The legendary co-founder of Anheuser-Busch, Adolphus Busch, needed cross-country rail service to move his beer, and during his travels, he became convinced of the opportunities for great wealth possible from investing in real estate in Dallas, Texas. The former German immigrant’s business instincts proved to be as good as his skills as a brew master.
Beginning in the early 1900s, he began investing in the city’s real estate, which included buying a small hotel in the nascent downtown business district. This experience proved to be the impetus for the development of a structure that would become one of the most iconic hotels in the southwestern United States: The Adolphus.
What This Means for You — Commercial buildings constructed of brick have a timeless appearance of richness and a virtually indestructible durability that can endure for hundreds of years. In the case of The Adolphus Hotel, a young company called Acme Brick used native soil, composed of clay and shale, combined with state-of-the-art manufacturing techniques to help create a historical masterpiece that continues to serve customers more than 111 years later.
Whether the structure is commercial or residential, brick construction will last for generations. Its low maintenance, sustainability, and rich elegance are perfect for any style of architecture. Click here for information on Acme Brick for your next project.
1912: A Momentous Year
There was no shortage of bold headlines in the newspapers during 1912.
One of the most bitter U.S. presidential campaigns in history pitted incumbent William H. Taft against New Jersey Governor Woodrow Wilson and former President Theodore Roosevelt throughout the year. The result was a stunner. Wilson defeated Taft and third party-backed Roosevelt, changing the trajectory of the country’s foreign policy for several generations.
Other highlights, or perhaps “lowlights,” included:
April 14, the Titanic sinks in the North Atlantic, killing 1,523 people.
April 20, Fenway Park opens in Boston. It remains the oldest continuously operating baseball park in America.
May 5, the Summer Olympics open in Stockholm, Sweden. Native American Jim Thorpe wins the pentathlon and decathlon but is stripped of his medals after claims that he was not an amateur.
June 6, the eruption of Novarupta in Alaska begins. It was the largest volcanic eruption of the 20th century.
Aug. 27, Edgar Rice Burroughs publishes “Tarzan of the Apes.”
According to press coverage, in 1912, “Adolphus Busch commissioned his namesake hotel as a bit of a vanity project. He needed a place to stop in Dallas. And even though he owned the Oriental Hotel across the street, he wanted to build a new structure that would be even grander.”
Busch debuted the city’s first true luxury hotel, modeling the building on a Germanic castle, only taller. The 22-story tower remained the state’s tallest building for a decade.
The spot chosen for this magnificent homage to European splendor had been the site of the first city hall of Dallas and became an integral part of the city’s “Main Street District. “This district of downtown Dallas runs along Main Street and is bounded by Elm Street one block north, Commerce Street. one block south, N. Lamar Street. to the west, and the US 75 elevated highway to the east. The district is the “spine” of downtown Dallas and connects many of the adjoining business and entertainment districts.
Before ground was broken for this seminal structure, bids were requested from construction material manufacturers from around the country. When the dust settled, Acme Brick was chosen to supply the brick for this “Texas Castle.” At the time, the company had been in business for only 21 years. More than 100 years later, the brick used in the Adolphus Hotel still looks as rich as it did on the day it was laid in place.
Impeccable Beaux Arts Design
The architects for The Adolphus, Thomas P. Barnett of Barnett, Haynes & Barnett of St. Louis, were commissioned to design the property in the elegant style of the Ecole de Beaux Arts, which emphasized classical forms and features, elaborate details, lavish ornamentation, and heavy masonry.
According to the Dallas Morning News, “Its elaborate arched windows and turrets were meant to transport passersby from Dallas to Paris. But those elements of grandeur were juxtaposed against the realities of 1912. When it opened in October of that year, it had no air conditioning. Historical photos show fabulously dressed people sitting underneath fans at dinnertime, spittoons at their feet.
“Busch found homes for many of his pieces of artwork in this Dallas palace. The Steinway piano near the entrance to the French Room dates to 1879. Its ‘sister piano,’ an exact match, is at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean on the Titanic.”
It took crews with horse-drawn carriages two years to build the 22-story hotel. It cost $1.5 million back then, more than $50 million in today’s dollars. The brick being carried to the site came from the Acme Brick manufacturing plant, Bennett Plant, at Millsap, Texas.
The Once and Future Legacy
To the surprise of almost no one, The Adolphus Hotel evolved into a cultural hot spot. According to the hotel’s archives, “When the 19th-floor Century Room opened, the venue became a national sensation in an era of big band music and bootlegged whiskey. The most sought-after entertainers, including the Andrews Sisters, Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman, and Harry James, performed for standing-room-only audiences.
“KRLD radio began broadcasting live from The Adolphus in 1936, with a steady stream of stars and celebrities flocking to Dallas for in-studio appearances, such as Bob Hope and Kate Smith.
“For 35 years, starting in 1930, The Adolphus housed a retractable ice rink used for touring revues in the grand Century Room. In 1943. The Adolphus hired former speed skating powerhouse and Broadway on Ice legend Dorothy Franey. She choreographed, directed, produced, and starred in her “Dot Franey Ice Revue” show, which opened in October of that year and ran for more than a dozen years afterward.
“In the 1980s, Dallas-based Began & Shelmire Architects restored The Adolphus to its dignified mantle as the hotel to beat in North Texas. During this time, The Adolphus counted dignified guests, including presidents Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, and George H.W. Bush, as well as First Ladies Rosalynn Carter and Barbara Bush, as VIP guests.
“Buckingham Palace selected The Adolphus for the official state visit when Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip traveled to Dallas in 1991. At their request, the Queen and the Duke were formally introduced to every staff member who personally served them during their stay, and the Queen, in a show of gratitude, gave an official portrait to be hung in the hotel lobby.
“The first luxury hotel in Dallas underwent an extensive two-year renovation starting in 2016. Helmed by local Dallas creative and design firm SWOON the Studio in partnership with Makeready, the multimillion-dollar refresh included careful historical restoration work. During this time, The Adolpus also inked a deal with Marriott to enter the brand’s luxurious Autograph Collection portfolio of highly distinct properties.”
Worthy of Its History
For structures built in the early 1900s, time is the biggest enemy. In the Southwestern U.S., heat, wind, fires, and rain are relentless in their assault on commercial buildings such as hotels, which also experience the wear and tear of constant traffic. The Adolphus Hotel has weathered these challenges with the dignity and aplomb of the “grand dame” she has always been. Part of the reason for its graceful longevity is the brick construction by Acme Brick. More than 100 years later, it is still worthy of its history.
For more than 130 years, Acme Brick has been an integral part of the construction of iconic buildings such as the Adolphus Hotel. If you’re considering building a new home, office, school, or commercial building, check with the brick experts at Acme.