The Ambassador Hotel Fire Reminds Us to Value Dallas History — Before We Lose It

It would be hard to find a more difficult way to come out of a holiday weekend than to wake up to find one of the city's treasures was consumed by flames while you were asleep. But that is the ugly truth: last night, the 1905 Ambassador Hotel, a work of dignified elegance in the Cedars that was the city's oldest hotel, burned to the ground. It had been long vacant, but with the renewed energy that has come to the Cedars, it was being reborn as a new hub for the community, with apartments and shops.The fire points to the vulnerability of buildings during restoration work. It was just last month that a blaze during such a project did catastrophic damage to Notre Dame, in Paris. If we can find any silver lining in these losses, it should come as a reminder of just how much we value the works of architecture that define our cities, a lesson we too often forget.We forget it a lot here in Dallas, a city that doesn't have that much history to squander. We forget it so often that it's hard to chalk the losses up to anything but a collective willful negligence.The loss of the city's commercial and industrial heritage is particularly troubling. While these kinds of buildings may not be what we immediately think of as monuments, they are essential to our history, possess their own architectural qualities, and enrich our neighborhoods. Another recent casualty was the landmark Salvation Army Headquarters, originally the Great National Life Insurance Co. building, familiar for its sunscreen of gridded metal triangles. That sensitive work of midcentury design was the work of Gordon Gill, and it had held down the corner of Mockingbird Lane and Harry Hines Blvd. since 1956. But with land values in the Medical District rising, a developer came in, passed up the various state and federal incentives available for an adaptive reuse of the building, and knocked it down — an act of craven disregard for the city and its architectural heritage.  Continue reading...

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