Last year my friend Tore Bellis and I took a downtown Dallas walking tour with Jay Cantrell. We started at Pegasus Plaza and admired The Adolphus. I told Tore that someday I hoped to stay there—just for one night.
My biggest concern was deciding when I’d be ready for such a privilege. I didn’t want to squander the experience. I didn’t want any regrets.
I tracked the room rates and found much to my surprise, that Valentine’s Day weekend was holding steady. We booked two rooms and from that point I began to prepare for my historic trip.
How does one prepare? I started collecting ephemera from The Adolphus. I expanded my collection to include the Baker Hotel, which was across the street from The Adolphus. It was demolished in 1980.
I was feeling confident one day when I came upon a Facebook post in a Dallas history group I follow. A gentleman named Mr. Tucker posted a photo from The Adolphus. I couldn’t resist asking the million dollar question: is he associated with the hotel?
From that point our scheduled stay at The Adolphus took a dreamlike detour. We were connected to the Concierge, a Mr. Milke, and a tour was scheduled along with reservations at The French Room.
I prepared all my ephemera, including my bellhop jacket from the Baker Hotel, luggage tags, postcards and my prized menu from The Adolphus. Everything was packed in a vintage suitcase I purchased for the occasion.
February 15th, 2019
We arrived at The Adolphus. I hoped to blend in but I had a big grin on my face when we walked in, which I suspect most people who are accustomed to these luxurious hotels may not wear.
After checking in, we went up the escalator and waited at the elevator. I stood there thinking, I made it to The Adolphus. I can comfortably roam about, take photos and not worry about being an intruder. For this one night I am a guest.
We were led to our rooms. My room had a walk-in closet, a beautiful bathroom, a massive full-length mirror, a luxurious bed… and THE view I had hoped for but left in the hands of fate. From my window I could look down at Pegasus Plaza, where I had looked up wistfully, hoping someday I could stay at The Adolphus. And now here I am.
To maximize our time, I changed in to my bellhop attire and we headed outside to take my Baker Hotel photo. We didn’t plan on the area being fenced for construction. But we made the best of the situation. We received many smiles from strangers who watched our crazy endeavors.
We were fortunate that one portion of the area was not fenced. There were drivers in front of The Adolphus. I managed to ask one if he’d take our photo. It is a treasure.
I changed back in to my blue dress and decided to carry my vintage suitcase as an accessory.
We decided to get a snack at Otto’s Coffee. The staff at Otto’s asked about our association with the Baker Hotel, they apparently saw us getting photos outside. In retrospect, we were probably difficult not to notice.
After heading back from our room, we stopped to look out a window near the elevator. I admired two rooftop balconies. I wonder who you have to be to get access to those spots, Tore?
We met the concierge, Mr. Andrew Milke, at 5 pm. I proudly showed him my suitcase and menu from 1955. He graciously admired them. Then he showed us ephemera from his collection – which included sheet music and even older menus that I could only dream of owning. He let me hold these items.
We began our tour. It was a whirlwind of wonder and access to areas of the hotel I didn’t expect to see. (Reflecting back on it—I don’t know what doors we went through. What halls we walked. I don’t know how we got to the places we toured. This adds to the mystique!).
Interesting details were explained, like the mirror that has been there since 1912 and even survived a fire. The original marble floors. The chandelier above the escalators, that is known as the “King of Beers” chandelier. (The Adolphus Hotel is named after Adolphus Busch). There is also a piano, whose twin sunk with the Titanic.
One notable discovery we learned: there was a skywalk between The Adolphus and The Baker. This detail has never surfaced when people discuss the history of the hotels on Facebook. We also learned there was a friendliness between the two hotels. Guest overflow was shared between the two hotels.
Remember the two balconies I admired earlier in the day? Oh yes. Mr. Milke led us to not one, but two! He commented that of all people, we’d appreciate them and the views they afforded of the beautiful building.
We visited the new spa. The new rooftop pool.
We entered The French Room, where we’d be dining later that evening.
The tour ended with a view of a ballroom and a special story about its personal meaning to Mr. Milke that made the experience even better.
We thanked Mr. Milke for our tour then went back to our rooms to prepare for dinner. (Wardrobe change number 3!). We approached the elevator to go down for dinner. When it opened, there was Mr. Milke, ready to take us down to dinner. What service.
We were greeted warmly in the French Room. I stood as tall and confidently as I could when we walked to our table. (I was very nervous!).
We were seated in an area that was known as The Tea Room. My heart melted at the thought of the additional history and special treatment we were receiving.
Warm towels with a fragrant scent were handed to us. I was nervous about the menu. My taste is not refined and I feared the experience would be wasted on me no matter how hard I tried.
We placed our order, including what Mr. Tucker had recommended in our email correspondence: the cheese sampling. When asked if we wanted the 3 or 5 cheese tasting, I took the lead for Tore and me: “We want 5.” It was the right decision.
What we didn’t order but it appeared in a very extravagant manner, was a quail egg with Parmesan cheese. I have never experienced a quail egg. It was delicious— and it was the prelude to a heavenly experience.
No words can properly describe the evening. This was a refined meal, yet everyone made us feel comfortable. I admit I broke decorum by taking photos of my meal. I tried to be discreet. I had to document the moment. But even this concern was allayed when our friend Mr. Milke checked on us periodically. And at one point he took our photo with his phone. I was set at ease with him. He even brought me some treasures— matchbooks—to add to my collection. These matchbooks were an unexpected bonus. There are now stories associated with the matchbooks, from my personal experience at The Adolphus. That tops any matchbook I could purchase on eBay. I love that.
The really special moments happened when staff approached us. They were aware of our love for the hotel’s history. One employee who had been there since the 80s spoke to us and shared her story about matchbooks. It was a delight.
By the end of dinner, I had amassed 3 new matchbooks: two from the Century Room and one from The French Room.
Off to our rooms we went.
Guess what was there.
A framed black and white photo of Tore and me from dinner, a handwritten note and booklets on the hotel’s history.
This is that mic drop moment. It’s that moment when all other hotels can pack up and call it a day. The bar has been impossibly set. The Adolphus is the standard from which all others will be judged.
What impeccable, thoughtful, service.
What an incredible, memorable experience.
The next day we took the long way home – through the extravagant neighborhoods, delaying the inevitable return to reality. Around Preston Road and President George Bush Highway, I started talking about the upcoming burdens of the week.
The dream that is The Adolphus Hotel will always remain in my memory.
Thank you, Mr. Tucker, Mr. Milke and the entire team at The Adolphus.
I have written a novel and posted a great number of photos, this will be a two-part series. Part 2 coming in a day or two. If I can exercise some self-restraint, I might spare readers from a possible new category on my blog, called: Poetry about The Adolphus.