“The Only Motel Located In the Park Cities” — 1964

by Paula Bosse

university-house-hotel_smu-rotunda_1965-detA palm tree, a palm tree, my kingdom for a palm tree… (click for large image)

by Paula Bosse

Behold, an architect’s rendering of University Park’s first motel (… motel?!). With palm trees! (The architects — Barron, Heinberg and Brocato  — were from Alexandria, Louisiana, where they might actually have palm trees. Perhaps they assumed they grew in Dallas. Or could be imported. Or just looked nice as a whimsical garnish.) Palm trees or not, look at that great mid-century design!

Plans for the University House Motel were announced in December, 1963 — it was to be built on Hillcrest at Binkley, right across the street from SMU by Edward T. Dicker, the man who built 3525 Turtle Creek. (Interestingly, according to a press release printed in The Dallas Morning News on Dec. 8, 1963, real estate transactions for the property involved a land lease from Shell Oil Co.) With 60 suites, it was the perfect location for hotel lodgings for parents visiting their children in college.

This was to be both a major commercial addition to University Park as well as something of an architectural departure. The closest hotel/motel alternative (according to the ad below, anyway) was farther away than might have been convenient for visiting families — the (also super-cool-looking) Holiday Inn was all the way down Central, just past Fitzhugh.

If I were a visiting parent, I’d probably choose the University House option because of its unbelievably close proximity to the campus. And if I saw the ad below, I’d definitely book a room — pronto!

university-house-hotel_smu-rotunda_1965(click to read text)

When construction was complete and the motel opened for business, the sans-palm-tree reality of the building had to have been a bit of a disappointment to anyone who had salivated over that sleek Mid-Century Modern drawing (even though I’m sure the interior decor was much nicer than most motels). Maybe it’s just me. It sort of looks like the drawing. …Sort of….


The University House hung on for several years, then changed ownership and names several times. It is now the site of the much-expanded and certainly much-swankified Hotel Lumen. Interestingly, the skeleton of the original building is still in there somewhere. As Alan Peppard wrote in the Dallas Morning News on Oct. 16, 2006 soon after Hotel Lumen opened, “The old hotel was gutted back to nothing but the concrete frame and rebuilt as a hip University Park hotel.” (To see what things look like now, click here — the renovated original building is on the left, the expansion is on the right.)

In the 21st century, Hotel Lumen is exactly the kind of hotel that comfortably-well-off-but-still-tastefully-hip SMU parents want to stay in when they arrive in town to visit the progeny. All that’s missing are a few palm trees….


The University House Motel ad appeared in the 1965 Southern Methodist University Rotunda yearbook. That same yearbook also contained the Holiday Inn ad and the photograph of the University House Motel. (The photo appeared over the yearbook’s cheeky “Why be discreet?” caption and was featured in the previous Flashback Dallas post, “The SMU ‘Drag’ — 1965,” here.)

The 1965 ad has the nightly rate at the University House Motel at $8 — about $60 in today’s money, adjusted for inflation. Not bad for parents who could afford to send their children to SMU and who weren’t staying downtown at the Adolphus, the Baker, or the Hilton.

Photos of Hotel Lumen — inside and out — can be found on their website, here.

Click pictures for larger images.


Copyright © 2015 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.