Nevermind the nearly-new Dallas City Hall occupied the address. Busch wrote a $240,000 check for it and ordered horse-powered ’dozers. City hall could be someplace else.
Grandeur was worth it. After all, Texans thrive on bragging rights that come with a 1,250-room hotel that later was first in the U.S. with air conditioning.