In September 2012 I updated my original post about Fort Worth’s ties to Herman Webster Mudgett (alias Dr. Henry Howard Holmes), who built a hotel in Chicago where guests checked in but never checked out and who has been called America’s first serial killer. In that first update I added newly found information about Holmes’s Fort Worth hotel, which he built at the corner of East 2nd and Commerce streets on property he finagled from the Williams sisters, who he is suspected of murdering.
This week, while studying a 1918 panoramic photo showing Camp Bowie’s 36th Division passing in review downtown, I panned to the east on a hunch and, sure enough, there it was: Holmes’s hotel.
This is the only photo I have found that shows Holmes’s hotel. It’s the building with the cone-topped turret on the middle left. The tower in the upper right is the Natatorium. (Photo from the Library of Congress.)
The building in the photo matches the sketch published by the Dallas Morning News in 1895 after police realized that the nefarious Holmes of Chicago was the nefarious O. C. Pratt (Mudgett’s alias in Fort Worth) who had built a hotel in Fort Worth.
This panel shows Holmes’s Chicago hotel (top) and floorplans of the Fort Worth hotel (middle) and the Chicago hotel (bottom). Note the similarities between the two buildings: Both were three stories, both had corner entrances under a turret (but the Chicago turret had no cone); both had storefront windows on the ground floor and two sets of bay windows on each side.
Holmes skipped town before his Fort Worth hotel was finished, but it eventually did open and served several years as a legitimate, nonlethal hotel. But for years after Holmes was hanged for murder, local newspapers referred to the building as “Holmes’s castle.”
In 1897 the Register ran this ad for furnished rooms in the “Holmes Building” at 2nd and Rusk streets.
By 1905 Holmes’s castle was the St. Elmo Hotel. Ad is from the June 25 Telegram.