Texarkana's Architectual Masterpiece: The Hotel Grim Lisa Donnelly History 501 Dr. Perri May 8, 2008 Modern urban development frequently overlooked unsophisticated pastoral Texas, but on July 15, 1925, the focus of the nation was on Texarkana. Influential visitors, inquisitive spectators, and enthusiastic reporters were eager to gaze upon the most significant architectural masterpiece since the inception of the city. Due to its unique geographic location, increasing railroad traffic, growing population and flourishing theater companies, local citizens and prominent businessmen were convinced that a new, contemporary hotel would help contribute to the economic growth of the city. The Rotary Club, responding to the needs of the community, held a meeting to discuss this important business venture and thus, the idea for the Hotel Grim emerged. As the history of the Hotel Grim is explained, an understanding behind the decision to build this magnificent structure will emerge, an appreciation of the significance of the hotel to the community will be established and a true reverence for some of the most progressive minds in the south will be ascertained. Texarkana, uniquely divided by a state line, was founded December 8, 1873 by the Texas and Pacific Railroad.1 The location of the city, with Texas to the West, Arkansas eastward and the close proximity of Louisiana and Oklahoma, served as the stimulus for the rapid industrialization and civic growth. Motivated by the abundance of timber throughout the Piney Woods, the exceptional location and the hope of a positive return on their investment, 1. Polk's Texarkana City Directory, 1922 - 1923, 41. prominent railroad promoters invested heavily in Texarkana, advertising the town as the "gateway to the Southwest."2 By 1922, now considered a significant tourist attraction, the twin-city greeted up to seventy rail cars daily3 as four major railroads brought commuters, sightseer, performers, and families in and out of the city. The railroad not only functioned as the spark that ignited economic advancement throughout the town, but it also helped to bring about a heightened cultural sophistication to the thriving community. As the jazz age was in full swing, the demand for all types of entertainment grew. Due to the rapid expansion of the city, Texarkana soon became one of the leading theatre districts in the south, a premier show town where better attractions would perform.4 The significant draw to the area was the Saenger Theatre, one of eleven opera houses in the community where world- renowned actors like John Barrymore, Douglas Fairbanks, Will Rogers and Annie Oakley would perform.5 Acting on the reverberation felt throughout the downtown area, prominent entrepreneurs and affluent residents endorsed the idea of building a large, opulent and modern hotel to respond to the need of the growing community. One of those influential businessmen who reacted positively to the idea was William Rhoads Grim. Mr. Grim was born in Pennsylvania, and entered the field of banking 2. "Union Station," Texas Historical Commission (1996),<http://atlas.thc.state.tx.us/shell-site.htm> (24 March 2008). 3. Beverly Rowe, Twice Upon A Time, In Texarkana (Marceline: D Books, 2006), 44. 4. "New Saenger, South's Finest Theatre," Four States Press, 16 November 1924, p. 1. 5. Lori Dunn. "Theatre's Grand Legacy," 13 March 2008, <http://ftp.rootsweb.com/pub/usgenweb/tx/bowie/history/saengerperot.txt> shortly after graduating from college. He moved to Texarkana and held the position of cashier at the Texarkana National Bank. He had a true aptitude for business and achieved much success as a local financier. Due to his expert financial judgements and sound business decisions, he rose to the position of bank president. Many Texarkana residents sought his sage advice and admired his steadfast moral character. Involved in many local interests, Mr. Grim served on the board of two railroads, and held a financial interest in a lumber manufacturer.6 Mr. Grim contributed generously to the support of the community and was considered "one of Texarkana's greatest men."7 Unfortunately, Mr. Grim was not able to see this plan come to fruition; he died in the winter of 1924, before construction on the building was completed. After his death, officials determined that it would be a wonderful tribute to name the new hotel after one of the most admired men in Texarkana's history, Mr. William Rhodes Grim.8 Believing that a new, modern hotel would be advantageous to the city, the Rotary Club appointed a committee to investigate if there was truly a need for such a grand structure. The newly appointed hostelry committee had several difficult decisions to make before any construction could begin. The location of the hotel was of utmost importance to the community and board members. Land acquired by the Texarkana Hotel Company placed the hotel in the heart of the business district less than two blocks away from the bustling Union Station, one block from the Saenger Theatre, and two blocks south of the post office. 