For Sale: Fabulous Hotel, Needs Work
Travel Blog • Sophia Dembling • 06.12.09 | 11:26 AM ET
While we’re on the subject of kitsch, here’s a story about lottery winnings well-spent: After winning $49 million in the Texas state lottery, Byron and Barbara Woods bought the decrepit Tee Pee Motel in Wharton, Texas, about 50 miles from Houston, and made it crepit with a $1.6 million buff-‘n’-puff.
Our nation’s recent roadside past is finally getting some love.
Tom and I used to choose our road-trip motels by the quality of the neon sign, the kitschier the better, until late one night, somewhere in Arizona, we checked into a motel without noticing the red lights over most of the doors. Yeah. We slept in our clothes that night. We’ve been a little less adventurous since that experience. We don’t need much, but clean sheets are nice.
But now, slowly, some of our recent-vintage roadside architecture is getting new life.
On a large scale, I’m crazy about the Hotel Valley Ho in Scottsdale, Arizona, which is a mid-century modern wonder that’s been polished to a finger-popping gleam.
Smaller but no less wonderful, The Belmont Hotel, here in Dallas, is a circa-1940s beauty high on a hill that was doomed to decrepit before local developer Monte Anderson happened to visit the similar Hotel San Jose in Austin and found inspiration. Now the Belmont is as much of a hipster scene as the San Jose. And in Marfa, Texas, the same people who spiffed up the San Jose took on the Thunderbird Hotel and made it fabulous.
Still, all over the country (where are your favorites?), great urban and roadside Americana properties are still waiting for creative entrepreneurs with passion and cash.
I’d have to win a pretty big lottery to buy and refurbish one of Dallas’ dying mid-century modern treasures, the Statler Hilton, which the National Trust for Historic Preservation put on its most-endangered list last year. It’s a beauty but it needs love. Any takers?