The historic Hotel Settles is the namesake of Mr. W. R. Settles and his wife, Lillian. With an original cost of $550,000, it was built with oil money after the Settles family discovered the natural resource on their property. Originally opened on October 1, 1930, the building was constructed as a solid concrete, 15-story, 150-room hotel with a restaurant and a pharmacy. At the time, it was the tallest building between El Paso and Ft. Worth.
The Settles family owned the hotel for two years after its initial opening. However, once the Great Depression gripped the nation, they saw their royalties from oil revenue diminish. The hotel was sold several times throughout the ensuing years until it finally closed its doors in the early 1980s.
The Historic Hotel Settles served as a central hub for gatherings in the area, both social and business. The Grand Ballroom was a favorite meeting place for all members of West Texas society and culture, hosting a variety of weddings, galas and dances. The Cosden and T & P Meeting Rooms played host to various social clubs and businesses in the area. For those more intimate business gatherings, the Birdwell Conference Room serviced the local community.
Citizens of the area utilized The Settles Pharmacy as a community water cooler both literally and figuratively. It was attractive to the community as a place to get a glass of free ice water or possibly to purchase a drink from the soda fountain. Patrons would sit and visit about the weather, crops, politics or the topic of the day. It was a place to heal the body with medications or just soothe the soul with a cool drink and some casual conversation. Currently re-opening as Pharmacy Bar & Parlor, it no longer offers its services as an apothecary, but still offers engaging conversations and refreshing beverages.
The Settles Grill restaurant served the patrons of the hotel, as well as the guests in The Grand Ballroom, The Cosden Room and The T & P Room. Famous guests such as Elvis Presley, Lawrence Welk, and President Herbert Hoover dined at The Settles Grill, as well as Jerry Allison, Big Spring native and drummer for Buddy Holly and The Crickets.
As the energy crisis of the 1970s came to an end, West Texas suffered from a very large oil bust. As prices dropped, work in the area began to diminish. The effect on the local economy was staggering as business after business shut down throughout the 1980s. The historic Hotel Settles was unable to sustain operations as well as repairs to a building that was now more than 50 years old and, sadly, closed its doors in 1982.
Throughout the next 30 years, the property fell into further decline. Much of the original interior stone, wood, and metal was removed by the various owners and was inhabited by pigeons. Fortunately, the hotel garnered much in the way of admiration and attention from the local community, and in the 1990s, a program was funded to purchase and replace most of the broken windows in the building. With each window costing more than $130, it was an astounding show of support for the hotel.
The current design of the hotel was done with the rich history of the area in mind. The Grand Ballroom was the original name of the hotel’s most elegant meeting space and its restoration was done with meticulous detail given to this historic context. The two meeting rooms and the conference room have been named in memoriam to regional history as well. The T & P Meeting Room harkens back to the Texas & Pacific Railroad, which was critical to the growth of the community in its formative years. It offers a service kitchen to more readily accommodate fine dining needs during guest events. The Cosden Meeting Room recalls the importance of our local oil industry. And our Birdwell Conference Room honors John Birdwell, early Big Spring settler, community leader and Texas Ranger.
Mr. Birdwell has also been noted in our hotel as being the man who nicknamed historical resident Joseph Heneage Finch, the 7th Earl of Aylesford in Great Britain. After a rather scathing scandal in the royal court, the Earl decided to retire to the ends of the earth to drown his sorrows until his final days. Big Spring, in his mind, qualified as just the right place for that endeavor. So he arrived on the T & P and strolled into the local hotel owned by Mr. John Birdwell. As he proclaimed his royalty, and described the greatness of his royal friends, Mr. Birdwell interjected with, “You know, that just ain’t gonna fly around here. We’ll just call you ‘The Judge’.”
“The Judge” became quick friends with the locals, with whom he spent many hours playing cards and drinking libations. Noted poet, journalist and literary critic, James Fenton, writing about Finch’s significance to history as an example of the remittance men of the Old West, wrote, “On the United States frontier, where men were expected to be rugged individualists, these outcasts were generally not admired. Finch was an exception.”
Hotel Settles has paid homage to its historic royal resident with the Judge’s Chambers. Located directly beneath Pharmacy Bar & Parlor on the lower level, the Judge’s Chambers offers a warm and luxurious environment in which to play cards, shuffleboard or just catch a game on the big screen television.
In 2012, the historic Hotel Settles reopened. Having undergone a $30 million renovation by owner G. Brint Ryan, it is once again poised to be the crown jewel of West Texas. Boasting a full-service restaurant, bar and banquet service, as well as a salon and spa, Hotel Settles is the ideal destination location for any gathering, whether business or social.
To view a photo album of historic photos, please visit the Hotel Settles facebook page.