On October 10, 1929, just days before the stock market crash, Fort Worth’s newest hotel opened at the corner of Main and 5th streets.
In 1929 Fort Worth was flush with oil boom money, and the art deco style of architecture was becoming popular. The twenty-three-story Blackstone Hotel reflected both that money and that architecture. The architect was Elmer Withers, who designed Hubbard Heights Elementary School, Rosemont Junior High School, James E. Guinn School (now the city’s Business Assistance Center), the Firestone Service Garage, and five county courthouses in Texas.
By the end of its first day all eight hundred of the Blackstone’s rooms would be occupied.
But the Blackstone was not always so-named. On May 8, 1929 the Dallas Morning News had reported that the new hotel would be named the “Blackstone,” not the “Bluebonnet.”
The hotel was built on the site of the Rialto Theater.
As was the custom of the day, local businesses—especially those who had participated in the construction—took out congratulatory ads in newspapers as the hotel opened. Fakes & Company provided furniture. Eugene Ashe Electric Company installed the wiring. RCA supplied a radio for every guest room—a first for a hotel in the South.
In fact, the Blackstone would be downright radioactive: The studios of WBAP would occupy the twenty-second floor. Depending on which source you cite, Bob Wills either recorded or composed “San Antonio Rose” in the Blackstone. Amon Carter, who owned both WBAP and the Star-Telegram, had been radio ga-ga since 1921. By the time the Blackstone Hotel opened, the newspaper was publishing a special section to coincide with the annual radio show.
The management of the new hotel knew how to promote. On November 12 Gold Mint, ridden by Johnny Parmalee, won the Blackstone Hotel purse at W. T. Waggoner’s Arlington Downs racetrack in Arlington. Clip is from the November 13 Dallas Morning News.
The Blackstone Hotel was built by millionaire cattleman/oilman/real estate developer Christopher Augustus O’Keefe, who lived on Quality Hill at 520 Summit Avenue in a house built for William T. Scott in 1897. O’Keefe also was the “O’Keefe” in “Binyon-O’Keefe Storage.”
O’Keefe died on Christmas Eve, just two months after his hotel opened. (Some porch columns from this house survive at Botanic Garden.)
Guests at the Blackstone Hotel included every president from Hoover to Nixon. Other famous guests included D. W. Griffith, Steve Allen, Gene Autry, Benny Goodman, Lawrence Welk, Bob Hope, Clark Gable, Ernie Pyle, and Elvis Presley. In 1932 Ted Mack’s orchestra opened the hotel’s Venetian Ballroom.
Some views of the Blackstone Hotel:
The intersection of Main and 5th streets is Fort Worth’s art deco junction. Photo shows the tops of the Blackstone, Sinclair Building (1930), and Kress Building (1936).
Some of the building’s setbacks serve as terraces. There is a swimming pool on the roof of the annex.
I really appreciate your articles. I am a Fort Worth native and have often wondered why we were not exposed to much of the rich history of the area in school. Lots of Fort Worth’s history is so exciting it would read better than many bestsellers!
Thanks, Jerri. As a hometown boy, I am as amazed as anyone to learn Fort Worth’s rich history. Every time I think I have learned it all, Cowtown whispers to me, “And do you know about the time . . .?”
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Enjoyed reading “Gus O’Keefe and the Big Drift.” Interesting that he chose to be buried at Rose Hill instead of at Oakwood, where several fellow cowman capitalists are buried.
My Father was the General Manager of this hotel in the mid 70’s. We lived there for 3 years on the 20th floor, penthouse. I was young probably 6-8 years old. I remember going swimming all the time during summers on the 5th floor. It was very nice penthouse with my mom and dad in master bedroom and me and my brother shared a room,& bathroom then the kitchen and living room area, that opened up to a outside balcony. then down the hall was another area with living bathroom and bedroom, which my 2 sisters shared. I could always go down to the 2nd floor where the restaurant and kitchen and get a bowl of ice cream. They all knew I was the managers son. My Dads name was Winifred Carroll W.C. (Ham) Hamilton.
What a great place to live, no matter one’s age. And a great building at one of the most interesting intersections in town.
From the street, the Blackstone is a Deco treasure. But the details you have captured show that it is a wonderful convergence of 20’s deco and the older sensibility Sullivanesque decoration. Bravo for the close-ups!
Thanks, Sally. Wish I coulda been there to watch people see that building for the first time.
Thank you SO much for sharing these amazing memories with those of us who grew up in Ft. Worth. I’ve been away almost 50 years but it’s still “home”.
You are very welcome, Sandy.
Thanks for keeping the history of Ft. Worth alive. I love reading your blog through Facebook. It always fascinates me and entertains. I’ve lived in Ft. Worth most of my life but I am learning so much by reading your blog. Love it!
Thanks, Anita. I’m learning right along with you.
Outstanding pictures—I love Art Deco buildings and always have..they are so much more outstanding than those glass towers such as behind this one. Great work as usual!
Thanks, Jo Ann. I think that’s why we have those big blue glass boxes–to provide a backdrop for the classic architecture. A spread on the Sinclair Building coming November 17.