Statler Hilton Makes National Trust's "Most Endangered" List

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Justin Terveen
The Statler Hilton Hotel, as captured by Justin Terveen for a collection of photos shot in 2004-2007 from inside and outside the building

The National Trust for Historic Preservation’s 2008 list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places will be officially released tomorrow morning, and it contains a familiar Dallas landmark: the former Statler Hilton Hotel on Commerce Street, also known as the Grand Hotel. Of course, there's been nothing at all grand about William Tabler's hotel since it was shuttered a few years back; its slow self-destruction has been well chronicled on Unfair Park. Notes the Trust in its release concerning the Statler, it's "located on an increasingly attractive piece of real estate [and] faces an uncertain future as encroaching development pressure heightens the threat of demolition." In February, Preservation Texas also included the building among its most endangered landmarks.

The entire release is after the jump -- but in it, Richard Moe, president of the D.C.-based National Trust for Historic Preservation, offers his own reasons for the hotel's need for its protection. "The Statler Hilton Hotel is a reminder that landmarks of modernism and the recent past play an important role in telling the story of the 20th century. It would be tragic to lose places that were designed and built during our own lifetime just as we're beginning to acknowledge their importance as part of our history." --Robert Wilonsky

NATIONAL TRUST FOR HISTORIC PRESERVATION NAMES THE STATLER HILTON HOTEL IN DALLAS, TEXAS TO ITS 2008 LIST OF AMERICA'S 11 MOST ENDANGERED HISTORIC PLACES

Crown Jewel of Hilton Hotels Vulnerable to Encroaching Development Pressure

Washington, D.C. (May 20, 2008) - Today, the National Trust for Historic Preservation named The Statler Hilton Hotel in Dallas, Texas to its 2008 list of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places. This annual list highlights important examples of the nation's architectural, cultural and natural heritage that are at risk for destruction or irreparable damage.

When the Statler Hilton opened in downtown Dallas in 1956, it was hailed as the most modern hotel in the country. Its sheer size, bold form and innovative architectural features soon made it an icon of mid-20th-century design. Today, the building, once considered the crown jewel of the Hilton hotels, sits vacant. Located on an increasingly attractive piece of real estate, the Statler Hilton faces an uncertain future as encroaching development pressure heightens the threat of demolition.

Spared from demolition in 2003, the Statler Hilton is located across the street from the future site of the city park Main Street Gardens, and adjacent to several large-scale developments. As part of a major revitalization effort for downtown Dallas, construction on the park began a few months ago when an entire city block was cleared, including the parking garage for the hotel.

The property is no longer owned by the Hilton Hotels Corporation. Many other hotel operators have explored the possibility of renovating the hotel, but with no adjacent parking, low ceiling heights and environmental costs, the building remains a challenge. Recognizing that the lack of parking could deter potential buyers, the city's Parks and Recreation Department designed the western half of the new park to accommodate underground parking. The city has publicly stated they would delay construction of the park until funds for an underground lot could be made available. However, a contract with the developers of an adjacent property, precludes any such delay.

The Statler Hilton is emblematic of a number of mid-century modern buildings in large urban areas that are now languishing. Unlike a colonial governor's home or storied battlefield, structures of relatively recent vintage have not engendered similar levels of appreciation. In an effort to protect the Statler Hilton, preservation activists are working to secure its inclusion in the designation of a potential historic district. In addition, Preservation Dallas has drafted a nomination to identify the Statler Hilton as a local landmark. Providing financial incentives such as Federal Rehabilitation Tax Credits to potential buyers is also being explored.

"The Statler Hilton Hotel is a reminder that landmarks of modernism and the recent past play an important role in telling the story of the 20th century," says Richard Moe, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. "It would be tragic to lose places that were designed and built during our own lifetime just as we're beginning to acknowledge their importance as part of our history."

Completed in 1956 at a cost of $16 million, the Statler Hilton was the first major hotel built in Dallas in nearly three decades and the largest convention facility in the South. The hotel, with 1,000 guest rooms and a ballroom fit for 2,200 people, boasted unheard of luxuries such as elevator music, a roof-top swimming pool and custom 21" Westinghouse TVs in every room. Designed by New York architect William Tabler, it was the first glass-and-metal hotel in the nation. The Y-shaped building employed a flat-slab structural system, the first full application of its kind, which reduced the number of columns and footers needed. Tabler was also one of the first in the country to use a thin-skinned curtain wall design consisting of 1 3/8" panels made of glass and porcelain coated metal. Its innovative features made it a significant contributor to the Modern movement in Dallas, and for the state of Texas.


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