'Stovepipe' skyscraper was once planned for Dallas Convention Center hotel site
09:19 AM CDT on Friday, May 21, 2010
The view of Dallas' skyline from Oak Cliff is undergoing a dramatic transformation.
Drive across the Jefferson Boulevard Viaduct, and the huge new convention center hotel fills the foreground. Soon there will be a great blue-glass wall towering above the southwest corner of downtown.
If things had worked out differently a few decades ago, in place of the new hotel construction you'd be looking at a round skyscraper.
Part of a complex called Griffin Square, the 913-foot building to be called Dallas Tower and the surrounding neighborhood of high-rise offices, shops and residential units was the dream of Dallas businessman C. Wesley Goyer Jr.
In the late 1960s, Goyer and his development company tied up more than 30 acres of old warehouses and rail yards, including the current convention hotel tract.
The big concrete tower – which would have been the tallest in the state – included a 600-room luxury hotel, office space and an observation deck on top. But what really caught the town's imagination was the shape.
"We actually used a stovepipe to make the model," recalled Philip Henderson, whose architectural firm worked on the project.
Griffin Square's centerpiece tower was one of the clean, modern buildings that dominated commercial designs in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
"No one wants to be purely geometric anymore," said Henderson, who laments some of today's building styles. "They want these swoopy things."
Griffin Square's Dallas Tower was supposed to cost $35 million.
Wow, that seems like a bargain compared with what's being spent on the new hotel – more than 10 times that amount.
Newspaper editorials proclaimed that Griffin Square would "mark Dallas as one of the nation's most progressive cities." It was touted as an international tourist attraction.
Phase two of the project was a complex of "shops, restaurants, theaters and nightclubs" designed to appeal to visitors at the new convention center next door.
Like many of Dallas' grand plans of the day, Griffin Square got derailed by a dodgy economy.
"Money just dried up for everything that wasn't essential," Henderson said.
A commercial real estate bust and credit crunch put most development in the Dallas area on hold for years.
By 1971, plans for the grand cylindrical tower were abandoned.
Five former Dallas mayors still turned out for the groundbreaking for the only Griffin Square building that made it off the drawing boards.
That nine-story, reflective-glass and concrete building still sits on the corner of Young and Griffin streets. Instead of posh shops and luxury hotel rooms, the structure is home to federal government offices.
ORIGINAL ARTICLE FROM 1970