by Jim Foreman
Amarillo was growing by leaps and bounds, far surpassing anything that Joe or his father had ever imagined. The population now stood at nearly four thousand people and more were coming every day. The new federal building and post office had just opened and a new court house was being built on the land which Joe had set aside and sold to the county for one dollar.
There had been a pitched battle over where to build the court house. Originally, Warren Brewster, who was then the county commissioner from the western area after having beaten John Polk for the position, was able to get the commissioner from the north to vote with him to keep it in San Jacinto. Their decision was finally overturned by a vote of the people which not only authorized the county to build its own court house instead of continuing to lease one from Brewster, but to build it in on the block of land in downtown Amarillo.
At least sixty percent of the available space on Polk Street between Third and Tenth had buildings already standing or else under construction. The Santa Fe Building now stood ten stories high, eleven if you counted the top floor where the heating equipment and elevator equipment were housed. It was claimed that one could see the Santa Fe Building from as far as twenty miles away.
Joe stood at the corner of Third and Polk, surveying his new Amarillo Building, which was almost ready for tenants to occupy. It was a modern, fireproof brick office building which would be the prestigious address for the top lawyers, doctors and other professionals of Amarillo. It was only four stories high, but was designed to allow up to six an additional floors to be added when they were needed. Sixty percent of the space, enough to bring the income past the break-even point, had been leased before the first drop of cement was poured. It and the Santa Fe Building at the other end of Polk Street would act as bookends, holding the rest of the business part of town in a tight group.
Roger Bates walked up, "Joe, I have some good news. Those three lots over there," he said, pointing across Polk Street from the Amarillo Building, "Have just been sold. The same company also bought two lots facing Polk Street, just across Tenth Street, south of the Santa Fe Building."
"Who bought them?" asked Joe.
"They were bought by a company called the Llano Estacado Land and Cattle Company," replied Roger. "Their address is in care of Arnold Dobbins, the lawyer."
"Do you know what they plan to build on them?" asked Joe.
"Haven't the slightest idea," replied Roger. "I asked Lawyer Dobbins when we were making the deal on the land, but he was awfully closed-mouth about it. He said that they hadn't decided what they were going to use it for, but I suspect that he knows a lot more than he is telling."
"I'd like to know more about this company," said Joe. "I never heard of such an outfit, but they must be pretty big to afford two prime pieces of land like those, especially this one here at Third and Polk. How much money did they put down on the note?"
"There is no note on the land," replied Roger. "The lawyer signed a draft to cover every cent of the money for buying both properties. I took it right to the bank and Mr. Farris personally approved the payment. The money is already in your account."
"I wonder if Farris knows, or would tell us anything about them," suggested Joe.
"I casually asked Mr. Farris who was behind the deal when he approved the draft. All that he would say was that the company had a letter of credit from a bank in Fort Worth which was far more than ample to cover the draft. I got the feeling that either he didn't know any more about the buyers than we do, or else didn't want to discuss it, so I didn't press the issue."
"I wonder why all the great secrecy," said Joe. "Most companies want the world to know all about it when they make a deal like that."
Construction began almost immediately on the land across the street from the Amarillo Building. A basement was dug and the foundation poured. It covered every inch of the property, extending from sidewalk to the alley and property line to property line. As the building rose above the third floor, it became obvious from the number and placement of the windows that the structure was destined to be a hotel. Higher and higher the building rose until it stood more than twice as high as the Amarillo Building. It was a most impressive place, the same height as the Santa Fe building and built of almost identical brick and design.
The massive bronze front doors opened into a huge lobby with the registration desk across the back. Behind the desk were twin elevators with heavy bronze doors. To either side of the lobby, doors opened into spacious ground floor offices.
The tile setters came in and began to finish the floor of the lobby, laying one small square of tile at a time and carefully tapping it into perfect alignment. Directly between the front doors and the registration desk, they formed the great seal of the State of Texas in the tile floor. Between the seal and the registration desk was set the head of a longhorn bull, with horns stretched a full thirty feet from tip to tip. Around the border of the lobby floor, were placed the brands of all the larger ranches in the Panhandle.
When the floors had been ground and polished to a high luster, the lobby furniture was brought in. There were a few overstuffed chairs with genuine leather covers, but for the most part, the chairs were fashioned from steer horns and covered with rawhide with the hair still in place. A mounted longhorn steer head was hung above the registration desk.
