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The Hilton hospitality empire started in Texas. Conrad Nicholson Hilton (1887–1979) was born in San Antonio, New Mexico, and worked in his father’s general store, where rooms in the back were rented to railroad travelers. He returned to New Mexico after serving with the U.S. Army in France during World War I and decided to pursue a career in banking. In 1919, he traveled to Cisco, Texas, in pursuit of a bank purchase opportunity. The deal fell through when the seller raised the price, so Hilton checked into the forty-room Mobley Hotel for the night. The oil boom in the area was keeping the hotel busy, with rooms renting in eight-hour shifts, spilling over into the converted dining room. Owner Henry Mobley was eager to try his luck in the oil fields and accepted Hilton’s offer of $40,000 for the three-year-old property.The Mobley proved to be a good place for Hilton to learn the hotel business. Principles developed there were instrumental in the growth and success of his international chain that eventually included over four thousand hotels under eleven brand names. Most important to Hilton’s success was the efficient use of space, maintaining an esprit de corps among employees, and providing maximum service at minimum cost (he coined and copyrighted the word “minimax,” his philosophy of minimum cost and maximum comfort). At the Mobley, he was the first to put a novelty shop in the lobby for guests’ convenience.Hilton built his first hotel in Dallas in 1925, and it was the first hotel named Hilton. Two years later, when invited by its owners to operate the new 260-room Windsor Hotel in Abilene, he changed its name to Hilton. Other early Hilton-named hotels in Texas were in Waco (1928), El Paso (1930), Plainview (1928), Marlin (1929), and San Angelo (1929). Hilton also invested in and managed many hotels that did not carry his name.Hilton chose Dallas as his headquarters. During the Great Depression, Hilton only retained ownership in the El Paso Hilton but regained control of most of his other properties by the end of the 1930s. In 1940, he moved to Los Angeles and expanded his business nationally.In 1969, Hilton funded the creation of the Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management at the University of Houston. As the first hospitality school in Texas, it is a fitting legacy to his Texas beginnings.—GERALD MOORHEAD

Writing Credits

Gerald Moorhead et al.



Gerald Moorhead et al., "HILTON HOTELS IN TEXAS", [, Texas], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—, http://sah-archipedia.org/essays/TX-02-ART292.

Print Source

Buildings of Texas

Buildings of Texas: East, North Central, Panhandle and South Plains, and West, Gerald Moorhead and contributors. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2019, 292-292.

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