Black and Blue: Blackstone Hotel Began as the Bluebonnet

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.

blackstone 10-10-29 formal openingIn 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.

blackstone opening pi 10-11-29By the end of its first day all eight hundred of the Blackstone’s rooms would be occupied.

blackstone bluebonnet 5-8-29 dmnBut 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.

blackstone 10-6-29 ads

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.

blackstone purse 11-13-29 dmnThe 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.

richhart okeefe houseThe 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.”

okeefe-obitO’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:

blackstone all 3The 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).

blackstone-hotel-fort-worth-texasSome of the building’s setbacks serve as terraces. There is a swimming pool on the roof of the annex. blackstone wide

blackstone verticalglass blackstoneblackstone faceblackstone lionsblackstone window

lion blackstone lionmythical blackstone pigeon

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