"You can almost smell the cow shit in here already," Joe told Roger as they walked through the hotel a few days before it was scheduled to open. But the thing which interested them the most was who would be occupying the offices around the lobby. To the right as one entered the doors, was a branch office of the Chicago Cattle Exchange and next to it were the offices of The Morris, Smith, Fennel and Ford Stock Exchange. Joe had tried in vain to get that firm to lease space in the Amarillo Building, but had failed. There was also a jewelry store and two law offices opening there.
The day arrived for the grand opening of the new Amarillo Hotel and all the city dignitaries, with the exception of Joe, were present in the reviewing stand. For some reason which he did not immediately understand, Joe had not been included in the list of people invited to sit in the stand. After all, he was the Mayor, and had served continuously since the day that Amarillo was founded.
A wide, red ribbon hung across the bronze doors of the hotel and a band played in the street. The city's new fire engine was parked across the street, just in case anyone would like to inspect it. The crowd began to gather and by the scheduled time for the big ceremony, more than five hundred people stood on the sidewalks and in the street. Joe, Ed Masterson and Roger Bates watched from their vantage point in a second story window of the Amarillo Building.
Arnold Dobbins stepped to the front of the platform and began speaking, "Ladies and gentlemen, it gives me great pleasure to be associated with the dedication of this great building. This fine hotel was built by a man of great vision and faith in the future of our city; a man who places service to the people above his own interests; a man who is willing to risk his fortunes and future on a monument to the cattle industry, which is the backbone of the Panhandle. It gives me great pleasure to introduce to you, the man who made this building possible, Mister Lloyd Brewster."
"Well, Ed, now I understand why you and I weren't invited to be a part of the dedication of the new hotel. We also know who is behind the Llano Estacado Land and Cattle Company," said Joe.
Lloyd stepped to the podium amid thunderous applause. "Thank you ladies and gentlemen. While I am merely a simple cowboy and not a public figure with vast experience as a speaker, I will do my best to tell you why I wanted to build such a great hotel as this. First, I feel that the honest and hard working ranchers who built the Panhandle by the sweat of their brows and muscles in their backs deserve a suitable place to stay when they come to our fair city. They deserve something better than being forced to spend the night with drunks and prostitutes in Joe Armitage's whorehouse down at deuce and Johnson. Second, I wanted to show the people of Amarillo that I am willing to risk much of the money which I have been fortunate enough to accumulate from honest work as a rancher, by investing it back into this city rather than sending it off to grow moldy in some obscure bank down in Dallas. Finally, I want to take this opportunity to announce my candidacy for election to the office of Senator of this great State of Texas, a position from which I feel that I can better serve my friends than by hiding away in some insignificant city or county office."
Amid thunderous applause, Lloyd stepped to the bronze doors where he was handed a red-hot branding iron. He touched the iron to the ribbon and it fell away in a puff of smoke.
At that instant, a pistol shot rang out and the bullet slammed into the bronze door, where it dropped harmlessly to the steps after leaving a small dent. There was quite a bit of yelling in the crowd as someone was being wrestled to the ground.
"Shouldn't you be down there, Ed," said Joe.
"I see a couple of my deputies in the crowd, as well as several city policemen. I'm sure they can handle it without me," he replied.
"Can you see who took the shot at Old Man Brewster?" asked Roger.
"Looks poor old drunken John Polk," replied Ed.
"Why is he mad at Brewster," Joe asked. "I thought that I was the only one who he wanted to kill."
"He claims that Lloyd helped Warren cheat him out of the election to the county commission," replied Ed. "It's probably true, but who cares. Also, do you realize that the hotel over there is sitting on the corner of the twenty acres that Polk sold you?"
They watched while John Polk was handcuffed and hauled away toward the jail, screaming that he would kill both Brewsters if it was the last thing that he ever did.
"It seems that Polk has never been able to do anything right," said Roger. "He can't even hit a man from ten feet away."
"He might have done better if he had used the shotgun that he came after me with," replied Joe.
As they walked away from the window, Masterson asked Joe, "Are you going to let that bastard get away with direct insults and attacks on your character?"
"Not if I can help it," replied Joe. "One thing that I can say for Mr. Brewster is that he has improved his public speaking ability considerably since the time when he ran for County Judge."
"Why don't you run against him for that seat in the Senate?" asked Masterson. "You can easily whip his ass in any election."
I have far too many business interests going here to spend the time that such an office would require," replied Joe. "Besides, my father is the senior senator and Texas doesn't need two of us."
Two weeks later, Joe was meeting with architects to discuss the building of another hotel in Amarillo. "I want it to be at least twelve stories high, cover an entire city block and be the most impressive building anywhere west of Dallas," said Joe. "It must be more than just a place for people to spend the night. It must be able to handle conventions and large business meetings. I want a huge ballroom, several meeting rooms and a lobby that will make the one in the Amarillo Hotel look like the inside of an outhouse."
