A Sweet Stay, with a Sad History
At the end of September Don and I stayed at a Hilton, that once had a different name.
It was called Hotel Texas, when President and Mrs. Kennedy stayed, in 1963.
A Damp Day
The rain had just stopped that morning in '63, when the Kennedys stepped out from the hotel, before heading to Dallas. Spirits were high when the President spoke to the crowds.
It was also a rainy day, when Don and I arrived at the same entrance. We were meeting good friends and going to a very special wedding that night. Spirits were also high. But I couldn't ignore the history and the gloomy weather didn't help.
Open Since 1921
Once we stepped inside, it was easy to forget that our hotel was where President Kennedy spent his last night.
The modern 2-story lobby, with escalator and horse statues didn't look at all like a hotel from 1963 or 1921 for that matter.
Room on the 12th Floor
But when the elevator doors opened to the 12th floor, we were faced with another reminder of that day.
Our room was right beside the framed photograph. But I was very much okay with that. I'm always interested in hotel history, even if the history is bittersweet.
Windows and Art
Our room was spacious and comfortable with large windows, which I always love.
A framed print in the bathroom, showed "Hotel Texas" as it might have looked in 1963. The artwork in the guest room was just good old, Hilton Art. However, in '63, the Kennedy's suite was specially decorated for their visit, with 16 original masterpieces from Picasso to Monet.
I read in the link below, that the Kennedy's suite had a view of a Trailways bus station.
When looked out our window, I didn't spot buses, but I saw pigeons on the sill and a statue of Kennedy, below in Memorial Plaza.
I was so busy remembering the hotel's mid-century history, that I forgot Hotel Texas went back to 1921.
Seeing a cowboy hat at the atrium bar, reminded me of how different Fort Worth was at the grand opening in 1921. The once rowdy cowtown, suddenly had a need for nicer hotels, with all the new oil wealth.
Don and I don't usually get to enjoy the bonus perks at hotels, so we were happy to join our good friends in the Executive Lounge for a little relaxing.
We sat near some western belt buckle decor and enjoyed some yummy afternoon nibbles.
We even dressed for the Executive Lounge occasion... well at least Don did. (Always pack a 2-dollar bowtie, just in case!)
In the evening, we 4 spiffed up a bit and headed off for our special evening. If only the weather hadn't been so lousy, we would have made use of one of the hotel's best perks...the location. Our hotel was in walking distance to the church and wedding venue, as well as numerous restaurants and hot spots.
After joining our friends for breakfast, we said our good-byes and packed up. But before Don and I headed off, we took some time to do a little more exploring.
We rode the elevator to the 8th floor, just to remember. The Kennedy's Suite in 850, not longer exists. Renovations broke up the original 3-room suite, long ago. We could have booked Room 808, which is now a standard room in that area. Or we could have gone all out and booked the 2,200 sq ft Presidential Suite, which looks nothing like the "Oriental Modern" decor in the Kennedy's suite.
The Crystal Ballroom
Then Don and I peeked in the Crystal Ballroom, that had been a new addition in 1963.
The President gave his last address at a breakfast in the ballroom, on that November morning. Over 2,000 attended. Today's ballroom has the same name, but looks nothing the same.
We exited the ballroom on the second floor and headed to the Promenade, along the front of the building.
At both ends, we found a display of photos and articles about the Kennedy's brief stay at the hotel.
As we studied the photos, I wondered how many hotel visitors have stopped to look.
How many guests find it too painful to be reminded of the tragic event, that happened after these photos were taken?
Even in the drizzle, the bronze statue of President Kennedy didn't sadden me as much as I'd expected.
It helped me focus on those happy moments, when the Kennedys visited Fort Worth. It was somehow nice to know that the energy in and around our hotel, had been positive.
As we waited for our car, I studied the building and absorbed the history one more time. I didn't feel as sad as I once did, when I stood on the grassy knoll in Dallas... so close to where Kennedy had been shot.
The mood was obviously different than that cold day in D.C., when I stood with my family at age 6, watching the flag draped casket pass.
I was glad to remind myself that I was standing beside a hotel, where crowds once cheered and waved as the Kennedys climbed into their car. Nothing sad occurred here.
Although I've talked at length about the hotel's connection with the Kennedys, it really was a pleasant stay. Don and I wish we'd had more time with our friends to enjoy the hotel, as well as the area. The location was perfect and the accommodations were plenty comfortable.
But what will I remember most, besides visiting with friends? The knowledge that I enjoyed the same hotel that the Kennedys enjoyed. We walked through the same lobby and looked out the same arched windows.
We stepped into the same ballroom and maybe even used the same elevator. We even shared the same kind of weather and I'd like to say, we shared the same kind of hope. Elections are coming up, after all.
My New Year's Resolution for 2014 was to start documenting some of the memorable overnights I've had in some very odd and curious motels and hotels. Like the adventures in my Dining Blog, I have learned to enjoy the surprises that happen when you step out of the comfort zone, far away from the well-known chains.
I began with a few entries recalling my very first home away from home memories from my youth. Then, I started sharing about some of the quirky and unforgettable motels, hotels and inns that my husband and I have discovered in recent years.
The best part about this challenge was making some lists with Don and getting on the road in search of new overnight adventures. I gave myself a 2-year goal to write up 90 stories and the goal was met. Now we just keep on adding!