Thursday, September 13, 2012

1960s Glitz Bites the Dust as Bulldozers Raze Richardson Hotel

For the last few weeks, I’ve been watching them tear down a landmark in Richardson. Most folks probably think it was just a flea-bitten, hot sheet motel. Good riddance, they are saying. I’m talking about the faded old Continental Inn on North Central Expressway. The city of Richardson recently bought the old motel just north of Spring Valley and has wasted no time knocking the place down.
But I keep seeing the way it looked back in the 1960s, when there were palm trees out front and fancy cars pulled up under the neon-lit porte cochere. Back then it was called the Dallas Continental Inn — even though the property was in Richardson. When the motor inn opened in 1961, it was considered one of the most deluxe accommodations in the Dallas area.
The Continental Inn cost almost $2 million to construct and was a big hit with travelers along U.S. Highway 75. I remember looking for the building’s colorful exterior and lighted signs when we traveled along North Central heading up to Grayson County to see relatives.
The property was complete with a deluxe restaurant, private dining rooms, swimming pool, landscaped patio and playground for the kiddos. A Continental Inn courtesy car was on hand to run guests to downtown Dallas to shop at Neiman Marcus.
The hotel for years was a favorite venue for wedding parties, class reunions, and meetings of the Rotary Club, builders associations and the like. The Continental Inn and the smaller Como Motel across the highway competed for business with flashing signs and promises of “refrigerated air” in the rooms.
But by the 1980s not even the allure of air conditioning and color TVs could bring first-class guests to the Continental Inn. In recent years the place has been pretty forgettable, covered in coats of beige paint and advertising rooms at $32 a night.
Richardson wants to redevelop the former motel site as a restaurant park with four buildings fronting along the highway. Hermansen Land Development is marketing the triangular property as a “one of a kind” opportunity.

Steve Brown
Real Estate Editor
Dallas Morning News