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Post Trammell Crow, Developer and Hotelier
Created by John Eipper on 12/21/14 4:40 PM

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Trammell Crow, Developer and Hotelier (Randy Black, USA, 12/21/14 4:40 pm)

Ric Mauricio's post on 19 December, while a fascinating overview of the global hotel and resort business as it might relate to Cuba's tourism business, seems to miss a tiny bit when he refers to Wyndham Hotels and Resorts.

Ric wrote, "If I were Wyndham (WYN), founded by Trammell Crow in Dallas, couldn't I just add a few more hotels to my hundreds of hotels around the world?"

While Trammell Crow founded the hotel company, his name has not been connected with the hotel and resort operations for years. As a result of various changes in corporate directions and economics, by 1999, the hotel operation was bankrupt and sold off to two investment groups unrelated to the Crows.

On that sad note, it gives me a chance to mention my admiration and distant connection with the great Trammell Crow, who I knew socially and professionally for more than four decades.

Mr. Crow, born in 1914 in Tyler, Texas, was a self-made man. He was the 5th of 8 children raised in a rented 1-bedroom home in a poor East Dallas neighborhood. Mr. Crow worked his way through high school in Dallas and joined the Navy at the outbreak of WWII. Here's where it gets interesting to me. The following abbreviated story is what I've pieced together from discussions from the four key players who developed much of Dallas between 1945 and about 1990.

When Mr. Crow returned from the war to Dallas in 1945, he teamed up with another land developer, John Stemmons, and another Navy veteran that he met along the way. These three men from humble backgrounds, began to develop Dallas.

Mr. Crow and Mr. Stemmons were the men who developed the vacant miles of land near downtown Dallas and began to put in the warehouses and office complexes along a developing freeway, later I-35, that ran from Houston, through Dallas and eventually to Minneapolis.

J.M. Johnson, who learned to twist wires in the Navy (his words), installed the electrical, heating and A/C systems in what became the Trinity River Industrial District and the Brookhollow Industrial District. Mr. Johnson told me, "Trammell got the concrete poured and put up the walls for the warehouses, and I wired 90 percent of them from Downtown Dallas out to LBJ (I-635). When we ran out of land along Stemmons Freeway (I-35), we turned east for another ten miles."

Mr. Johnson remains a good and close friend. Ben Carpenter, also a land developer from a ranching family in nearby Irving, Texas, made it a foursome.

Between the four, according to Mr. Johnson, they developed the land, financed the operations, built the buildings and leased or sold probably 90 percent of the business developments branching out from the west side of downtown Dallas to the suburbs and then east along the Interstate loop 635 that surrounds Dallas.

I tell you that so I can tell you this: About 1980, when I was attempting to develop my commercial photography business, on a hot August day, I was posing a bridal portrait along Turtle Creek Park in the inner city suburb Highland Park. I knew that Mr. Crow lived close by, having been in his home on several occasions during high school. Along the sidewalk he came with is standard size poodle. He stopped, his bald head pouring off sweat, and complimented the bride-to-be and issued a polite greeting to me by name and passed along his regards to my parents.

He disappeared across the street and into his home. Shortly, he returned with a tray, a silver bucket of ice, two glasses and a couple of bottles of Coke. "Just leave the tray on the bench under the tree over yonder when you leave, I'll get it directly."

A few years later, when I was photographing Mr. Crow's 6-year-old grandson, the son of Trammell S. Crow (one of Mr. Crow's six children), I related the story to Trammell S.

The younger Crow said, "I get those stories a lot from folks who've known my father. It is a pleasure and never gets old hearing them. Thanks."

In 1986, according to Wikipedia, "The Wall Street Journal... called Crow the largest landlord in the United States. The Journal said the company he founded was then the largest developer in the nation. Crow once had interests in nearly 300,000,000 square feet (28,000,000 m2) of developed real estate, comprising eight thousand properties in more than one hundred cities. Crow's holdings were said to be much larger than those of the better-known William Zeckendorf and Donald Trump and include hotels, hospitals, residential developments, and--just as in the early days of the company--warehouses."

At Mr. Crow's death from Alzheimer's in 2009, he'd been married (to the same woman) for nearly 67 years. While I photographed Mr. Crow and most of his family at one time or the other, my favorite was when I photographed him introducing Ronald Reagan at the 1984 National Convention in Dallas.

JE comments:  There's a book in Randy Black's many anecdotes of the Dallas greats.  The Trammell Crow story is no exception.  And what's the deal with hoteliers, who tend to have bizarre first names?  In addition to Trammell Crow, there's Willard Marriott of the eponymous chain, and my favorite of all, Kemmons Wilson, whose Holiday Inn chain began the idea of a reliable, uniform, hotel "brand."

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