9 6. "Forward," Hotel Grim booklet. (Texarkana: 1925), 1. 7. "W illiam Rhodes Grim," Hotel Grim booklet. (Texarkana: 1925), 5. 8. Rowe, 44. 9. "Big New Hotel For Texarkana Assured," Dallas Morning News. 5 January 1924, sec. 1, p. 7. The committee agreed to finance the hotel at home through the sale of common stock to avoid any liens upon the property when completed.10 The sale of stock quickly soared to more than half-a-million dollars, leaving committee members and local residents convinced to continue with the hotel project. The next step was to create the Texarkana Hotel Company, to supervise collected funds and to oversee the creation of the imposing structure.11 The mayor of Texarkana, Arkansas, George Conway became President and treasurer of the Hotel Grim Company. The Grim Hotel building committee selected the prestigious Little Rock architectural firm Mann and Stern to design the hotel.12 Widely known throughout the Southwest, Mann and Stern designed several notable buildings including, the Commercial National Bank in Shreveport, Louisiana, the Arkansas State Capital in Little Rock, and the Arlington Hotel in Hot Springs, before erecting the Grim.13 Considering the desires of the community and incorporating specific ideas of the building committee, Mann and Stern presented plans that contributed to the establishment of a hotel more opulent than the existing Cosmopolitan and more modern than the Hukins House. The groundbreaking ceremonies for the new hotel took place on March 11, 1924. Several hundred people attended the spectacular event in great anticipation. Among the celebrated guests were two sets of twins symbolizing 10. "The Texarkana Hotel Company," Hotel Grim booklet. (Texarkana: 1925), 3. 11. Ibid. 12. "The Hotel Beautiful," Hotel Grim booklet. (Texarkana: 1925), 2. 13. "Mann & Stern" Emporis (2000), <http://www.emporis.com/en/cd/cm/?id=mannstern-littlerock-ar- usa> (17 April 2008). the duality of the city. Loma and Frances Fouke, represented Arkansas and Emma and Frances Berry represented Texas.14 H. P. Briley, president of the Texarkana Chamber of Commerce served as the officiating master of ceremonies. Arkansas mayor Conway and Texas mayor Middleton each took part in the celebration by digging the first dirt. There was an invocation address by Dr. Alonso Monk of Fairview Methodist Church, followed by a brief explanation of the significance of the hotel to the community by F. E. Pharr, a distinguished member of the initial hotel exploratory committee. Each hotel board member participated in the groundbreaking festivities. A band played during the ceremonies and "moving camera men" made movies of the event.15 Anticipating the outcome, public excitement was high and continued to grow throughout the Southwest as excavation work began on the Hotel Grim. The hotel committee and the architectural firm unanimously decided that exterior of the hotel would be made out of steel and concrete, eight stories high, with a basement, roof top garden and every modern convenience available. According to the terms of the construction contract, the Little Rock corporation Stewart- McGehee was hired to erect this massive multi-story, cement building in thirteen short months.16 The hotel was an enormous project in the 1920's. Many Texarkana citizens did not know how to comprehend such extravagance as projected costs for the Grim continued to rise. The hotel was much larger than other buildings 14 Ethel Channon and Les Minor (eds.), Images of Texarkana, 1873 - 1990 (Marceline: Heritage House, 1991), 62-63. 15 "Break Ground For Texarkana Hotel" Dallas Morning News. 3 December 1924. sec. 1, p. 4. 16. "Contract Set For Texarkana Hotel" Dallas Morning News. 16 February 1924. sec. 2, p. 8. completed during the same era. When building costs eventually exceeded $700,000, the community realized that the opening of this hotel would be a true monument to the town's civic pride and ambition.17 After years of intense planning and diligent contemplation, Texarkana's architectural treasure, The Hotel Grim was completed. Destined to be the center of social and industrial life, this magnanimous hotel ranked among the finest in the nation. The modern hotel did not conform to any specific period architecture, instead the architects carefully and meticulously tailored the design of the hotel to fit the needs of the community while incorporating the desires of the building committee.18 With more than twelve hundred guests in attendance, the formal opening of the hotel on July 15, 1925 was the premiere social event in Texarkana's history. The Grim was heralded as "a monument dedicated to the progress of a greater Texarkana." 