Downtowns across the United States house the bare bones of mid-rise and high-rise buildings, in various states of disrepair, that hark back to bygone eras when much of life revolved around the banks, shops and hotels that were once part of vibrant urban life.
As commerce and people moved outward in favor of more suburban lifestyles, these mammoth structures, and the architectural treasures held within, were left to wither and fall forgotten — hollow shells of old marble and memories. They cast shadows in abandoned downtowns as living monuments to tales of prosperity, bankruptcy, foreclosures, visionaries and in some instances, the paranormal.
While few of these buildings will ever know a second act, a Hub City landmark with a storied past bucks this trend and still stands today, as vibrant as ever. Between Main and Broadway Streets, on Avenue K, in Lubbock, Texas is an 11-story building marking almost a century of Lubbock history and the ebb and flow the West Texas economy. Constructed during the roaring twenties by architectural firm Sanguinet-Statts & Hedrick to provide housing during a boom time, the Lubbock Hotel existed as the premier hotel in the area. It opened its doors in in 1926 and for more than 30 years an elegant ballroom played host to every major social and civic event of the day.
It was the tallest building in the city until she was bested by The Metro Tower in 1955.
In 1961 ownership changed hands and the hotel adopted the moniker, “The Pioneer Hotel.” Another remodel ensued that brought with it an Italian marble-floored lobby, three restaurants and an even more palatial ballroom.
But the Pioneer, like much of downtown Lubbock, fell prey to mass migration to the southwest area of the city. The beautiful building began to fall into disrepair and in 1975 the building was sold again and converted into a retirement center for those on fixed and low incomes. The decline continued until 1994 when the building closed for good. Adding to Pioneer lore, many even claimed the building was haunted and it landed on a list of historical haunts.
In 2005 McDougal Cos. Ltd. bought the Pioneer with plans to renovate and return the Pioneer to previous glory. The multimillion-dollar plan would turn the historic building into luxury condos, and set off a chain reaction of downtown revitalization. Following the real estate crisis of 2008 and a series of setbacks, including the need for more than 500 custom-made windows, it would be nearly seven years before the Pioneer would finally begin leasing in 2012.
In an interview in the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal in 2012, city representatives expressed excitement that the project was near completion.
“Consultants at the Imagine Lubbock Together Charette identified a critical need to do what the McDougals are doing with the Pioneer Hotel,” said Eddie McBride, Lubbock Chamber of Commerce executive director and CEO. “The Pioneer can be used as a great attraction for restaurants, retail and all of the other elements necessary to support downtown living.”
Today, the mid-rise is fully restored and its renaissance revival architecture preserved. The reimagined Pioneer Condos boasts energy efficient glass, restored ornamental artwork and the original staircase that leads from the lobby to the great ballroom is as lovely as it was in 1926. Residents enjoy breathtaking views of the downtown Lubbock skyline from 1, 2 and 3-bedroom condos.
And, once again, the building hosts premier social functions for a contemporary crowd in the ground floor restaurant, The West Table Kitchen and Bar, a hot spot for upscale dining.
These days, the West Texas spirit is the only paranormal activity thriving at 1204 Broadway Avenue and a piece of history lives on.