Stephanie Johnson
Beauty is Everywhere
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I hope they told their families about the ice under the dance floor...

The evening was December 13, 1946. It was a Friday and the temperatures had cooled enough to require a jacket. Earlier, the day had held a high temperature in the 60’s. Just enough to give an impression of an easy winter. Even in Texas, though, the cold has been known to snap a time or two.

But weather wasn’t the conversation…

Tonight it was going to be all about festivities with friends. A birthday celebration. A celebration that would take place at not just any venue - no. Tonight everyone was going to the famous Century Room in the Adolphus Hotel. 

The hotel itself was a creation made with the backing of Adolphus Busch. The famous beer-maker agreed to participate in the venture and The Adolphus would open in October of 1912.

The Century Room was located on the 19th floor of the hotel. It was a place to be seen in Dallas. Famous acts like The Andrews Sisters and Tony Bennet were said to have played to standing room only crowds within those infamous walls.

This night in 1946, however, the evening’s entertainment would likely be Dot Franey and her “Ice Review”. For up on that 19th floor - in the center of all of that socializing - was  a retractable dance floor with an ice rink. Dot Franey and her Ice Review were all the rage.

The celebrating party - a photo found at Curiosities in Dallas. Click to see detail of people

The celebrating party - a photo found at Curiosities in Dallas. Click to see detail of people

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Nowadays, the French Room is better known as a quiet place where tea is served in fine china. But there was once a wilder time, when the room was filled with big bands, bootlegged whiskey, and an ice rink. It was usually covered by a retractable floor, but on special nights Dot Franey, a retired speedskater and Olympic gold medalist, would glide across the ice with the grace of a dancer. In the early ’40s, she brought her Broadway-on-ice show to Dallas for a month. Franey ended up staying at the Adolphus for 14 years, where she directed, produced, and choreographed her own shows in what was then known as the Century Room. For one production, Franey attempted to re-create Singin’ in the Rain on ice. While skaters in yellow taffeta raincoats swirled around the rink, she had the hotel engineer kick on the sprinklers. The spouts got stuck, and the audience was soon flooded out.
— Brantly Hargrove - D Magazine

It was the evening of the Barr Birthday Party. 37 friends would manage to all plan to meet on this same evening to celebrate. Finding sitters for the kids and coordinating schedules - it was finally a night to let loose. There would be chatter of President Truman. There may be talk of the Frank Sinatra singing Oh! What it Seemed to Be.

Cocktails like the Old Fashioned and the Manhattan would be splashing with every laugh and exuberant toast.

Stories would abound and it would seem as though the room was the loudest place on earth… until the lights went down.

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Once the entertainment came to a close, and the applause transitioned back to chatter, the photographer would be sure to get the keepsakes to where they needed to be. This night, everyone was having a great time and everyone was ready to sign off on it.

The Burr Birthday Party, 1946 - Dallas, Texas
Photograph found in a pile of photographs at Curiosities in Dallas, Texas

Actual photo folder

Actual photo folder

The party

back of photo jacket

back of photo jacket

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*Blog post inspired by Barr party photo found at Curiosities in Dallas, Texas.

Read more about the hotel from D Magazine, HERE and HERE