The years between the Depression and 1965 produced several stylish hotels in Dallas that added mid-century glitz and rock ’n roll royalty to the Dallas hospitality field. The ultra-modern 1000-room Statler Hilton Dallas opened in 1956 amid great excitement. Located at 1914 Commerce Street it boasted having the first heliport in Dallas. At that time it was one of the largest hotels in the Southwest, and the Statler attracted conventions to Dallas. Conrad Hilton acquired controlling interest in Statler Hotels, so the name of the hotel reflected this bond. This hotel had many innovations geared towards trade shows. It had flexible and large ballrooms, exhibitors panels with hidden electrical outlets, hoists for lifting automobiles into the ballroom and more. The opening ceremony brought in celebrities like Ann Miller, Hedda Hopper, Dorothy Malone and George Gobel. Interestingly, this is the hotel where Tina Turner left Ike Turner as he slept in their room.
But all good things come to an end. In 1988, the Statler became the Dallas Grand Hotel and then it closed completely in 2001. It reopened in 2017 as the Statler Hotel and Residences. Then there was the Sheraton Hotel was built in 1959 and boasted “Texas-sized” rooms. As the key focal point of the landmark Southland Center the Sheraton attracted Jayne Mansfield and Johnny Weissmuller among the celebrities that attended the opening gala.
The Fairmount opened in 1969 and its stunning and legendary Venetian Room showcased top entertainment that was rarely seen outside of New York or Las Vegas. In 1970, Jill Kohnert Nicholson recalls seeing Diana Ross & the Supremes at one of their last performances before Diana Ross would start her solo career. Nicholson reflects, “Diana Ross was beautiful and a supremely confident singer and entertainer. Her group of three harmonized beautifully together and almost every song they sang was at the top of the charts. I remember that I dressed in a formal for the intimate concert and the hotel was very opulent. In fact, the Venetian Room was intimate, and golden in color, and it was like having a concert in one’s living room—very special and memorable.” The chic venue also booked other top talent over the years including Lou Rawls, Patti Page, Carol Channing, Bobby Short, Peggy Lee, Tina Turner, Johnny Mathis, Tony Bennett and more.
The Cabaña Hotel opened in 1963 on Stemmons Freeway, and it instantly acquired an allure since the Beatles stayed during their first American tour in 1964. It was stylish with some unusual décor. The exterior had a latticework pattern of delicate concrete X-shape blocks while the lobby was designed with two-story glass walls connected to a porte-cochère with an arched roof. The spacious lobby had gold and white accents and a grand sweeping staircase. The interior was lavish and colorful with a Roman style offered s sunken circular conversation area carpeted in aqua with a crystal chandelier hanging above. Artwork included replicas of Michelangelo’s David, Bacchus, and Venus De Milo. The large hotel rooms had mirrored walls and gold-accented furniture.
The Cabaña had a flashy lounge with young attractive cocktail waitresses wearing short toga dresses. Raquel Welch worked there as a cocktail waitress for a time in 1963. And it had other connections with well-known people. Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and Jimmy Hoffa also stayed there. Doris Day’s money was invested in the Cabaña by her then husband Marty Melcher. The Dallas locale was the third for the investors of the Cabaña hotels, with the other two in Atlanta and Palo Alto. With 300 rooms, 57 of those were suites, it was fabulous for a while, but by the end of the 1960s it was in financial and legal distress. Day’s husband had died and left her deeply in debt. It was sold in 1969 to Hyatt House and was renamed Hyatt House Hotel. It changed hands again just six years later and it became Dupont Plaza. In 1984, the Cabaña was purchased and re-purposed by Dallas County, into a minimum-security prison that operated until 2013. In 2017 it was sold to a developer who will revitalize it’s former glamour for a modern audience to enjoy upon completion. Since the mid-1960s, Dallas has added some large hotels whose scope and size have forever changed the convention business and Dallas has emerged as a major player amongst large cities.
SEXY 70s & 80s
In 1978, Hyatt Regency Reunion re-energized the hotel business with its location near the Trinity River, the convention center and major thoroughfares. The adjacent Reunion Tower with its rotating Antares restaurant became a new destination. Plus, the tower helped transform the Dallas downtown skyline in the 1980s.
Loew’s Anatole Hotel opened, as a major convention and meeting hotel in 1979. It’s in the Market Center district at 2201 Stemmons Freeway just north of the downtown and features 1,606 guest rooms, one of the largest hotels in the South. Described as being part hotel and part art museum, it displays over a thousand priceless art objects. The addition of the Anatole and Hyatt Reunion hotels made it attractive for Dallas to host a national political convention in 1984 with Ronald Reagan’s campaign headquarters at the Anatole. The Anatole also hosts the annual Crystal Charity Ball, one of the largest charitable events in the country. Today, the Anatole still operates as the Hilton Anatole Hotel.
In 1981, The Mansion on Turtle Creek opened after Caroline Rose Hunt founded the Rosewood Property Co. in 1979 and purchased a private mansion near Turtle Creek. The Italian-Renaissance styled mansion was turned into a stylish hotel. While not as massive as some hotels, it was unique. The former estate’s fur and silver vault were reconfigured as a wine cellar. And the Mansion on Turtle Creek was awarded a five-star rating by Mobil Travel Guide and lives up to its reputation.
The Rosewood Crescent Hotel opened in Dallas in late 1986 with a gala event that many still recall. The property is part of a complex that includes a postmodern office, hotel, and retail space in Uptown Dallas. Originally owned by Dallas oil heiress Caroline Rose Hunt, the 10-acre complex retail space includes upscale shops such as Stanley Korshak and a myriad of restaurants. The hotel was the last large hotel opened in Dallas just before the economic downturn in the late 1980s. At first it struggled to attract enough customers in the depressed economy. But it has succeeded and has set the standards of quality as a beautiful centerpiece of Dallas’s re-vitalized Uptown area. In recent years, the luxurious hotel has been renovated and changed ownership and is now known as Hotel Crescent Court and with its recent renovation is still a stunner.
Today, hotels like The Joule, the Lumen, the Saint-Germain, the Ritz Carlton, the Canvas, the Belmont. the ZaZa, the NYLO Dallas Southside and others all compete for the trendy upscale tourist dollars. With so many choices, why not try them all on future visits as you travel to your next home away from home?