19 Noted guests at the celebration were Senators and businessmen, Governors and railroad executives, dignitaries and débutantes. Several hundred people tried to make reservations for the gala event but were turned down due to the overwhelming assemblage and lack of accommodations. Guests enjoyed four orchestras playing throughout the night in the main dining areas of the hotel.20 17. "The Spirit of Texarkana Grows," Saenger Theater Program Guide (1924-1925). 18. "The Hotel Beautiful," Hotel Grim booklet. (Texarkana: 1925), 2. 19. "The Formal Opening," Hotel Grim booklet. (Texarkana: 1925), 6. 20. Ibid. Mayor Conway, owner of the hotel received overwhelming support from well-wishers and distinguished people throughout the hotel's opening day including, Marshall Field from Illinois and Daniel Upthegrove, President of the Cotton Belt Railroad, from Colorado.21 Many newspapers carried the opening of the hotel as a top story. The Dallas Morning News printed several articles relating to the unprecedented event in the July 16 issue. The Four States Press ran multiple pages of praise for the wonderful new hotel, and many local companies offered congratulatory wishes accompanied by creative sales pitches. The optometrist, Dr. W.H.H. Gray offered this sentiment, "Dress up your eyes so you can see the beautiful hotel in all its grandeur."22 J. Schwarz, a local dress shop advertised, "Evening Gowns For the Opening of Hotel Grim, with prices starting at $14.95."23 The Yellow Cab Company anticipating an increase in business, advertised in the July 12 edition of the Four States Press, "Yellow Cab Company Purchases New Cab for the Opening of Hotel Grim."24 Even the Paul Reverra Undertaking Company extended support to the Hotel Grim stating "Congratulations to Mayor George T. Conway and associates in the completion and opening of the palatial Hotel Grim."25 When the Grim opened its massive steel and glass doors, the size and extravagance of the newly built structure was overwhelming. Guests were invited to experience the splendor in the intricately chosen details, including the fabrics used, textures created, the unique furniture and the matching uniforms 21. "Many Attend Hotel Opening" Dallas Morning News. 16 July 1925. sec. 1, p. 3. 22. Four States Press, 11 July, 1925. 23. Four States Press, 10 July, 1925. 24. Four States Press, 12 July, 1925. worn by hotel employees. The hotel boasted two hundred and fifty rooms, a coffee shop, a main dining area, a private dining room and a roof dining area, a roof garden, a ball room, refreshment shop, a beauty parlor, barber shop and several multiple-room suites.26 The exterior of the building consisted of algonite stone, pressed brick and stucco and a steel framed roof cloaked by Imperial Spanish tile.27 By all estimations, the most striking part of the hotel was the lobby. Walls of cream colored caen stone acted as the perfect antithesis for the black marble wainscoting throughout the lower level. The floor of white imported Alabama marble revealed an intricate basket weave pattern. The ceiling contained intricately decorated panels in a myriad of colors. The three chandeliers placed tastefully throughout the lobby were "magnificent pendants of beautiful bronze." 28 Selected furnishings throughout the lobby coordinated with the draperies and the overall design of the hotel. Meals served in several different dining areas could accommodate any visitor's palate. Each dining area had a separate, elaborate kitchen with the most up-to-date equipment. The elegantly decorated main dining room on the first floor offered an exquisite menu. This main dining space, due to its large size contained a dishwasher capable of washing seven thousand pieces of china per 25. Ibid. 26. "The Hotel Beautiful," Hotel Grim booklet (Texarkana: 1925). 2. 