Friday, March 29, 2013

Hotel Settles

The Hotel Settles,
as it appears today
To begin, I'd like to say a big 'Thank You!' to Brint Ryan, his brother Kris, and all of the other people involved, for all of the hard work and money put into restoring the Hotel Settles. