Magnolia Hotel

The Magnolia Hotel

1401 Commerce - 1923 (NR, RTHL, D)

Sir Alfred Bossom of England designed this early Dallas Skyscraper that was the headquarters of the Magnolia Petroleum Company, predecessor to Mobil Oil.  The architectural style might be called a modified classical design.  The 29 story tower consists of a three story base, a U-shaped tower and a top that has a balcony on three sides, multi-leveled penthouses, and an ornamented chimney stack.  At the 18th floor, a bridge that connects the two wings of the "U" form a decorative arch at the light well.  At the 24th floor, the top of the building steps back and forms a balcony on 3 sides.  The first penthouse level is at the 25th floor and the two wings of the building are then capped by a hipped roof covered with Spanish tile.  The 26th floor has windows on the north and south walls and is tucked between the roofs of the wings.  From the main roof levels rises a 3 story penthouse with the 29th level set back from the remainder of the penthouse.  Finally adding to the overall height is a two story chimney stack.   When it opened, the Magnolia Building took the title of the "Tallest Building in Texas" from the W.T. Waggoner Building in Fort Worth.  It was also billed as the tallest south of Washington D.C. and west of the Mississippi.  Because the building was the tallest, it is ornamented on all four sides.  The ground floor tenant when the skyscraper opened was the Mercantile National Bank.

In 1934, Magnolia Petroleum Company erected a large "oil derrick" on the roof that supported two 30 by 50 foot red neon signs that were in the image of Pegasus, the flying red horse, that was the corporate logo for Magnolia.  Mobil, as a part of Exxon Mobil Corp. still uses the logo today.  The two red horses were located 14 feet apart and revolved when placed on the building.  In addition to the sign, the penthouses were illuminated at night.  For many years the sign was the highest element within blocks, but by 1974 it had quit revolving.  However, the Pegasus sign had become a Dallas icon.  In 1977, Mobil moved their headquarters out downtown and the sign and building were given to the City of Dallas.  Over the years, the skyscraper had become outdated and in 1997 the sign was turned off. 

The building was purchased in 1997 by Denver developers who converted the old office building into a 330 room luxury hotel catering to the business traveler.  The exterior of the building was restored along with all remaining interior spaces that were still intact.  The elevator lobby has been carefully restored and it features a beautiful gold leaf decorative plaster ceiling and elevator doors that feature the Pegasus logo. 

As a part of the Dallas Millennium Celebration, the Flying Red Horse neon sign was relit at midnight to bring in 2000.  In order to restore the sign, it was removed in August of 1999 and completely rebuilt.  The original plans called for the sign to be restored, but it was in such bad shape that all of the metal panels, neon, and motor were replaced.  In addition to the relighting, the sign revolves once again.  The total cost of the construction of the duplicate was $600,000.  In order to preserve the past, the original sign has been put on display in a shed at the Dallas Farmer's Market.

Rear of Building from the Kirby Penthouse

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