27. Ibid 28. Ibid hour. The private dining area easily converted into two or three dining areas, with each suitable for dancing. Frequently, guests desired roof dining, the most spacious and "most striking" of the dining areas at the hotel. The roof garden kitchen offered a twenty-three foot pantry for guests to enjoy more efficient service. The coffee shop never closed and offered quick lunches at competitive prices. On the ground level, the refreshment shop or café was accessible through the hotel lobby or street entrance and sold toiletry articles. The bakeshop, located in the basement of the hotel contained an oven sizable enough to bake 154 loaves of bread at one time.29 The exquisite hotel dazzled each person, committee member and businessman who stepped inside the building. The construction of the Hotel Grim prompted the inception of many businesses and a new found trust in the economy soon emerged. The Hotel Grim quickly became a bustling hot spot for entertainment and the city's main tourist attraction. Many infamous guests frequented the hotel and numerous stories ensued. Joey Lawrence, a native of Texarkana remembers hearing tales of her Uncle Robert Lester Malone. "He was a professional gambler," she says quite resolutely of her notorious relative. "Many affluent people would employ him to gamble their money in high stake tournaments held at the Hotel Grim."30 She continues by explaining how this scandalous revelation of illicit gaming became a well-known and accepted occurrence at the Hotel Grim. John Pecorella recounts the day that Bonnie and Clyde came to 29. "The Kitchens," Hotel Grim booklet (Texarkana: 1925). 12. 30. Joey Lawrence, interview by Lisa Donnelly, 2 April 2008. Texarkana, stopping at the Hotel Grim café. The story unfolds as Bonnie eats a sandwich at the counter while Clyde waits outside. Clyde soon becomes edgy and sends his associate Henry Methvin in to the hotel to retrieve her. An associate at the hotel recognizes Bonnie from a photograph and the outlaw trio flees from the law and the Hotel Grim.31 These stories and many others only served to elevate the Hotel Grim's reputation to nearly legendary status. Visitors soon traveled from all over the country to be a part of the mystique of the hotel. The bustling railroad, progressive new construction and the wonderful theatre district all contributed to the growing population of the city, but no other event made more of an economic and social impact on the community than the construction of the Hotel Grim. The Grim deemed an architectural masterpiece upon its completion and its contemporary design made a significant statement about the twin-city. True pioneering capitalist who believed in Texarkana established a solid economic foundation for the community to build on by creating the magnificent hotel. The hotel represented Texarkana's "abiding faith"32 in its future. The construction of the Hotel Grim did not serve to inflate egos or warrant committee members to languish in its ostentation; instead, it was built as a tribute to the confidence and civic pride of the community. The Hotel Grim was an idea that was pursued by broad-minded businessmen and influential leaders in response to their overwhelming commitment and support in the future growth of Texarkana. The Hotel Grim was a collaborative effort that ended ultimately with the realization of a dream. 31. "Texarkana Connection," 24 January 2005, <http://texashideout/tripod.com/texarkana.html> (26 February 2008). Bibliography "Big New Hotel For Texarkana Assured." Dallas Morning News, 5 January 1924. 7. "Break Ground For Texarkana Hotel." Dallas Morning News, 3 December 1924. 4. Channon, Ethel and Les Minor , eds., Images of Texarkana, 1873 - 1990. Marceline: Heritage House Publishing Company, 1991. "Contract Set For Texarkana Hotel." Dallas Morning News, 16 February 1924. 8. Dunn, Lori, "Theatre's Grand Legacy," <http://ftp.rootsweb.com/pub/usgenweb/tx/bowie/history/saengerperot.txt> (13 March 2008), Four States Press, 10,11,12 July 1925. Hotel Grim booklet, Texarkana: 1925. 1-12. Lawrence, Joey. Interview by Lisa Donnelly, 2 April 2008. "Mann & Stern" Emporis , <http://www.emporis.com/en/cd/cm/?id=mannstern- littlerock-ar-usa> (17 April 2008). "Many Attend Hotel Opening." Dallas Morning News, 16 July 1925. 3. "New Saenger, South's Finest Theatre." Four States Press, 16 November 1924, A1. Polk's Texarkana City Directory, 1922 - 1923. Texarkana: R.L. Polk and Company. Rowe, Beverly. Twice Upon A Time, In Texarkana. Marceline: D Books Publishing Company, 2006. "Texarkana Connection," January 24, 2005, <http://texashideout/tripod.com/texarkana.html> (26 February 2008). "The Spirit of Texarkana Grows," Saenger Theater Program Guide. 1924-1925. 32. "The Hotel Beautiful," Hotel Grim booklet (Texarkana: 1925). 1. "Union Station," Texas Historical Commission, 1996 <http://atlas.thc.state.tx.us/shell-site.htm> (24 March 2008).