If only the Baker could be brought back, the thinking goes, it might spur a citywide renaissance.
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For the last 12 years, a pair of out-of-town developers have been working to make that dream a reality. Scrape the mud off the terrazzo floors. Scrub the muck off the wall tiles. Repaint the columns. U ntil last summer, anyone driving through Mineral Wells who might have slowed to gawk at the hotel was left to guess at its origins. Now, however, a row of blue signs commissioned by the Chamber of Commerce runs along the exterior of the ground floor. The shoeshine stand remains in the lobby, albeit a bit torn up. So does a row of wooden phone booths, the sort where harried reporters in old movies called in their scoops.
Judy Garland stands next to the reception desk in a well-known photograph. According to local lore, famed bank robbers Bonnie and Clyde had the carpet removed from the hallway just outside their room so they could hear if law enforcement approached.
See a Problem?
Soon, thousands of people were camping on the Lynch ranch to bathe and drink the water. The Texas and Pacific Railway came to town in , making it even easier for visitors to enjoy the hotels, bathhouses, restaurants and shops popping up. Its glossy photos show stylishly dressed visitors admiring the view from Inspiration Point, golfing on a well-tended fairway and taking in a jazz show.
A system of pipes circulated ice water to the guest rooms, a welcome luxury in the Texas heat. Seeking healthy waters as a treatment for a wide variety of ailments was a trend that had made its way west from Europe and the East Coast. But by the s, major medical discoveries such as penicillin made doctors far less likely to recommend a trip to health resorts. Fort Wolters was a key infantry training center during World War II, peaking with the presence of nearly 25, troops.
The Baker and the military kept drawing people to town for a little while, even as tourism faded. Both the Republican and Democratic parties hosted state conventions at the Baker during the s, and in Fort Wolters became a helicopter flight training center. After Vietnam, Fort Wolters was deactivated. No other major industry has stepped in since.
Surely someone had plans to redevelop it. Twelve years later, Fairchild and his business partner, Chad Patton, are still working on the project. Fairchild himself appears in the video, the hairs on his head noticeably darker and more numerous in the eight-year-old clip. Fairchild and Patton describe the Baker as a labor of love.
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The Baker easily checks both the environmental and societal boxes, since renovating it would eliminate asbestos and other hazards as well as potentially revitalize the town. So Fairchild and Patton had to get creative. The Baker qualifies for a variety of incentive capital, including tax credits available for historic buildings and low- to moderate-income census tracts. The city and county also approved tax-increment financing, and voters with 96 percent approval in agreed to devote sales-tax money to the project.
Fairchild and Patton even traveled to China where the vast majority of EB-5 applicants come from for a conference with agents who represent potential investors. Wrangling among federal lawmakers leaves the future of the controversial program in doubt. Because of this uncertainty, the developers are no longer counting on foreign investment.
Ghosts of Denton
Its residents earn significantly lower incomes and are less educated than the state average. Its population has dropped by 11 percent since the census, a period of explosive growth for much of North Texas. We like bling more than blood.
We're a mostly peaceful lot. Think again; for a city that's relatively young John Neely Bryan first came here in , and the city incorporated in we allegedly have our fair share of ghostly residents. First and foremost, of course, is the Lady of the Lake , whose legend has been around since at least the s. Anyone who's lived here long knows the story: Young, dripping-wet woman hitchhiker usually along Garland Road or Gaston Avenue waves down a motorist and asks to be taken to a nearby home.
And then they see the puddle. In A Texas Guide to Haunted Restaurants, Taverns and Inns Republic of Texas Press, , writers Robert Wlodarski and Anne Powell Wlodarski mention reports of two young women perishing by suicidal drowning in the lake's waters between and , and say that some witnesses have seen not only the hitchhiker but also a ghostly woman rising out of the lake. Mitchel Whitington, author of Ghosts of North Texas Republic of Texas Press, , did some research and found out, alas, that nearly every major city with an inner-city or nearby lake has virtually the identical legend.
Still, he was willing to give our lady a chance. He ventured out one night into the lakeside woods, just after sunset. His report: Satan worshippers, zero. Invisibly hurled stones, zero. Drenched young female hitchhikers, zero. So let's move on to some ghosts with more street or dungeon, as the case may be cred. The original Snuffer's Restaurant on Greenville Avenue has been prickled since its opening by reports of apparitions and poltergeist activity, mostly since an addition to the restaurant was made in although the owners say there were ghostly signs before that, as well.
