Barfield Hotel Cements Revival of Amarillo’s 6th Street Historic District

Architectural Photographer Notes

The warm glow of the light illuminating underneath the sidewalk outside the Barfield Hotel project provided the allure to enter. As I began this photographic journey to highlight the Barfield Hotel, I knew this project would be unique. Traveling down the 16 steps with a faded Paramount Recreation Club logo appeared along my left hand side. Starring at an old cigarette machine with many offerings available, I was encouraged by James Flick and Joshua Harrison from Flick Mars to pull the Paramount Cigarette lever. Upon doing so you could hear the sound of a lock turning and then a clicking sound. As I spun around, a hidden door revealed itself. Upon entering the Speakeasy,  a rich and relaxed bar and lounge appeared before me. As I stood there I felt that I had walked through a portal to a distant time and place. I said to myself that this project is truly remarkable!

Barfield Project Overview

The Barfield Hotel, Marriott Autograph Collection hangs its hat at the corner of 600 South Polk Street in Amarillo, Texas directly adjacent to the Amarillo National Bank. Built by “The Duchess”, a respected businesswoman who carried a pearl handled pistol in her garter. She reflected her persona of sophistication and luxury onto the Barfield. It was the “first skyscraper” in Amarillo. Becoming a best-in-class building that defined progress and success. The duchess had a passion for culture. The Barfield stands as the crown jewel of the city, residing in the center of Polk Street’s neon vibrancies. The building in perfectly positioned to explore, located near the Globe-News Center for the Performing Arts and the Amarillo Civic Center Complex. The Barfield focuses on craftsmanship through the layering of sophisticated, tailored details within a historic architectural backdrop. While pushing a fresh aesthetic based on a modern color palette, rich patterns, and bespoke furnishings. These design elements blend effortlessly to create a warm atmosphere that invites locals and travelers alike to sink in for a moment or two. After checking into The Barfield’s intimate reception, guests can relax in a cozy lounge or unwind in the tufted leather sofa that captures the spirit of The Barfield’s famous past. Visitors can perch on a stool at the bar and revel in the view of the bustling broad street while enjoying an impeccably hand-crafted cocktail or a locally brewed craft beer. Toscana Italian Steakhouse intimately seats up to 76 guests in a classic cowboy steakhouse with international flair. The Barfield boasts 112 guestrooms and 2 luxury suites crafted via traditional methods speak of handcrafted quality filtered through a modern lens. As the guest enters under carefully curated rooms with the vintage inspired furnishings, warm sophisticated textures, and rich finishes embrace the visitor to rest in the comforts influenced from a by-gone era. Offering an intimate luxury hideaway with newly curated guestrooms and suites. The hotel’s design reestablishes The Barfield’s address at the place to be. The Barfield invites trendsetters to escape and relax or be part of the scene. 

A Brief History of the 6th Street Historic District in Amarillo

Amarillo’s downtown quarter is home to the U.S. Route 66 Sixth Street Historic District, which falls between Georgia Avenue and Forrest Avenue and stretches for thirteen blocks. The 6th Street Historic District in Amarillo, Texas was developed in the early twentieth century as a streetcar suburb. Streetcar suburbs — which were common in the early twentieth century — were master-planned neighborhoods with blocks connected by electric streetcar lines.
The first roads in the 6th Street Historic District were paved in 1921, just a few years after Amarillo itself was incorporated. 1921 was also the year in which oil was discovered in Amarillo, Texas. According to the National Park Service, the juncture of Route 66 that passes through the 6th Street Historic District was the “first highway constructed to carry travelers out of Amarillo to the south and the west.” 

Prohibition in Downtown Amarillo 

Unfortunately for early twentieth century Amarillans, the 6th Street Historic District was established just as Prohibition was ratified under the Volstead Act of 1919. As one of the earliest states to embrace Prohibition, the ban would last in Texas until the 1930s. Interestingly, an 1845 law banned saloons across Texas decades before the first state-wide organization devoted to dry living — the United Friends of Temperance — was founded. It was United States Senator John Morris Sheppard of Texas who pushed for passage of the Volstead Act and ratification of the 18th Amendment. 

Despite the efforts of Temperance Movement followers like Senator Sheppard and others, Texans rejected the new amendment. By 1925, the majority of Texas’ state government had withdrawn its support of Prohibition and would not enforce the law. Just two years later, Melissa Dora Oliver-Eakle defied the United States Constitution when she established a saloon in the basement of Downtown Amarillo’s very first skyscraper. This skyscraper was the Barfield Hotel, lovingly called the Jewel of West Texas by locals. Her speakeasy was known as the Paramount Recreation Club. Though developer Oliver-Eakle was a prohibitionist herself, she understood the monetary value of a speakeasy during Texas’ dry spell. As such, she decided to use the speakeasy to attract new customers in spite of her own beliefs. 