The Amarillo Hotel had been open for less than a month when Warren Brewster began construction on the other piece of property he had bought just south of Tenth Street. The half-basement foundation indicated that the building was going to be a fairly large one in comparison to anything else that far south in town.
Joe sent Roger out to see if he could find out what was being built there. It wasn't that Joe wanted to do anything about it, but it was simply out of curiosity. Roger bought a few drinks for the foreman on the job and returned with the cover sheet from a set of the blueprints. "The foreman said that the owner selected the design for the exterior but he did the interior." he reported.
The drawing showed a building with two stories above the half basement and looked as if it was destined to become some sort of business or office building, perhaps a funeral home. It was an odd combination of at least half a dozen different styles of design. Across the front of the building was a high porch with an arched roof supported by four tall columns. The window shapes suggested Greek influence but the roof resembled something right out of ancient England with battlements all around and towers at each corner.
"You've studied architecture, what style would you call this design?" asked Roger.
"I'd say that the best description that I could come up with would be early courthouse," replied Joe. "You can see bits and pieces of just about every old building style known to man."
"I'd call it basis ugly, myself," said Roger. "But here's the big surprise, Warren Brewster isn't building it for any sort of a business, it's going to be a home for him and Maggie."
The mere mention of Maggie's name brought a quick rush of pain to Joe's heart. "You've got to be kidding. Maggie studied art in France for two years and would never stand still for such an awful design for her home."
"From what I've seen, Maggie doesn't have much to say about what Warren does. Given a choice of living in that drafty shack next to the cattle pens in San Jacinto or in a big house, no matter how ugly, I'm sure that it was easy for her to accept this," Roger said.
Are you ready for another surprise about Warren Brewster?" Joe asked.
"What's that? Did he decide to do something honest for a change?" asked Roger.
"I don't know whether it is honest or not, but Warren Brewster just filed papers to run for State Representative from the Panhandle district."
"Do you mean it's entirely possible that we could have one Brewster in the senate and another in the house? I'd hate to think what would happen to the Panhandle if it was represented in both state houses by nothing but Brewsters."
"I've been giving that possibility a considerable amount of thought," Joe said. "In fact, I'm going to throw my support behind both of them."
"I never thought that I'd see the day when you would want to promote a Brewster for anything, with the possible exception of a hanging."
"You might say that if they are both elected, it will be a hanging of sorts. The way that I figure it, sending both of them down to Austin and leaving a thief like Knox to run their business will cause them far more damage than anything I could ever do."
Three months later, ground was broken for the Armitage Hotel. Not only would the main structure of the building be twelve stories high, but it would also have a penthouse on the roof, complete with swimming pool and tennis court. Joe planned to use the penthouse as his residence as well as the Presidential Suite should one ever come to Amarillo.
The penthouse would have a huge central room for entertaining. Three sets of large glass doors along one wall opened out onto the terrace and swimming pool. There was a library for privacy when Joe needed it and a small but fully electric kitchen opposite the main room. If Joe was entertaining a group of people, he could always order food up from the hotel kitchen. The master bedroom was more like a small apartment with its own sitting area and a combination bath and dressing room. In one corner of the bathroom was a huge sunken tub fitted with special jets that could be turned on to provide a combination of water and air to provide a whirlpool effect. Next to it was a walk-in shower with four spray heads which could be controlled individually for both temperature and pressure. There was a ten foot dressing table with two carved marble lavatories into which water flowed from the beaks of a pair of golden swans. The toilet was in a separate room next to the huge closet.
Each of the two smaller bedrooms had its own bathroom, and while they weren't as lavish as the larger one, they did have gold plated fixtures and sunken tubs. Only one of the four hotel elevators would serve the penthouse, and to get there, one must insert a special key to get the elevator to go past the twelfth floor.
Even though most of Joe's time was devoted to supervising the construction of the hotel, he did take time off now and then to make speeches supporting both Lloyd and Warren Brewster in their election bids. When the elections were held, they both won easily.
"I hope you have done the right thing by getting the Brewsters elected," said Roger. "Neither of them is above taking a bribe now and then and there is no telling how they will vote when it comes to bills which will effect the Panhandle."
"There's no reason to be concerned. With my father running the senate, there is little that Lloyd Brewster can do to hurt us. Warren is a junior representative and not on any committees which will effect us. Besides, if they become a problem, we can render them politically impotent."
"How would you do that?" asked Roger.
"Scandal." Replied Joe. "There is nothing that will take a politician down faster than good old scandal and I know just how to go about laying some on them."