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This historic Gulf Coast hotel could be just days from demolition

Luther_Hotel_Palacios_Texas.jpeg
Larry D Moore
/
CC BY-SA 4.0
The Luther Hotel was built in 1903. The hotel was designated a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark in 1965 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places on May 10, 2010.

The city of Palacios sits on the Texas Gulf Coast between Corpus Christi and Galveston. These days, it’s known primarily for shrimping and tourism. And for close to 120 years, the Luther Hotel has been a centerpiece for visitors and locals alike.

“It’s often called the jewel of the bay, and it’s one of the very, very few old vintage hotels left on the whole Texas Coast. It’s absolutely gorgeous,” said Margaret Doughty, a community volunteer with the Palacios Preservation Committee. “It used to have the longest porch in Texas. And we hope that with restoration that long porch will be restored and people can continue to look out over the bay.”

Right now, the preservation committee’s efforts are focused on trying to save the Luther Hotel. Though the hotel listed on the National Register and is a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark, its future looks grim.

“A local Corpus Christi foundation, the Ed Rachal Foundation, has a contract to purchase the hotel on the terms and conditions that it will be demolished,” Doughty said. “The Texas Historic Commission has put a moratorium on it. It expires on Dec. 19. So we are trying to do all we can to save the hotel before that day.”

Doughty and the Palacios Preservation Committee are trying to convince the Ed Rachal Foundation to restore the current hotel instead of demolishing it to build a new one in its place.

“The Ed Rachal Foundation has done just enormous good work in our town, and we’re incredibly grateful to them,” Doughty said. “They’re working on an oyster hatchery on the bay, and that’s one of the reasons why they would like to purchase the Luther, because when they knock it down, they’d like to build an extended stay hotel that’s family friendly. And that’s what the Luther has been all her life.”

Doughty and others fighting for preservation say that with state and federal credits, restoration could make more financial sense than demolishing and rebuilding.

For her, the mission to save the Luther hotel is personal. It’s where she stayed the first time she came to Palacios 25 years ago. But, she says, there’s also financial gain to be had considering the huge interest in heritage tourism.

“Palacios is uniquely situated,” Doughty said. “We have Houston and Austin, San Antonio and Corpus in a sort of half circle all the way around us. We have a population of about 10 million people in terms of potential tourists to Palacios.”

Doughty said the contract with the Ed Rachal Foundation is not complete until the current owners actually demolish the hotel. So, in the meantime, her group is taking whatever action it can to prevent that. She said one solution would be to have the city of Palacios declare the hotel a historic landmark.

Along with the loss of this particular building, Doughty is concerned about the broader effects of the demolition of the Luther Hotel.

“This isn’t the only historic building in Palacios,” Doughty said. “There are 17 other historic buildings, three with National markers, and the rest with State markers. And if we lose the Luther, I don’t know whether we’ll be able to save all the rest of them.”

Doughty says those looking to get involved can sign the change.org petition or get in touch with stakeholders:

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Laura first joined the KUT team in April 2012. She now works for the statewide program Texas Standard as a reporter and producer. Laura came to KUT from the world of television news. She has worn many different hats as an anchor, reporter and producer at TV stations in Austin, Amarillo and Toledo, OH. Laura is a proud graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia, a triathlete and enjoys travel, film and a good beer. She enjoys spending time with her husband and pets.