The Blazilmar Opens with a Splash

Well, I’ve hit the mother lode of information about the opening of the Hotel Blazilmar in Taylor (now that I’ve got the spelling correct)!

There’s quite a bit of coverage of progress on the building in the Taylor Daily Press (yet another Taylor business venture that Howard Bland was involved in– he and three other men founded the paper in 1913).

But first, let’s go back to the March 8, 1917 edition of the “Manufacturers Record.” Here’s what the (very short) text says (as best I can read the blurry scan):

T.W. Marse, Andy Zilker and Howard Bland receive bids until Mch. 14 for alterations and additions to 3-story and basement fireproof hotel; plans and specifications at office R. L. Coyle, Archt., Taylor, and Henry T. Phelps, Archt. 618 Gunther Bldg., San Antonio, Tex.

I’d assumed that this was a notice they placed when they wanted to improve the existing building at the location, which was constructed in 1885 and had housed what was first called the Taylor Hotel (and later the LaGrande Hotel and then the Murphy Hotel*)… and then they decided they’d be better off starting fresh.

But that’s not the case.

First, advertisements I’ve found for the Blazilmar tout that it was fireproof, as do many of the articles I’ve found mentioning the progress on the construction. I doubt that the 1885 building was also fireproof (though I could be wrong there).

Second, last night I discovered that the new Blazilmar building was intended to be constructed as a three-story building (more on this in a bit)!

Third, the April 4, 1917 edition of the Taylor Daily Press reports that Messrs. Bland, Marse, and Zilker met the previous day and had applied for a charter for their company… and that very morning work had begun to remove furnishings from the Murphy building so that demolition could begin. If they’d been entertaining bids for the improvement of the 1885 building, it’s a little surprising that they’d have made the decision to demolish the existing building and would already be moving on that in only a little over two weeks (though not impossible).

And finally… I found an expanded version of that same notice in the February 28 edition of the Taylor Daily Press. That one reads:

Bids will be received at Taylor, Texas, until 2 o’clock p. m. on Wednesday, the 14th day of March, 1917 for the erection and alteration to a three story and basement, fire proof hotel building at Taylor, Texas. The usual rights are reserved. A deposit of $25 will be required for the safe return of the plans. The plans can be seen at the office of R. L. Coyle, architect, Taylor, Texas, and at the office of Henry T. Phelps, 618-624 Gunter Building, San Antonio.

Clearly, they intended to construct a new building as early as February of 1917. So why does the word “alterations” appear in the notice in the Manufacturers Record (instead of “erection”)? I don’t know. Maybe a transcribing error?

So if Bland, Marse, and Zilker originally planned for a three-story building, how’d the fourth story come to be? Well, the August 5 edition of the Austin Statesman answers that question. It seems that when the foundation was laid for the Blazilmar, the owners had already contemplated the eventual addition of a fourth story. Within a few months of the beginning of construction, they decided it made financial sense to go ahead and add the fourth story, which brought the total number of guest rooms from fifty-two to seventy-eight.

At that time, they hoped the hotel (which reportedly cost $150,000– a little over $3 million in 2019 dollars!) would be ready for occupancy by October 1, but that was not to be… as mentioned in a previous post, as of December 22, work was still in progress. I don’t think the hoped-for Christmas Eve ball (reported in that edition of the Daily Press) happened, as I haven’t found any mention of it in the paper.

So when did the Blazilmar finally open? Apparently not formally until February of 1918.

That being said, it certainly opened with a bang! It seems that in addition to his involvement with the Daily Press and the Blazilmar (not to mention his involvement at the First Christian Church), Howard Bland was also president of the Texas Good Roads Association. He used his influence in that position to ensure that Taylor was the location of the Association’s 1918 Good Roads Congress… which was, of course, to be held at the brand-spanking-new Blazilmar on February 6th and 7th.

The February 6 edition of the Austin Statesman reported that over 100 automobiles were scheduled to leave that morning from Austin for Taylor, led by Governor Hobby himself, who was scheduled to speak at the meeting.

* In 2005, the Texas Historical Commission submitted an application for the “Taylor Downtown Historic District” to be added to the National Register of Historic Places. That application has some good information about the Blazilmar, as well as about the history of Taylor in general.

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