Shamrock Hotel Collection

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Last Updated: 2021-03-04

The Shamrock Collection consists of menus from the many restaurants, bars, and lounges in the hotel, staff newsletters, and promotional pamphlets. It chronicles the transition of ownership and highlights of the hotel’s golden years.

The Shamrock Hotel was the grandest hotel in the city of Houston from 1949 until its decline and demolition in 1987. Built by Glenn McCarthy, wildcatter and oil tycoon, between 1946 and 1949, it opened with great fanfare. Three thousand dignitaries, celebrities, and the socially prominent were present for its grand opening on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, 1949, attended by no less than Errol Flynn, Ginger Rogers, and Robert Preston. The partygoers were brought in on a customized Boeing 307 Stratoliner and by a Santa Fe Super Chief train specially chartered by McCarthy. Approximately 50,000 people gathered outside of the hotel.

While the hotel was immense, expensive and lavish, it was also considered by many to be garish and more than a little over the top. The Shamrock became a destination for Houstonians and played host to numerous social events such as debutante balls, receptions, business meetings, presidential visits, and visits from other heads of state. The Shamrock hosted cattle auctions and was also a gathering spot for the Houston Rodeo.

The hotel had 1,100 rooms and many restaurants, bars, and lounges. Those who swam in the hotel’s huge swimming pool, which measured 165 by 142 feet, remember it fondly. The swimming pool even hosted water skiing exhibitions, complete with motorboats.

The Hilton Hotels Corporation acquired the Shamrock Hotel in 1954. Burdened with a poor location, burgeoning competition, and stagnant occupancy rates, its popularity declined. The hotel described in Edna Ferber’s novel Giant as the “Conquistador,” which saw performers such as Dorothy Lamour and Frank Sinatra grace its clubs, never fulfilled McCarthy’s vision of a destination resort, conference and shopping center.

The original materials are available in the Hospitality Industry Archives located in the Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management.

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