At the center is where the truth lies (or so the saying goes) and the Main Street District, located in the heart of the city, has long defined some of the most authentic aspects of the Dallas experience. Bounded by several iconic roadways — such as Lamar Street, Elm Street, Commerce Street and Central Expressway — the Main Street District links the city’s history and its future. And few buildings represent the story of Dallas’ continued evolution into an international city better than the Adolphus Hotel (1321 Commerce St.).
Constructed in 1912 by Adolphus Busch — yes, the same individual who founded the Anheuser-Busch brewing company — the Adolphus made an immediate splash. A marvel of the richly ornamented Beaux-Arts architectural style, the hotel’s 22 floors made it not only the tallest building in the city but also (at 312 feet) the tallest building in the state. And that’s saying something, especially given Texas’ reputation for favoring the big and the bold. The building’s price tag lived up to that reputation as well, as its initial construction and design cost a cool $1.8 million.
The Adolphus grew to national prominence over the following decades. By the 1940s, it had undergone a number of expansions to keep up with its growing public profile — not to mention its impressive guest list. The Adolphus has played host to actual royalty, with the likes of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip making it even more of a Dallas landmark. The hotel has also been particularly popular with Presidents: Warren G. Harding, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush have all enjoyed stays at the Adolphus.
In its heyday, the Adolphus was also at the center of one of Downtown Dallas’ most bustling entertainment hubs. The hotel’s Century Room hosted numerous top-notch entertainers throughout the Roaring Twenties and into the next two decades, including acts like Glenn Miller and the Andrews Sisters. In 1936, radio station KRLD started broadcasting from the building and, in 1943, the Century Room began housing a retractable ice rink to show world-class, on-ice productions. (It closed after 14 years of continuous operation.)
Unfortunately, all that action didn’t come without some wear and tear. During the 1980’s, the Adolphus began its first massive renovation, valued at around $80 million. The biggest challenge involved reducing a 1,200-guest room floor plan to one featuring just over 400. On the plus side, however, each room was substantially expanded and awarded even more luxurious amenities.
For the next 30 years, the hotel sat mostly untouched. But 2016 brought with it another round of changes. This time, a local design firm — Swoon the Studio — took the lead on bringing the Adolphus fully into the 21st Century, and the hotel has experienced exciting new developments ever since. In May of 2017, the Adolphus celebrated the opening of City Hall Bistro, a Southern European-inspired restaurant located within the property. Further, in April of 2018, it also opened doors to Otto’s Coffee & Fine Foods, a Viennese-inspired cafe that showcases the work of another local landmark: Oak Cliff Coffee Roasters.
Even as the Adolphus continues to enhance its five-star stature, its place in history remains secure. The building is featured on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places and is a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark. And, as part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection, it is widely considered to be one of the top luxury hotels in the United States.