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austlar

Member Since 27 Jul 2005
Offline Last Active Mar 10 2012 03:44 PM
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Posts I've Made

In Topic: Westbrook Hotel Implosion Photographs

10 March 2012 - 03:15 PM

I don't think there was ever a bar in the Westbrook in the post WW2 era. I actually know a lot about the place because my family leased retail space at the corner of 4th and Houston, a store called NC Halls Jewelery. There is reason to believe there may have been a basement bar or grill room from a much earlier period. Halls had a sidewalk elevator that was used to unload freight into the basement of the store. The walls of this basement space were covered in an elaborate tile and there were glass block sidewalk lights overhead instead of solid concrete sidewalk. There may have been a some hotel amenity down there prior to the prohibition period.

The hotel was never fully air conditioned. Some rooms had window units, but most did not. The ornate and marble clad lobby had old leather furniture and several tall electric fans to move the considerable cigar smoke around and make a feeble effort at cooling the place off on warm days. There were a lot of older folks who still got dressed every day in a shabby suit, cowboy boots, and a stetson sitting in the lobby at all hours of the day and early evening. Eventually they put a TV set in the lobby. The bread and butter of the hotel during this period was the permanent guests. There were a few women in the place, but mostly it was men. Most out of towners were staying at the Hotel Texas, The Hilton (Blackstone), or the Worth Hotel by that time.

There was a cigar stand in the lobby off the 4th street mid-block entrance. It was presided over for many years by a lovely woman named Mrs. Thompson. Two of her sons, Tommy Thompson and Bill Thompson, worked at NC Hall's. Tommy Thompson was the long-time manager. I used to pay regular visits to Mrs. Thompson whenever I was downtown. She was a really nice lady.

For several years, NC Halls had it's employeee Christmas party in a suite of rooms up on the mezzanine floor. There was a piano in the room, and folks used to cut loose after a long and exhausting retail season. The parties might have gotten a little rowdy, and by the late 1950's they no longer took place.

The best thing about the Westbrook was the coffee shop. For one thing, it was blessedly air-conditioned. It had a counter area made out of white marble and several art deco-ish counter stools covered in red leatherette. They used real white linen or high quality pressed cotton napkins on all the tables and at the counter. The food was coffee shop food with the best waffles I have ever eaten. There was plenty of real melted butter and maple syrup. I loved going there. My father and other downtown businessmen ate lunch there almost every day. One regular was the Fort Worth Press columnist named Jack Gordon. If you wanted your name in the paper, it did not hurt to chat up Jack Gordon in the Westbrook Coffee Shop where he held court.

The Richelieu moved across the street from the Westbrook Coffee Shop from a prior location somewhere down further on Main Street after the convention center got built. It opened at 4th and Main about the time that the Westbrook was in it's last days. NC Hall moved across the street to the ground floor of the Sanger Lofts building, which was occuppied by Edison's warehouses and offices at the time. NC Hall got sold out to a Baltimore chain and closed in the mid 1970s. NC Hall's ownership was also involved in operating Edison's, so there was a family connection to the area that lasted a few years longer.

In Topic: Suggestions for New Forum Categories

10 August 2011 - 12:56 AM

I really was not trying to be critical. I actually don't visit the site very much because I don't live in FW. I just grew up there a zillion years ago and have my memories mostly. I spend a lot of time on Skycraperpage on the Austin boards and in various other locales of interest on SSP. There is much less participation on the Austin threads since most of the new construction downtown is now finished. There are about a dozen regular participants unless there is something new or controversial being discussed. I guess I am not up to speed on the new hand held technologies and probably never will be, but I used to enjoy the give and take (which was mostly civil) that used to be found in various discussions on the FW forum when these other options were not yet so popular. I think something that might prove interesting would be a "neighborhoods" section where people can start or participate in threads regarding various parts of town and what makes them interesting or not so interesting as the case may be. Thanks, John, for your hard work. Keep riding that bike. You must be in awesome shape to do 200 miles anywhere in Texas during this particular summer!

In Topic: Suggestions for New Forum Categories

07 August 2011 - 12:07 AM

I don't like the look of the FW forum home page for the site. It seems to be all about IP Board, whatever that is. I miss the old photo of the skyline splashed across the top of the screen. I think this is one reason that there does not seem to be as much activity on the site as there was just a few years ago. Last topics go untouched for weeks or months at a time. It did not used to be that way. Where are all the passionate urbanistas that are found on other similar sites? Half the topics here seem to be about long ago drive in theaters or shopping centers. These are valid topics, but something seems to be missing. That is just my take on this site. I think "Politics" should be about local issues and players for the most part. Otherwise it is going to be flame city going into the 2012 election season.