The Mobley Hotel is typical of the vernacular commercial and institutional architecture of the southern frontier found throughout west central Texas. It is a two- story building of solid brick construction. The parapet, pedestal and other features of stucco over brick decorate the exterior. Alterations and time have changed the
original structure, but current restoration efforts seek to recreate some of its former appearance as well as turn it into a museum.
The Mobley Hotel is a two-story building of solid brick construction situated at the end of Conrad Hilton Ave. (former Avenue D) on south side of the Texas and Pacific Railroad. The hotel was built in two stages demonstrated by the roof parapet wall -- in the interior west side, where the original exterior wall is noticeable and on the front and rear exterior wall surface on the west side, where the joining of the two moments of its construction is evident.
This building is typical of the vernacular commercial and institutional architecture of the southern frontier found throughout west central Texas. The building has a flat roof, a parapet of stucco over bricks, two belts of brick and stucco over brick, ledges and pedestal also of stucco over brick and sash type windows. Its front entrance consists of a wooden porch leading to double doors with four lights on the upper part and two molded panels at the bottom. On the side facing the original site of the Cisco Railway Station is the entrance to the original cafe. This door is surmounted by a four-light transom. It has four lights on the upper part and a molded paneled moveable apron. This same type of door is also found in the rear of the hotel.
The entrance lobby leads directly to the cafe, the kitchen area, the restrooms and the coats and baggage stage room, which are in the east wing of the building. A stairway leading to the upper floor and a narrow multi-level corridor leading to the downstairs rooms are to the left of the lobby. Another stairway is situated in the west wing of the building. Some of the original solid oak doors to the guest rooms (with numbers on them) have been found on the premises. These doors consist of five molded panels on a solid frame and a top-hung transom light with clear glass. The ceiling in the lobby and restaurant area is of pressformed metal which is in a deteriorated state. The ceilings throughout the rest of the building are of plaster over wood laths. The perimeter of the building is brick cavity wall plastered inside. All interior walls are of wood frame construction with plaster finish on wood laths. The floors are of pine on bridging joists with herring-bone strutting. Because of previous remodeling by past owners who used unskilled workers, much of the wooden structure of the building is in a state of decay.
The interior timber structure will be replaced with a fire resistant structure of light metal and pre-stressed concrete. The few rooms which still remind us of the original hotel will be reconstructed, as will the lobby and stairway. The remainder of the space will be reorganized into display areas, theater, meeting room and archives. The area at the rear of the building which was used for outside storage and deliveries, will be roofed over and glassed-in to be used as a meeting room for civic groups in Cisco. Dr. Rinaldo A. Petrini di Monforte, a restoration architect from Italy will direct the rehabilitation of the building.
A modern metal shed standing on the grounds of the property is a nonconforming intrusion which detracts from the integrity of the site. Few of the original trees planted by Mr. Lee Lieske, gardener of the hotel from 1916 to 1925 still flourish. French mulberry's and two 100 year old mesquite trees still stand. In the garden are the remains of a gold fish pond and fountain which used to be called a gazebo. The streets surrounding the property on the north, west and south sides are of red brick paving. All other buildings in the immediate vicinity contribute to the period and atmosphere of the Mobley Hotel.
A.J. Olsen Construction built the Mobley Hotel in 1916 for Henry Mobley. Conrad Hilton purchased the hotel in 1919, during the time it catered to the participants of the Ranger oil field boom in west central Texas. The building is significant for being the first Hilton Hotel. It was the birthplace of not only one of the world's leading hotel chains, but also of the modern hospitality industry itself.
Henry Mobley of Cisco built his hotel on property purchased from A.J. Olsen, who had purchased it from the Texas Central Railroad Company in 1914. The Mobley Hotel opened its doors in 1916. Most of its guests came from the railway station across the road. The major feature of the hotel was its cafe which catered to railway passengers who had short stopovers in Cisco. When the oil boom began in the Ranger field, Cisco attracted a large population of oil field workers, itinerant salesmen, businessmen, gamblers, and other professionals who usually flocked when sudden riches amassed. Mobley, taking advantage of this sudden demand for beds, transformed his 40 room hotel into a 120 room establishment by renting his rooms for eight hour periods that coincided with the shifts in the oil fields.
In 1919 a young banker from New Mexico, Conrad Nicholson Hilton, arrived in Cisco in order to purchase a bank for $75,000. When the deal fell through, the 32-year- old Hilton went to the Mobley Hotel to get a room for the night. He discovered that the hotel was renting its rooms three times over. After inspecting the books, Hilton offered to buy the hotel for $40,000 cash. Mobley accepted, for despite his hotel's success, he too was taken with oil fever and wanted to try his luck in the oil fields.
Hilton's first partner and hotel manager was L.M. Drown, a banker from San Diego. According to Hilton, the Mobley Hotel was the "ideal hotel to practice on." He regarded it as his "first love; a great lady." "She taught us the way to promotion and pay, plus a lot about running hotels." Two principles which are basic to all Hilton hotels were first tried in the Mobley: maximum reduction of wasted space and "esprit de corps"among the employees. He was the first to put a novelty shop in the lobby thus initiating the boutiques trend in hotels as an added service for guests and as a new source of revenue and space usage. Hilton realized the need for hotels that catered to middle and upper middle class patrons by providing maximum services and comforts with a minimum of cost. Hilton even coined and copyrighted a word to express his philosophy - minimax - which meant minimum cost and maximum comfort.
Hilton conceived of a systematic approach to hotel planning based on the economic use of space (columns in the hotel lobbies became showcases for high fashion designers, jewelers, craftsmen), sophisticated planning, innovative management, and a deep understanding that an atmosphere of comfort, luxury, and taste could be provided at an economical cost. These ideas became a basic blueprint that revolutionized the planning and architecture of hotels the world over from the siting of the entrance, front desk, and restaurant, to all parts of the hotel that catered unobtrusively to the comfort of the guests. He polished these concepts at the Mobley and then expressed them with total success when he personally designed the first Hilton Hotel in Dallas in 1924.
Hilton sold the Mobley Hotel in 1929. During the Depression it fell into disrepair. In 1956 after several changes in owners it was purchased by Mrs. Prissy Springer, who transformed it into a senior citizens home. Some rooms were turned into apartments, mechanical heating and cooling were added, corridors were ramped, and some of the larger rooms were subdivided so that the original 40 rooms became 46 rooms. In May 1970 Harold Martindale, a gold prospector from Alaska, bought the Mobley for $5,000 to turn it into apartments. That same year, the Cisco Historical Society gave the hotel an historical marker. Martindale sold the building on December 15, 1977 to G.H. Glanville who, acting on behalf of Eric Hilton, transferred the deed that same day to the University of Houston Foundation. In February 1979 the University of Houston Foundation, the Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management, and the Hilton family designated the Mobley Hotel in Cisco, Texas a memorial museum to house a collection of memorabilia that belonged to the late Conrad Hilton, who died on January 3, 1979 at age 91.
Hilton's genius in hotel administration and design, together with his philosophy of honesty and hospitality became the seed of modern hotel and restaurant management practices in the world today. Today there are 250 Hilton Hotels, employing 25,000 people in the United States and 23,500 in the rest of the world. In 1977 the gross revenue of the Hilton Corporation was $376 million; net profit after taxes was $40 million. C.N. Hilton is regarded as the father of the hospitality industry today. He had deservedly earned the title by which he was known the world over; "the world's finest innkeeper."
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