Historic Dallas, Volume 3, Number 4, Fall 1982 Page: 3 of 12
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by HarveyJ. Graff
From its site on South Ervay Street,
The Ambassador Park Hotel has over-
looked downtown Dallas since 1904.
For eight decades a local landmark of
repute, the Ambassador earned through
long service and architectural promi-
nence its designation as a City Historic
Landmark. The marker was dedicated
in a ceremony at noon on October 7.
In 1903, the Majestic Apartment
Building Company purchased a lot on
Ervay Street -from C. H. Alexander, a
local capitalist. Large homes of impor-
tant citizens bordered the first, and
for many years the only, Dallas city
park in this fashionable neighborhood.
Alexander agreed to advance the build-
ing company the then-large sum of
$60,000 and an additional $17,500 to
"erect said building." Local architect
Early Henry Silven and contractor Alex
Watson were hired to design and con-
struct the building, with Silven's plans
executed by some of the foremost
craftsmen and builders in Dallas: stone-
mason Theodore Beilharz, the Vilbig
brothers excavators, and contractor.
M. H. Peterman, descendant of the
original Reunion Colony.
When the Majestic opened in 1905,
it was acclaimed as the city's premier
hotel. Sarah Bernhardt was among the
actors and opera stars of that era who
stayed there. Three presidents-Theo-
dore Roosevelt, William Taft,; and
Woodrow Wilson-stopped at the
hotel while visiting Dallas. The Majestic
was the site of many social events, in-
cluding on November 18, 1905, for
example, the Idlewild Ball.
A year later, the Majestic went into
receivership. Samuel Mcllhenny,
former manager of several prominent
Texas hotels, operated it for the bank
for a year. In 1907, F. W. Boedecker,
president of Boedecker Manufacturing,
bought the building and changed its
name to the Park Hotel. Alterations to
the front were made, as the Park
.operated as a transient and residential
hotel. Its tenants included lawyer Harry
L. Seay and Hugh Perry, owner of the
Southern Rock Island Plow Company
Building (the Texas School Book
Depository). Around 1910, Electra
Waggoner Wharton of the influential
Waggoner family of Fort Worth and
Decateur acquired the Park. After
divorce from her, former husband A B.
Wharton retained ownership. He re-
modeled the interior for $50,000 in
In 1932, in a complicated series of
legal maneuvers, the Wharton Hotel
Company sold the Park to the Ambas-
sador Corporation. Newly formed
under F. S. Hofues, Dora Roberts, and
J. C. Thompson, the corporation began
renovations and covered the exterior
with white plaster and changed the
roofline and roof material to red tile
to reflect the Spanish Colonial Revival
Style then popular in the city. The
name was changed, supposedly to
honor a statesman who stayed there.
Both were efforts to endow the hotel
with new life and status. It was filled
to capacity during the Texas State Cen-
tennial of 1936; the guests included
local celebrities and politicians.
In 1954, Colonal C. R. Tipps, a dele-
gate to the White House Conference
on Aging and a consultant on housing
for the elderly to the Department of
Defense, purchased the Ambassador.
He instituted the Lanvin Plan to trans-
form it into a retirement hotel. Re-
maining both a transient and a resi-
dential hotel until 1965, it then be-
came a primarily residential retirement
hotel. The hotel was put up for sale in
(See Ambassador-page 9)
The Ambassador Park Hotel, a local landmark on South Ervay was recently designated a
city Historic Landmark. Their official Landmark dedication ceremony was held on
October 7. The hotel, built in 1904 has been completely renovated and will be in operation
by the first of the yea r.
The Turtle Creek Pump.Station, corner of Harry Hines and Oak Lawn will oneday be the
new home of the Greater Dallas Youth Orchestra.
Landmark Restoration Update
by Ann Moy
Three buildings of particular interest
to preservationists are the Trinity Meth-
odist Church, partially destroyed by
fire earlier this year, The Melrose Hotel,
undergoing extensive remodeling,
and the Turtle Creek Pump Station,
future home of the Shakespeare Festi-
val and Greater Dallas Youth Orchestra.
Through the city's efforts to find a
suitable organization to renovate the
old Turtle Creek Pump Station, used.
in recent years for storage, a new
home for the arts will dignify this fam-
iliar Dallas landmark. A development,
program has begun with a fund drive,
initiated this month, with a goal of
$1,500,000. Private solicitations for
the new center have provided $300,000
toward the renovation project. The
completion date for the renovation
will be ten months after this goal is
A solution to the parking problem
at the arts center may be resolved by
the use of underground parking. The
Texas Highway Department is consid-
ering the possibility of locating approxi-
mately fifty spaces underneath the
Dallas North Tollway, adjacent to the
The arts center will provide offices
and rehearsal space for the Shakespeare
Festival which was attended this sum-
mer by 53,000 individuals, and also
provide a home for the Greater Dallas
Youth Orchestra, which has 75 mem-
bers from 28 different schools in the
The Trinity Methodist Church
building is owned by Vernon and James
Smith Investment Company. Plans are
to renovate the building even though
extensive fire damage has slowed the
project. No funds have been committed
at this time, however, architects and
- eier anri r r c r -ense, ii 7 v~i
problem areas: Plans to close Thomas
Street from Pearl Street to McKinney
Avenue in order to provide adequate
parking for the building have not been
The HPL maintains a continuing
interest in these exciting renovation
projects which will not only save his-
torical buildings, but also provide inter-
esting spaces for the use and enjoy-
ment of Dallas citizens.
The Melrose Hotel has undergone a
complete renovation with the interior
rooms reflecting its $100,000 per room
budget. The pride of the hotel is its
guest rooms with ceiling fans and 1930
period furniture in each room. Having
been selected by the Hotel Association
to be one of five finalists for the Gold
Key Award for the interior design of
its guest rooms, the Melrose has reason
to be proud.
Apartments will no longer be avail-
able at the Melrose, the philosophy
being that of a small, fine, Texas hotel,
specializing in personal service.
A grand piano will be featured in
The Library when it reopens as a lounge
in the style of an English hunting room,
lined with wooden book shelves and
The exterior of the Melrose will re-
main essentially the same with the ex-
ception of the entrance, which will be
relocated through a circle drive and
underneath a canopy on what is now
the rear of the building. The front of
the hotel will become a garden area
with tables for seating located among
landscaped rose gardens.
Due to open December 15, this
well-known Oak Lawn hotel will once
again be available to Dallas.
Page 3 Historic Dallas Fall '82
Ambassador Park Celebrates
City Landmark Designation
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Dallas Historic Preservation League. Historic Dallas, Volume 3, Number 4, Fall 1982, periodical, Autumn 1982; Dallas, Texas. (https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth887916/m1/3/: accessed August 5, 2020), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, https://texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Preservation Dallas.