Perhaps the ghosts, who were until then relatively polite, were disturbed in their rest and thus ticked off by the construction. In , the original restaurant building was demolished and rebuilt, but even with the new space, ghostly activities persist. Especially when workers are ready to close the restaurant for the day, mysterious situations occur, including an appearance of a black figure and lights turning back on.
The most popular theory behind these encounters is the spirit of a man who was murdered in the original building. In , the then-owner, Pat Snuffer, told a Dallas Morning News reporter that he hadn't previously believed in ghosts, but within a few months of moving into the space, he knew it was haunted. Legend has it that just mentioning the ghosts will lure them out of hiding; they're publicity hounds, apparently. It's now a Texas Historic Landmark.
The stairs, a downstairs back room and the ballroom have all reportedly seen spectral activity. It's speculated that one of the ghosts may be a cranky former caretaker named Louis who loved to yell at kids who were playing around inside the hall, too boisterously for Louis' liking.
Once while Walker, Texas Ranger was filming there, extras having a late-night drink in the downstairs bar said they saw a formally dressed couple walk in, go down a hall and then vanish. There also have been many stories of pictures falling off the walls, unexplained voices echoing, children's laughter taunting Louis, no doubt and slamming doors. Someone who worked there told the Wlodarskis that she had seen a photograph of a band playing in the ballroom, showing the vague outline of a skeleton standing next to a band member. The photo, unfortunately, has been lost to time or ghostly interference.
The Majestic Theatre on Elm Street downtown began its life as a vaudeville theater and is the last remaining remnant of the city's once-thriving Theater Row.
Ghosts of North Texas by Mitchel Whitington
Movies were added to the repertoire in , and were shown until the theater closed in the last film, appropriate considering the ghostly activity, was Live and Let Die. It also was used as a film location for Brian De Palma's film yes, more spooky connections Phantom of the Paradise. In the Majestic was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and it reopened in for performances of musicals, dramas, concerts and comedy.
Hoblitzelle, some say, never left, although he died in I'd have to agree with them. When I was in my 20s, I worked at the Dallas Ballet, which had its offices on an upper floor of the building. There was a door in my office that led into the theater, and one of my duties was to make sure that door was closed and locked every night. Many mornings, I would come in and find it standing wide open, even though I was sure I'd locked it the night before.
When I finally brought this up with my boss, he laughed.
This used to be his office, and he likes to use his personal door to go into the theater to check things out. I learned to take a sweater to work, and I began saying goodnight to Karl every night before I left. Many visitors and workers have reported similar experiences, in addition to backdrops moving around on their own, odd smells and the presence of a man in one of the balcony seats who vanishes when anyone goes to check on him.
I also had a slightly haunting experience at The Adolphus Hotel really, I'm a great date on Halloween , while doing a story for the Metro section of this newspaper in Ghost hunters were giving a seminar, and a group of us traipsed around with crystals and divining rods trying to feel the spirits.
I must admit, my crystal did a whipping-spinning thing that I'm pretty darned sure I wasn't controlling. People who have rooms in the area that was once the 19th-floor ballroom often hear clinking glasses, Big Band music, cocktail chatter and other party-type noises late at night. Other people on the tour also had their divining rods and crystals go a little bit wack-a-doodle while on the 19th floor. Just sayin'. Newer reports have mentioned a female ghostette of some sort in the hotel's pastry kitchen.
People have seen the figure of a woman in the house, often at an upstairs bedroom window, and have heard voices and children's laughter coming from the nursery area. Curator Evelyn Montgomery says a guest told her recently about seeing a woman in that same window during several nighttime events. When April Slaughter, author of Ghosthunting Texas Clerisy Press, , visited, she got creeped out by some shadow-box frames containing hairpieces made from human hair although they weren't historically related to the house.
While looking at them, she writes, she felt the "distinct sensation of someone brushing my hair away from the back of my neck," although the remainder of her tour group had moved away and she was alone. At the Law Office, which originally was a grocery store in East Dallas, the ghosts reportedly like to play with the security system.