Oklahoma City’s The Skirvin Hilton hotel over time
Hotel owner Dan W. James, like Bill Skirvin before him, didn’t rest on past accomplishments. In 1959, a pool was put into the north side of the hotel, year later he built the Four Seasons Lounge close to the pool and something. Despite such attempts to modernize his properties, James along with other hotel operators were confronting the decline of the central city. From 1959, new suburban stores were built every couple of years, drawing shoppers from downtown away. Another element in the central city’s decline was the brand new age of motor car transportation, which shifted emphasis from railroads and streetcars to automobiles and busses. City streets, created for pedestrian traffic and only limited motor use, were congested for heavy traffic too, while limited space impeded convenient parking.
In 1963, because the problems confronting downtown Oklahoma City were mounting just, James announced he had sold the Skirvin to a combined band of investors from Chicago. Although this partnership added a $250,000 banquet room to the hotel and made grand plans for the development of both Skirvin Hotel and Tower, the properties were sold by them to H.T. Griffin in 1968.
Griffin, who planned to create the proposed Liberty Tower south of the hotel just, unveiled a two-year plan designed to rejuvenate the Skirvin and reverse the exodus from downtown Oklahoma City. Having an investment of $2.5 million, he redecorated sunlight Suite, added a fresh restaurant, replaced all of the window sashes with bronze-colored frames, replaced all of the furniture, added color tv’s to each available room, and remodeled the lobby, coffee and kitchen shop.
Despite this massive investment, Griffin encountered difficulties. Urban renewal construction was active through the late 1960s, further congesting traffic and discouraging movement downtown. Occupancy rates declined, reaching a nadir of only 32 percent in 1969, an interval when an occupancy of 70 percent was essential to pay operating expenses and outstanding loans. In 1968, the hotel made a little profit, however in 1969 and in 1971 the Skirvin suffered losses again. Coupled with heavy investment in Liberty Tower, the negative cashflow forced the Griffin into bankruptcy in late 1971.
At this low point in its celebrated history, the Skirvin was put into the tactile hands of a trustee, Stanton L. Young, who borrowed money for operations and sought out ways to pay back debts and return the hotel to its former grandeur. Year later one, Young negotiated to market the Skirvin Hotel to CLE Corporation, a Texas firm that owned and managed a chain of hotels over the nation already. Price was approximately $2 million.
In late 1972, the brand new owner announced that the real name of the hotel will be changed to “Skirvin Plaza Hotel” and pledged to get $2.3 million in an over-all remodeling campaign – a figure which may increase to $8 million by 1974. A lot of the ongoing work was exterior facelifting, such as for example repointing mortar, cleaning bricks, and replacing old awnings. Every guest room was gutted and redecorated in another of eight different styles and new plumbing and electrical wiring was installed.
Suffering from sagging occupancy despite their investments, CLE Corporation in 1977 sold the Skirvin to the Businessman’s Assurance Company. The City’s other fine hotels, such as for example Huckins, Biltmore, Black and tower, had been abandoned already, demolished, or changed into work place.
The full life of the Skirvin, hanging in the total amount for days gone by 16 years, received a fresh chance in 1979 whenever a small band of investors recognized the latent potential of the hotel. With a faith similar to Bill Skirvin, the brand new investors purchased the hotel for a reported $5.6 million. With the combined talent and sources of investors Ron Burks, Bill Jennings, John Kilpatrick, Jr., Bob Lammerts, Jerry Richardson, Dub Joe and Ross Dann Trigg, the Skirvin Plaza Investors aggressively approached their new challenge.
With a $1 million commitment, the investors undertook a thorough remodeling campaign. In the lobby, workers removed an extra staircase so as to regain the openness of the initial design. Then, while demolishing other additions, workers found a genuine wooden archway, which served as a pattern for the look of other wood and arches trim. Above the refurbished walls, ceiling murals were massive and recreated chandeliers imported from Czechoslovakia were installed. The Skirvin, after suffering 2 decades of decline, was to obtain another chance.
In 1980, the continuing future of the Skirvin seemed assured. The inside renovation was nearly completed and events were unfolding round the Skirvin that could attract new visitors. Urban renewal, which had slowed through the mid-1970s, gained new momentum whenever a developer from Dallas began focus on the Galleria, the long-promised retail and office complex a block west and south of the Skirvin just.
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Another remarkable new development downtown was the preservation of many of the City’s foremost historic buildings. Spurred by mounting prosperity, tax incentives, and the growing demand for work place, investors renovated and purchased structures including the Colcord Hotel, the Harbour-Longmire, the Black Hotel, Montgomery Ward, and the Gas and Oil Building. This facelifting injected new lease of life in to the central city.
The need for the Skirvin Hotel in the annals of Oklahoma was officially recognized late in 1980 when two plaques were unveiled by Governor George Nigh. One plaque designated the inclusion of the hotel on the National Register of Historic Places; another marked an identical honor from the Oklahoma City Historic Landmark and Preservation Commission.
Nevertheless, the Skirvin skidded into bankruptcy and closed down in 1988 and sat empty until 2007 when it had been acquired by Marcus Hotels and Resorts who undertook a $55 million renovation. On its 100th birthday, the hotel reopened because the Skirvin Hilton Hotel and contains earned a AAA Four Diamond rating each year since.
“We have been delighted to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the oldest existing hotel in the constant state of Oklahoma. The Skirvin Hilton is really a grand hotel in the tradition of historic hotels, and was our fourth historic restoration,” said Bill Otto, president of Marcus Hotels & Resorts. “While retaining its historic details carefully, we renovated the house and introduced successful restaurant concepts completely, like the Park Avenue Red and Grill Piano Bar. We have been proud to become a section of this celebratory event – and proud to keep to provide exceptional service to your Oklahoma City guests.”
The project leveraged Marcus Hotels’ 50 years of experience in restoring landmark hotels. Martin Van Der Laan, general manager said, “The Skirvin Hilton has been considered the city’s crown jewel through the turbulent years and rebirth of downtown Oklahoma City in 2006. Today the hotel serves as a chronicler of the city’s history and remains a significant little bit of the city’s past and future”.
The Skirvin Hilton Hotel is really a known person in the Historic Hotels of America, the state program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
*For a far more detailed history of the Skirvin Hilton Hotel, start to see the well-written and well-illustrated “Skirvin” by Jack Steve and Money Lackmeyer, FULL CIRCLE Press, Oklahoma City, 2007.
The author, Stanley Turkel, is really a recognized consultant and authority in the hotel industry. He operates his hotel, consulting and hospitality practice focusing on asset management, operational audits and the potency of hotel franchising litigation and agreements support assignments. Clients are hotel owners, investors and lending institutions.
His newest book has been published by AuthorHouse: “Hotel Mavens Volume 2: Henry Morrison Flagler, Henry Bradley Plant, Carl Graham Fisher.”
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All of the books may also be ordered from AuthorHouse, by visiting and by simply clicking the book’s title.
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