Amarillo’s 6th Street Historic District in 2021 

Today, Amarillo’s 6th Street Historic District is still home to many buildings from the early 1920s and 1930s. Most of these buildings were rendered in either the Gothic Revival, Art Deco, Mission Revival, Art Moderne or Spanish Colonial Revival styles. While some of these styles are emblematic of West Texas, others are uncommon in the American South. The National Park Service identifies twelve of the most important historic buildings in Downtown Amarillo, including The Natatorium, The Carolina Building, Atkinson-Baker Tire Company, San Jacinto Methodist Church and the Bussey Buildings as several significant monuments. Amarillo’s Barfield Hotel is also counted amongst these. The 1922 Nat Ballroom — which was originally built as a mammoth indoor swimming pool — is perhaps best known amongst the twelve. This Gothic Revival style building became a ballroom in 1926 where America’s greatest musicians performed throughout the ensuing decades. Jazz icons Duke Ellington and Tommy Dorsey were just two of many legendary musicians to grace the stage at The Nat. 

Though many of these buildings have since closed the doors on the original businesses that inhabited them, they remain important pillars of the community. In 1994, the US government recognized 6th Street’s significance, adding it to the National Register of Historic Places. In 2021, the 6th Street Historic District is also home to activities and businesses one expects in the downtown quarter of a major metropolis. Clubs, shops and restaurants all dot the thirteen blocks that comprise Downtown Amarillo. Earlier this year, the Barfield Hotel — once owned by Melissa Dora Oliver-Eakle — became one of several historic buildings revived after 6th Street received its NRHP designation. 

Boutique Barfield Hotel Transforms Historic Barfield Building in downtown Amarillo 

Downtown Amarillo is home to the Barfield Hotel, a century old building in the 6th Street Historic District just off Route 66. After thirty years closed to the public, a newly renovated Barfield Hotel reopened in August 2021. The boutique Barfield Hotel welcomed guests this summer, one year after it was added to the National Register of Historic Places. On their website, the Marriott Autograph Collection hotel quotes Amarillo Convention and Visitor Council Vice President Dan Quandt. When asked about the hotel, Quandt noted that the “most exciting thing about the Barfield Project is that they’re doing it to preserve history.” Follow below to learn about the Barfield Hotel design team, their contributions to Downtown Amarillo’s historic district and the stylish new space. 

Concept Behind the New Barfield Hotel 

The team behind the reopened Barfield Hotel has transformed this historic building into Amarillo’s solitary full-service boutique hotel. Over a hundred rooms with luxury accomodations can be found throughout the 1920s skyscraper. The hotel restaurant — Toscana — serves up classic Italian dishes with all the charm and style of a Texas steakhouse. Barfield’s bar — a reimagined speakeasy inspired by the hotel’s founder and her once-illegal pursuits — offers guests a variety of bespoke cocktails and vintage spirits. This modern-day speakeasy retains its original name — “The Paramount Recreation Club.” 

In her August 2021 article “The Barfield opens today, gets new life after 30 year vacancy” for KFDA, Penny Kmitt describes the concept behind the new Barfield Hotel in greater detail. Quoting The Barfield’s director of sales and marketing Michael Farr, Kmitt notes that Melissa Dora Oliver-Eakle and 1920s interiors were two of the design team’s primary inspirations. Farr explains that he and his team are “‘paying homage to M.D. Oliver’” throughout the entire hotel — especially in her speakeasy. To honor M.D. Oliver — who survived several assasination attempts made by the Mob — the team added motifs from her life such as “bullet holes and guns crossed.” Quoting Barfield general manager Patrick Dougherty, Kmitt writes that M.D. Oliver was Amarillo’s “‘matriarch of progress [so] she’ll be throughout the hotel.’” 

Bringing the Barfield into the 21st Century 

To elevate the historic space without sacrificing any original details, the design team “kept things as close to what they were when the building was built in 1926.” However, the renovated building now features modern updates like Amarillo’s very first bourbon bar, a social space and a high-end restaurant beneath its 121 guest rooms. Alongside inspirations from Jazz Age America, guests will find countless nods to West Texas culture. Kmitt identifies these throughout the building in elements like “cowhide rugs, luxury Texas furniture, and Toscana,” all of which aim “to give guests a taste of West Texas luxury.”

Barfield Hotel Design Team 

The Barfield Hotel is currently owned and operated by co-owners Jason Beyer and Christie Beyer as part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection of hotels. Originally designed by Wyatt C. Hedrick in the 1920s, renovation of the newly reopened Barfield Hotel was spearheaded by local firm Architexas  According to their website, Architexas served as the “preservation architect, providing historic preservation guidance for both the exterior and interior design, and providing technical rehabilitation and restoration treatments that complies with the federal historic preservation standards.” Celebrated architectural photographer Chad Chenier photographed the Barfield before its opening, paying particular attention to the hotel’s incredible historic design elements and luxury amenities. Special thanks to James Flick and Joshua Harrison for coordination and the incredible work of the Flick Mars design team. 

You can find other architectural photography work from Chad Chenier in the Dallas area here. Another luxury hotel article of interest would be the “Sustainable Harpeth Square Captures Downtown Franklin’s Historic Past.”

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