For Sale: Fabulous Hotel, Needs Work

Travel Blog  •  Sophia Dembling  •  06.12.09 | 11:26 AM ET

A round swimming pool is one of the features of the Hotel Valley Ho. Photo by Sophia Dembling

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?

Sophia Dembling

Dallas-based writer Sophia Dembling is co-author of the Flyover America blog and author of "The Yankee Chick's Survival Guide to Texas." She would love to hear your tales of America, so drop her an email.

4 Comments for For Sale: Fabulous Hotel, Needs Work

Ling 06.13.09 | 8:20 AM ET

Sure. Why not? I’ll take the Hilton. Lemme go get a lottery ticket first. :)

Love2SeeNewThings 06.13.09 | 12:23 PM ET

Te he he…I’m with Ling, give me a minute while I finish boxing out my numbers on the lottery card.

At the same time, I have to say that I love this story…it sounds like Byron and Barbara found a calling.  It sounds like they did something incredibly intelligent with their winnings and I hope it comes back to them 10 fold!!!

Why such enthusiasm?  Because it sounds like they took some of their money and saved another American business from dying.  It will create and fuel salaries during construction and it will create and sustain salaries when this hotel is up and running.

Sophia Dembling 06.13.09 | 11:18 PM ET

And they saved a little slice of Americana. I hope they are successful with it.

visitseoul 07.21.09 | 4:56 AM ET

wow. I wanna go to US again~~~Thanks for good information :)

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