by Paula Bosse
The Cabaña Motor Hotel is remembered mostly for being where the Beatles stayed when they came to Dallas in 1964 and for being a hotel with high hopes but which fizzled out fairly quickly. …But mostly for being where the Beatles stayed. When the Cabaña opened in January, 1963 on Stemmons Freeway, it was a big deal. It was swanky and even had a very show-bizzy lounge. Celebrities stayed there. The Beatles stayed there.
The Dallas Cabaña was actually the third in a proposed chain of hotels, following locations in Atlanta and Palo Alto. It even had some Hollywood star-power attached to it: Doris Day’s then-husband Marty Melcher was an investor in the company (turned out it was Doris’ money, and she wasn’t thrilled that he was investing so much of her money in this chain of hotels).
It was fab for a while — but the high point really was John, Paul, George, and Ringo. Before the ’60s had ended, the place was shuttered and mired in litigation. Melcher had died and left Doris $500,000 in debt. Ownership changed hands several times over the years, and each time, more and more of its original hep luster was lost. The building has never really recovered. For a few years it was a rather bizarre site for a minimum-security jail! In recent months it was announced that it has been acquired by the company that has recently renovated the long-moribund Statler Hilton — so there’s hope! It needs a lot of work, but it might actually turn out to be cool again.
Sources & Notes
The postcard at the top is from the Texas History Collection, provided by Dallas Heritage Village to the Portal to Texas History, where I found it, here. I have to admit that I’ve never really been a fan of this building until I saw this postcard. It’s like a Dallas version of a subdued Vegas hotel.
Bottom two photos are from the Squire Haskins Collection, University of Texas at Arlington Libraries Special Collections — the aerial image has been cropped; more info on these photos can be found here and here.
For more history of the Cabaña (…whenever I hear reporters in historic footage pronouncing the “n” in “cabana” with that tilde, it’s a bit jarring…), read the informative article “Lost + Found: Cabana Motor Hotel” by Preservation Dallas Executive Director David Preziosi on the AIA Dallas website, here. It’s got some great photos.
Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.