Renovation Extraordinaire: The New Award-Winning Statler Hilton, Dallas TX

By Jerry Merriman Founder & President, Merriman Anderson/Architects | May 12, 2019

The story of the Statler Hilton is quintessential to downtown Dallas' character. The Statler opened in 1956 as a 1001-room hotel, convention center, and gathering place for the "Who's Who" to lodge when visiting Downtown Dallas, Texas. Notable guests include Conrad Hilton, Coco Chanel, and Liberace, with musical performances by Tony Bennett, The Jackson 5 and Tina Turner.

The hotel was set to open as "The Statler" but was acquired by Hilton during construction and officially opened as "The Statler Hilton." New York Architect William Tabler employed advanced, cutting-edge design to complete the mid-century masterpiece including cantilevered slabs, a thin glass and aluminum curtainwall system made entirely in Texas, HVAC distribution expressed on the exterior, a 14,000 square-foot column-free ballroom, Westinghouse TVs in every guestroom, elevator music, and a heliport.

The original Statler Hilton guest rooms featured a button that allowed the house keeping staff to determine if a room was occupied or vacant. Guests were also able to leave laundry for cleaning through The Servidor, a hollow compartment in the room door.

The Statler Hilton, Dallas, Texas

The Statler, along with the adjacent Old Dallas Central Library, occupy an entire city block and are considered one of the best examples of mid-century architecture in the country. The hotel had its last occupancy in 2001 and was listed on the National Park Service "Top Ten Most Endangered Building" list in the country.

After many failed redevelopment attempts, The Stater was acquired by Centurion American Development in 2015 and was historically renovated and reimagined as a true mixed-use project. The owner and design team engaged Hilton to authorize "The Statler" name for the building. The Statler now features a 159-room Curio Collection hotel and 219 luxury rental apartments. The historic renovation also included the adjacent Old Dallas Central Library, which is now home to The Dallas Morning News.

The concept for the architecture and interior design was to respect the mid-century aesthetic of the original building but not be overly retro. The owner and design team worked with the National Park Service and the Texas Historical Commission to preserve and restore the character defining features of the building. On the exterior, the glass curtainwall, brick, and stone were repaired and restored. Molded porcelain enamel panels were cleaned, and color matched touch-ups were applied over the façade of the building. Molded Aztec-style cast stone blocks were restored and missing blocks were replicated. Exterior storefronts and glazing were selectively repaired or replaced with new tempered glazing to match the original.

The Statler Lobby

On the lower levels, a new residential entry and motor court was introduced from Jackson Street. Basement levels were repurposed from old mechanical and hotel back of house spaces to parking. The entire roof was replaced and the exterior envelope was restored and waterproofed. Two new exterior pool and amenity areas were constructed in the place of former roof areas and a heliport. A new grand entry porte-cochere was constructed to replicate the original that had been removed during previous renovations. Finally, new exterior signage was installed in keeping with the original historic configuration.

For the interior spaces, the gorgeous black terrazzo flooring was painstakingly brought back to life. New gypsum board ceilings were installed to match the details of the iconic 1956 construction plans. Stone planters in the lobby were repaired to their initial form. The mingling of luxury finishes, iconic furniture and integrated technological platforms makes a statement when needed yet remains respectful to the structure that embodies the design. In the building tower, the design team had to work around existing columns, windows, and corridor placement for the new hotel and residential use.

One of the most enjoyable parts of the historic rehab process was the discovery during demolition of a Jack Lubin mural uncovered in the hotel's original nightclub, The Empire Room. This 40-foot masterpiece now resides in the lobby standing as an icon of the mid-century art era. Another exemplary find was, "The Wishing Star", a sculpture created by the famed Jose de Rivera that had been missing for decades. Local preservationist Michael VanEnter restored both the Lubin mural and "The Wishing Star", before they returned to their original home.

The historic art theme was continued throughout the building with Dallas artist, Brad Oldham, creating the Llinda Llee Llama sculpture on the rooftop deck. The story of Llinda Llee dates to 1959 when Neiman Marcus booked a suite in which the llama resided for two weeks during their South American Fortnight event. The sculpture also serves as a time capsule, holding photos of the design team and construction process, the design team's concept package, and background information on each company involved in the redevelopment of the building.

From Ervay Street headed east, the restorations of 1700 and 1712 Commerce, the Continental Building, the Statler, the Old Dallas Central Library, and the Lone Star Gas Lofts have recently been completed. This new mix of connected components will activate the corridor with approximately 400 residential units, 600 hotel rooms, 650 new parking spaces, 25,000 square-feet of ground floor retail and restaurant space, and 100,000 square-feet of office including the new Dallas Morning News Headquarters relocation to the Old Dallas Public Library. This previously abandoned portion of Downtown Dallas, the Statler Corridor, has once again become a vibrant, walkable public space, linking the newly rejuvenated neighborhoods that surround it.

The hotel features amenities including 14,000 square-foot ballroom, 10,000 square-foot meeting space, six restaurant venues, a 4th floor roof pool deck and a 19th rooftop pool deck.