Diane S.W. Lee
The Wallis Hotel could someday feature 5,000 square feet of exhibit space for historic artifacts from the world's largest museum and research complex: Smithsonian Institution.
Grapevine Convention and Visitors Bureau officials plan to discuss with the Grapevine City Council at a workshop meeting sometime in August the possibility of housing Smithsonian artifacts inside its former office building in the historic downtown district.
Executive director Paul W. McCallum told the board of directors on Thursday that the building should not become another office building, but draw more visitors to the city.
“Its purpose is to bring more people to Grapevine in the historic district,” he said.
The Smithsonian Affiliations Program provides long-term loans of its collections to museums across the country. There are currently nine Smithsonian affiliates in Texas, including the Frontiers of Flight Museum and the Perot Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas. The program requires an application.
An affiliation with the Smithsonian could provide extra exposure to Grapevine and the exhibits could rotate every five years, McCallum said.
“There is no time limitation on the partnership, and that's the good news,” he said.
The CVB's offices occupied the Wallis Hotel on the corner of Main and Texas streets since November 1992 until moving to a new location this year. Last month, the CVB hosted the grand opening of its new two-story headquarters and museum complex on the corner of Main and Hudgins streets. The CVB still holds its monthly board of directors meeting at the Wallis Hotel.
According to an historical marker outside the Wallis Hotel, the building was originally located on the corner of Hudgins and Main streets near the Cotton Belt Railroad Station. Built in 1891, the “Brick Hotel” attracted traveling salesmen arriving at the train station. Local businessman John Wallis, his sister Susan Wallis Terrill and her family operated the hotel until it closed in 1926. The building was torn down in the late 1930s. A replica of the building opened in 1992 at its current location to house offices for the CVB.
The parlor guest room located on the second floor of the building includes original furniture and family photos of the Wallis family, McCallum said. That space would remain unchanged.
McCallum and City Councilwoman Sharron Spencer have talked to Smithsonian officials, but have yet to schedule a meeting with them. They plan to bring the proposal to the council for consideration first.
Board member LuAnn Chapman Gatts supported the idea of adding a museum to the city's historic downtown district, which is home to the Palace Theatre and the Cotton Belt Railroad Depot.
“I think this is the perfect next jewel for our crown,” she said.