Dallas’ Frank Lloyd Wright Skyscraper — 1946

by Paula Bosse

frank-lloyd-wright_rogers-lacy_1946-smThe Rogers Lacy Hotel, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright

by Paula Bosse

Feast your eyes on that fantastic skyscraper. That building was *this close* to being built in Dallas. And even though it was designed in 1946 (!), it looks modern enough to fit right in with the city’s celebrated 21st-century skyline.

Frank Lloyd Wright designed this 47-story hotel for millionaire East Texas wildcatter Rogers Lacy, to be built at the southwest corner of Commerce and Ervay, catty-corner from the also fabulous (if not quite so futuristic-looking) Mercantile National Bank Building.

Even though he had a firm distaste for the overly-populated, traffic-clogged, modern American city, Wright jumped at the chance to design a hotel smack dab in the middle of one of the country’s largest and fastest-paced cities. In fact, the Lacy Hotel was one of Wright’s pet projects, and he went all-out in his attempt to convince his wavering client of the merits (both aesthetic and utilitarian) of the multi-million-dollar skyscraper he had, apparently, been dreaming of for decades.

While Wright worked on swaying Lacy in his favor, John Rosenfield — the influential arts critic of The Dallas Morning News — worked on winning over the people of Dallas. Rosenfield really pulled out the stops when writing about the project; his promotion of the proposed hotel (in print as well as behind-the-scenes) was as tireless as it was passionate.

The startlingly new architectural design combined with Wright’s salesmanlike pronouncements on how he had transcended what he saw as the crushing gloom of hotel space caused quite a bit of excitement. Lacy, the Texas oil man with deep pockets, was eventually won over. But a client’s enthusiasm and an architect’s full-bore persuasion can sometimes go only so far. After an initial gung-ho response from the Lacy camp, communication with Wright began to get spotty (causing a freak-out at Taliesin), and plans never really got underway. When Lacy died unexpectedly at the end of 1947, the project was scrapped, and Frank Lloyd Wright’s dream of a soaring glass skyscraper was never realized.

If only we could go back and nudge Rogers Lacy to sign off on this building’s construction. It’s amazing how Wright’s concept here predicted the later glass-clad, atrium-centered architecture that has been a Dallas staple for decades. If Wright’s Lacy building were announced today — even without the weight of Frank Lloyd Wright’s name attached to it — I think news of its construction would, again, be met with excitement.

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The Frank Lloyd Wright drawing of the proposed Rogers Lacy Hotel is from the cover of the Spring 2009 issue of Legacies: A History Journal for Dallas and North Central Texas. Charles T. Marshall’s extremely entertaining article, “Where Dallas Once Stood: Frank Lloyd Wright and the Rogers Lacy Hotel,” is in this issue, and it’s a great read, illustrated with photos of the key players and additional architectural drawings of the hotel; you can read the full article here.

Wright’s biggest champion in Dallas was legendary Dallas Morning News critic John Rosenfield (he and Wright were also personal friends). His articles on the proposed Rogers Lacy hotel appeared in the DMN, and several are accessible in PDFs, as noted below:

  • “Famed Architect Confers on New Dallas Hotel Plans” (DMN, March 28, 1946) can be viewed here.
  • “47-Story, Windowless Dallas Hotel Designed by Celebrated Architect” (DMN, July 28, 1946) — Rosenfield’s extensive, soaring description of the planned building — can be viewed here.
  • “Dallas’ Dream Hotel Soon Coming To Life” (DMN, Aug. 11, 1946) can be viewed here.
  • “Wright Bares Lacy Hotel Plans” (DMN, June 22, 1947) — the unveiling to the Dallas public of the final plans (which was accompanied by the images contained in the Legacies article linked above) — can be viewed here.

Click picture for larger image.

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Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

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