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Sandman Signature Hotel Grand Opening Fit for Building with Grand History

September 15,2023

See full Fort Worth Texas Magazine article by John Henry here.

The intersection of Houston and 8th streets downtown was teeming with activity on Thursday, what with the Japanese-style drumming troupe on the sidewalk pounding away on instruments.

It was a celebration of the repurpose of the 20-story W.T. Waggoner Building as the new Sandman Signature Fort Worth Downtown Hotel, a brand of Vancouver-based Northland Properties, that celebrated its grand opening this week.

In addition to the Dondoko Taiko Japanese drumming group, members of the National Hockey League’s Dallas Stars were on hand. Northland’s company president is Stars owner Tom Gaglardi.

The preserved and restored hotel features 245 rooms and first-class guest services and premium in-room amenities to accommodate the 21st century.

On the ground floor is the Musume Restaurant, owned by Dallas' Rock Libations Restaurant Group. Musume offers contemporary Asian cuisine and sushi. The restaurant also features the country's most extensive premium sake program — now we’re talking — with more than 120 selections as well as the largest Japanese whiskey selection in Fort Worth-Dallas, according to the hotel.

The exterior of the hotel is all reminiscent of early 20th century Fort Worth and specifically during one of the city’s most significant growth spurts. The building, designed by Sanguinet & Staats, was built by oilman, rancher, and capitalist W.T. Waggoner. Construction began in the summer of 1919. The general contractor was C.S. Lambie & Co. of Denver. When it was finished, the structure was one of the tallest buildings in all of the Southwest.

The cost of construction was $1 million, or $15 million today.

Three shifts of workers were each put on eight-hour shifts until completion more than a year later.

Construction represented the greatest building boom in the history of Fort Worth at the time.

In March 1919, more than $12 million in construction was being started or completed in the city. Leading the way was the Navy Argon Gas plant for the manufacture of non-inflammable balloon gas. It was erected at a cost of $4 million. The Home Oil & Refining Company refinery was being constructed for $1 million.

Federal Oil & Refining Company was building a refinery, too, at a cost of $750,000. No fewer than five other oil companies were building that year.

The old North Side High School (the new/current North Side High School was built in 1938) was being constructed at a cost of $160,000.

Ultimately, 15 floors of the new W.T. Waggoner Building had been leased to oil companies by the fourth quarter of 1920, according to news reports.

The building sparked headlines throughout its construction.

Waggoner reportedly received an offer of $50 million for his 300,000-acre ranch, his refinery, and oil royalties. Who made the offer was unclear, but sources who shared information with the Star-Telegram believed it was the Standard Oil Company or “interests closely allied with it.”

He turned it down. That’s close to $1 billion today. In 2016, the Waggoner Ranch, by then totaling 525,000 acres, was sold to Stan Kroenke, real estate tycoon and sports owner, for $725 million.

The 1919-20 Fort Worth building boom had at least one man believing Fort Worth would be Texas’ biggest city in due time, according to the Star-Telegram. Every time Judge T.L. Whitfield of Gainesville came to town he said he was simply amazed that there seemed to be some development underway. (As opposed to Gainesville, which presumably had no development underway.)

“A few months ago, you did not have very many people on your streets,” said Judge Whitfield, who made a stop at the Metropolitan Hotel. “Today the sidewalks on Main and Houston are crowded practically all through the day. Everybody is in a rush, indicating that something big is going on. You can’t build that big hotel [Hotel Texas] too quickly and the Waggoner building will have to be matched with a second by the time it is completed in order to take care of your business.”

There were a few delays in construction, according to news reports.

In December 1919, bricklayers had to take off because it was too cold to work “at such a height.”

“The mortar was freezing before they could use it,” according to the Star-Telegram.

Iron workers left their job sites for a week, going on strike over pay. The Fort Worth Builders’ Association did, in the end, come to agreement with the Local 263 Structural and Ornamental Iron Workers, agreeing to increase pay from 87 1/2 cents a day to $1 an hour, or $15 an hour today.

The contract also specified that workers were to receive double pay for all overtime.

“Following the agreement reached Thursday, the rat-a-tat-tat of riveting machines was again heard on the 20-story Waggoner building Friday morning," according to news reports.

In other words, Houston and 8th were bustling with activity again.

Location Mentioned: Sandman Signature Fort Worth Downtown Hotel