Neatly dressed in khakis and a button-down shirt, neighborhood resident Sam Childers sips coffee in a corner booth at Kel’s as he flips through the pages of a book, “Images of America: Historic Dallas Hotels.” The 128-page paperback is chockfull of historic photos and anecdotes, most of which he unearthed over the past year. Childers, who earned his historian chops at the Sixth Floor and Old Red museums, recently published the book. Though it’s his first, he says it won’t be his last.

What made you interested in Dallas hotels?
I, like many historians, present papers at conventions. I did a profile of local hotels, and one was the Fairmount Hotel, where old Hollywood stars would stay. After that, people started calling me “the hotel guy,” so I just kind of fell into it.

What was your favorite part about researching the book?
I could just look at old photos all day, but the writing was the most fun for me. Because I read so much, writing comes naturally. While I was working on this book, I had to write every day because if I didn’t, I’d get distracted. I’d wake up, eat breakfast, take a shower, then head to my office and just write.

Did you run into any problems along the way?
Finding the images was tough. They were from so many different sources. Some had never even been published, like the photos of the Adolphus. They were just sitting in scrapbooks in the marketing department collecting dust.

Were there any surprises along the way?
I learned that the original Hilton hotels were started here in Dallas by Conrad Hilton — and he’s also buried here.

What is the intent behind this book?
Just education and entertainment. I like looking through old photos, and I think other people do, too. People have memories from these places, like the Baker Hotel. Anyone over the age of, say, 50 will probably have memories of that hotel.

Any cool ghost stories or local lore about the hotels?
I taped something for Discovery Channel’s “Ghost Lab”, where they were investigating paranormal activity at the Lawrence Hotel. Apparently, there’s a room where, if your key won’t work when you put it in, then you have to knock and say, “Smiley, let me in.” After that, your key will work.

Do you have any more books in the works?
My next project will be about Lady Bird Johnson’s 1964 train trip through the South, where she promoted her husband’s presidential campaign. Presidential history is really what I love.

How long have you lived in Dallas? And what drew you to Preston Hollow?
I’ve lived in Dallas 20 years, and I’m originally an Oklahoman. My mom likes to joke with me that I’m actually a Texan, though. I lived in Lake Highlands for a while, and I moved to Preston Hollow about five years ago. I really like my neighbors and the location. If you didn’t want to, you wouldn’t have to leave the area because there are so many shops, restaurants and things to do.

‘Images of America: Historic Dallas Hotels’ can be purchased at most major bookstores in the Dallas area, including Borders at Preston and Royal, and Barnes & Noble at Northwest Highway and Central.


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