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Advance of
City Shown
by Hotels

Are a Sure Barometer of
Expansion, Says Dave


     "Nothing more accurately indicates the stage of growth of a city than its hotels," said D. C. McCord, former city building inspector.  "It does not seem possible that the letting of a contract for the building of a hotel in Dallas fifty years ago could have influenced the lives of people as far away as Georgia, but that actually did happen.  Bob James, a contractor of St. Louis, got the contract to build the Le Grande Hotel in Dallas in 1875.  My grandfather, F. R. McCord, a bricklayer, had, before that time, worked for Mr. James in St. Louis, but had returned to the home of the family, at Prattville, Ga.  Mr. James, who must have been short of bricklayers, wrote him, offering him work on the Dallas job.  Grandfather accepted the offer, and, at once, set out for Texas, accompanied by my father, the late D. C. McCord, who was also a bricklayer.  I was 8 years old, and can remember all about the journey.  We came by way of Vicksburg, Monroe and Shreveport.  At Vicksburg, the entire train was carried across the Mississippi River on a boat.  That is one of the details of the trip that stand out in my memory.  We reached Dallas on the morning of June 12, and disembarked at the Texas & Pacific downtown station, which was a 20x20-foot plank building, such as the railroad had built at forty other towns, all on the same model.

Le Grande Hotel.
     "We left Georgia with the crudest notions, concerning the population of Texas.  We expected to find desperadoes running the settlements, and wild Indians harrying the country roundabout.  In order to be ready for anything, father bought a high-power pistol before he left Georgia, but upon looking Dallas over, he declared that he could see no difference between the people here and those in Georgia, and he laughed and threw his pistol away, having no time to beat it into a plowshare.  Grandfather and father, at once, went to work as bricklayers on the Le Grande Hotel, on the southwest corner of Main and Austin streets.  As well as I can recollect, the hotel, which was a three-story structure, was about six months in building.  W. O. Conner, president of the Republic National Bank, and Booker Bowen, who left Dallas years ago, were the builders.  They leased it to Tom Smith, a noted mixer and far-famed entertainer, who opened the place with a banquet and ball in the fall of 1875.  The Le Grande, at once, became the leading hotel in this part of the country.
     "A year or two later, the Le Grande was combined with the Windsor Hotel, on the northeast corner of Commerce and Austin streets, in the News block, and an overhead bridge connecting the two hotels, was built across Austin street, and the combination was named the Grand Windsor Hotel.  The demand for hotel accommodations increased as the town grew, and when Col. W. E. Hughes bought the Grand Windsor, he found it necessary to add a story or two to the hotel and to build the Commerce street addition. The Grand Windsor held first place among the hotels of Dallas, and of Texas, until the boom days brought the Oriental.  After that, the Grand Windsor began to decline.  It held out, for some time, as a rooming-house.  Then, it was turned into a garage, and finally, it became a business block.

Lamar Hotel.
     "The Lamar House was the leading hotel in Dallas, up to the time the La Grande was opened.  After that, it had to occupy second place.  Tom Smith, who had severed his connection with the Le Grande, took charge of the Lamar Hotel about 1878.  He was an Englishman, and the first thing he did was to change the name of the hotel to the St. George, either after St. George, the patron saint of England, or after one of the Kings of George line, or perhaps, after all of them at once. He celebrated his taking charge, and the changing of the name, with a banquet and ball, to which he invited everybody that was anybody in this end of the country.
     From that day to this, throughout the remarkable development of the city, the St. George has held its own.  One great modern hotel after another has come and been filled to the last room without apparently affecting the St. George.  First, the building was remodeled, and then, under the ownership of Charles O. Hodges, the Commerce street end was built.

St. George the Link.
     "The St. George is the link between old and modern Dallas.  Who, nowadays, remembers anything about the St. James, the St. Charles, the Arlington, the Commercial, the National, the Pacific, the Union Depot Hotel, and a long list of other Dallas hotels, the names of many of which, have escaped me?  The Crutchfield House has been mentioned so many times, that almost everybody is familiar with the name, without knowing about the hostelry itself.  The Crutchfield was still flourishing when we came to Dallas.

Word for the Pioneers.
     "The sturdy pioneers who ventured into the country and settled in and around Dallas when the Indians and buffaloes had things all their own way, were, in my opinion, the real founders of the great city of which we are all so proud.  They not only ran the Indians out and opened the way for more timid folk to come, but they showed themselves ready to meet the railroads half way.  Before there was any infusion of new blood, of which so much is said, the original settlers bought and donated the right of way for the Houston & Texas Central Railroad, and, in addition, voted an issue of bonds as a bonus to the road, and actually paid the bonds by tax levy.
     "The main reason why the enterprising men constituting the Corsicana crowd, and others of their ilk coming from other directions about the time the railroads crossed here, concluded to remain and rough it through the period of depression, following the extension of the railroads, was that they realized that they had found in the original settlers, the real nucleus of a city in the midst of a region of boundless resources -- the very thing they had wished for, but with scant hope of finding.  This was why the far-seeing Corsicana crowd, who had moved with the shifting terminus of the Houston & Texas Central Railroad from Galveston to Dallas, and, who had nowhere found anything more solid than a sandy foundation, refused to move on with the railroads, when to all appearance, the trade had followed the extension of the railroads, and had concentrated again at Fort Worth and Sherman.

Character of People.
     "Because the town was wide open in early days, it is not to be supposed that the people were uncivilized.  On the contrary, there never was a community in which the people had more consideration for one another.  It is true it was not thought degrading, or even improper, for a man to take a drink, nor for him to try to acquire a little cash at the gambling table.  Permissible things of that kind were his own affair and not to be meddled with.  Everybody knew everybody else, and each one had to come clean in order to be able to hold up his head in the community.  Almost anybody could borrow money, and his word was about as good as his note, for he realized that he must pay it back or lose his standing.  There were no housebreakers, and no hijackers.  You could leave your house with the windows and doors wide open, and find everything in its place on your return.  Nor, were the people divided up into contending camps, as they now are.  The churches were held as sacred places, and the ministers of the gospel were respected, and, there is no doubt, that a greater per cent of the population belonged to the church in 1880 than now.

Old Schools and the New.
     "Dallas had no public school system in early days, nor, had the universities come.  But, there was no lack of private primary schools and academies.  I would not be understood as passing on the comparative merits of the modern up-to-date schools and the old ones, but, it is certain that the country was full of orators in the old days.  A town like Dallas in the '70s, with a population of 6,000 or 7,000, could muster a dozen men who could be classed as orators, whereas, now, with more than 250,000 population --- how many can it muster?  And, it has always seemed to me that the old academy men, now dead and gone, could string together sentences that read smoother than anything we see in print in these bustling days.
     "But, the people of Dallas have never had to look to the past to find something to be proud of.  With the exception of a few intervals, when it had to stop to remove the fragments of an exploded boom, the town has always been full of life and visibly growing."

- February 28, 1926, The Dallas Morning News,
Sec. III, p. 8, col. 1-8.
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