Are a Sure Barometer
Expansion, Says Dave
BY W. S. ADAIR
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.
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 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.
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
Word for the Pioneers.
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.
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.
- February 28, 1926,
The Dallas Morning News,
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."
Sec. III, p. 8, col. 1-8.
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