Abandoned hotel in Texas

Schneider Hotel - Pampa Hotel, Pampa Texas
Date added: August 22, 2022 Categories: Texas Hotel
East Facade (1985)

The Schneider Hotel is one of several buildings in downtown Pampa which mark the city's first era of growth and prosperity. Built during the Panhandle oil boom of the late 1920s, the large hotel anchors the south end of "Million Dollar Row." This series of structures, built between 1927 and 1930, includes the Schneider Hotel, the Pampa Fire Department, the Pampa City Hall, the Combs-Worley Building, and the Gray County Courthouse. This assemblage of structures dominates downtown Pampa and symbolizes its leap forward from a sleepy farm town to a bustling oil and gas center, county seat, and twentieth-century boom town. As one of the largest private ventures undertaken in Pampa in the 1920s, and as the social center of the city, the Schneider Hotel was an instant landmark, a position it still enjoys today.

Pampa was established in 1888 as a stop on the Southern Kansas Railway, a Santa Fe Subsidiary line which extends from the Santa Fe mainline in Kansas southwest to Amarillo. Over the next three-and-one-half decades, Pampa grew to be a ranching and farming community with a small sphere of influence in Gray County.

In 1912, Alex Schneider, Sr., arrived in Pampa, purchased the rambling two-story, frame Holland Hotel, and promptly renamed it the Schneider. This family-owned business prospered on a modest scale into the 1920s.

Pampa's fortunes changed in the mid-1920s, and Schneider's would change along with that of the first city. In early 1925 a substantial oil discovery approximately five miles south of Pampa lead to the slow, steady development of the Lefors oil field. However, in late 1925 the Dixon Creek field opened 25 miles west of Pampa in Hutchinson County. This field developed rapidly because one of the early discovery wells, the No. 1 Smith, blew in at 10,000 barrels per day. By the spring of 1926 the Dixon Creek field, commonly called the Borger field after the upstart boom camp of Borger, dominated oil-industry headlines; the phenomenal success of Borger drew investors and drillers away from the slightly older discoveries near Pampa. However, the oil boom around Borger degenerated into one of the most tumultuous and chaotic episodes in modern Texas history. The town soon had numerous brothels, gambling halls, etc. and was not made stable until the early 1930s.

While Borger boomed chaotically, Pampa began a relatively steady growth as an oil-producing center. Various discovery wells in the Red River breaks southeast of Pampa came in between 1926 and 1928. The oil boom in Gray County gathered momentum during 1927 and 1928, then mushroomed in 1929. Between April and June of that year, the county's already substantial production more than doubled, continuing to rise throughout the years of the Great Depression. This phenomenal oil boom profoundly affected Pampa. The W.P.A. Guide to the Lone Star State (1940) describes Pampa in its heyday with these words:

A veritable forest of oil derricks surrounds Pampa....oil development has converted Pampa into a modern industrial town, where shops are smart and public buildings new. Raw petroleum defiles wheat fields, carbon black plants hang a pall of smoke over the scene, and farmers and ranchmen who come here for supplies often seem a little bewildered at the quick tempo of commercial activity (p. 495).

Before Gray County entered a boom period, Alex Schneider decided to take the plunge and build a major hotel in Pampa. Gambling that Gray County would become a major oil producer, and that Pampa would prosper as an agricultural and petroleum-based trade center, Schneider initiated construction of a new, large hotel in 1926. The hotel was owned by a corporation that Schneider formed to finance the venture. M.C. Parker, an architect who resided briefly in Amarillo, designed the structure while Charles H. Sharp served as contractor.

The building was located on a half-block of prime railroad frontage just east of Schneider's original frame hotel. The new, modern hotel was an ambitious structure for a town of 1,300 residents. However, Schneider's faith in Pampa was well founded. Pampa grew from a 1920 population of 987 to 10,470 by 1930, avoiding the chaos of Borger's development.

The Schneider's hotel was a part of the growing Pampa economy. The new facility opened for business in 1927 and was an immediate success with both Pampa residents and travelers. Its more than 100 rooms made it a major Panhandle hostelry, rivaling anything in the region outside Amarillo. Perhaps the only comparable structure still standing in the area is the Old Hilton Hotel in Hale County.

Schneider realized that a substantial hotel was an important economic institution in an oil-based economy. Oil company executives needed suitable quarters, and land men, speculators, surveyors, drillers and derrick builders would need not only a place to sleep and eat, but a gathering place. The oil-field techniques of the time did not rely on attorneys and formal business arrangement. A handshake, usually over an illegal round of drinks, was more than enough to get a well drilled or a derrick built. In Pampa, the Schneider Hotel was more than a hotel; it was an economic nerve center for the Gray County oil industry. Contacts were made, deals struck, companies formed and fortunes made or lost as a result of negotiations carried out in the confines of the Schneider.

Among the hotel guests outside the oil industry were Guy Lombardo, Tex Ritter, and Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys. The hotel was a social center of Pampa, hosting parties, dances, civic organizations and other gatherings. Local philanthropist and civic leader M.K. Brown maintained a suite at the hotel for several years. The hotel dining room was renowned both locally and regionally for outstanding meals.

A decline in the oil industry and railroad travel after World War II, coupled with changing demographics, contributed to a slow decline in the hotel's trade. A succession of owners and a name change to the Pampa Hotel could not alter this downward trend. By the early 1980s the once-proud structure stood vacant, a target for vandals and the elements. Yet the building's past history and physical presence have kept it in the public mind. It remains a well-known local landmark in Pampa, and stands as a symbol of Pampa's dramatic rise to prosperity during the oil boom era of the 1920s and 1930s.