On Saturday, April 27, the North Texas chapter of Docomomo US (Docomomo US NTX) and Preservation Dallas conducted two tours of the historic Statler Hilton Hotel and the adjacent Dallas Public Library, both located in downtown Dallas. Over 100 modern enthusiasts joined the tours, which included the public areas of both buildings as well as the room floors of the hotel.
The Statler Hilton, designed by New York architect William Tabler, opened in 1956 to great acclaim, with positive reviews and coverage by leading professional journals, including Architectural Forum and Architectural Record. The Y-shaped room tower (designed to optimize light and views to all 1001 rooms) included a number of innovative features, most notably a curtain wall of blue-green porcelain panels and clear glass in aluminum frames supported by a cantilevered flat-slab design, for an unusually light and elegant appearance.
The Dallas Public Library, designed by Dallas architect George Dahl (perhaps best known as the master architect of the 1936 Texas Centennial Exposition at Fair Park), opened in 1953, replacing a 1901 Carnegie library on the same site. The new three-story facility - a simple composition of rectangular forms of marble and aluminum - featured a soaring reading room day-lit from above by an east-facing clerestory, a 250-seat auditorium, and a roof garden. A 10 x 24 gilded metal screen by Harry Bertoia hung above the circulation desk, noticeably similar to the larger screen by the same artist in the 1954 Manufacturer’s Hanover Trust building in New York.
The very occurrence of these tours is a happy event, as the future of both buildings has been highly uncertain in recent years. In 2003, the author of this article wrote an unhappier article for the Docomomo US newsletter, which included the following ominous statements:
Currently two significant landmarks of mid-century modern, both located in the city of Dallas Harwood Street Historic District, are under threat of demolition if new plans for a park in the area are realized.
...a privately funded planning effort for the revitalization of downtown has recently recommended construction of Commerce Gardens, a new two-block park, one block of which would occupy the current site of both buildings.