When Dallas’s skyline was voted the world’s best in 2014, the city earned the honor for its impressive illumination: the bright, flashy lights that outlined the soaring buildings, old and new—except for one. The iconic pinstripe lights of the First National Bank tower had been dark for years. This month they’re back on, signaling the recent opening of the new Thompson Dallas hotel there.
The tower has long been a symbol of Dallas’s bold, showy style. When it was completed in 1965, the building was the tallest west of the Mississippi River. Texas Monthly writers William Broyles and Alex Sheshunoff explained in a 1974 article how the skyscraper came to be: “The major banks of Dallas had been contending in a rivalry which extended into everything. The most visible evidence of the competition between the emerging giants, Republic and First National, appeared in a characteristic way: a seesaw struggle to build the tallest building. … Erecting the biggest bank building, like growing the tallest pine tree, is a contest which extends over generations, and, unlike the ever-changing score on ledger books, leaves behind a very tangible result.”
Indeed, First National’s brick-and-mortar legacy outlasted the institution it was built to hold. The structure is still one of the tallest buildings downtown and is protected by the National Register of Historic Places. It’s even keeping part of its name (“the National”), but when the real estate investment firm Todd Interests took on the $460 million preservation project last April, the tower had been dark and vacant for about a decade. In addition to the hotel, the building will include more than three hundred luxury apartments, two restaurants opening this month (with two more on the way), and a florist, a barber, and a Lucchese boutique.
Today the former finance offices have been transformed into more than two hundred modern hotel rooms. It was a family affair: managing partner and CEO Shawn Todd worked alongside his children—including Philip Todd, 27, a partner at Todd Interests; and Caroline Todd, 25, who debuts her new design firm, Todd Interiors, with the National. They preserved as many elements original to the George Dahl–designed building as they could: teak-and-brass art deco walls line high-traffic corridors; mid-century modern structures shade the pool deck; the marble facade, with slabs mined from the same Greek quarry used for the Parthenon, shines brightly on the downtown block.
The Todds envisioned a sleek but welcoming look for the hotel. “It’s London social club meets sophisticated finishes and art,” Shawn says. They brought in a family friend, local interior designer Cindy Zelazny, to help with the design—“She has been a mentor to me since the days she was spray-painting my soccer cleats gold in elementary school,” Caroline says—and traveled across the pond last year to shop for inspiration and standout furnishings.
At the PAD London decorative arts fair, the team picked up eye-catching, limited-edition items like couture marble coffee tables from French furniture maker Hervé Langlais and a laser-cut leather console from Mexican design duo Ad Hoc. They also visited social clubs and eateries, later paying homage to them in Dallas. As at London’s famed Connaught Bar, for example, there are no stools at the bar in Thompson Dallas’s Catbird restaurant. Instead, the space is filled with ample, intimate seating arrangements. A pair of ottomans made from shagreen, or stingray leather, look almost too special to sit on; custom chairs from local Dallas showrooms feel fresh and feminine; and festive, fuzzy stools that resemble hair brushes are begging to be Instagrammed. Even the powder room wallpaper was selected for its selfie possibilities.
The overall effect is a boutique experience on a Dallas scale, for the Dallas set. Perhaps fittingly, art takes center stage. The $2 million-plus portfolio ranges from heavy international hitters like Damien Hirst and David Yarrow to local talents like San Antonio–based Matt Kleberg, whose works are on view in the guest rooms alongside half a dozen contemporary artists. But wherever you are in the hotel—sitting in one of the pool cabanas, lounging in your suite, even taking a bath—it’s hard to look away from the incredible views of the award-winning skyline outside each of the Thompson Dallas’s historic windows. Scroll down to see those and more in our exclusive virtual tour.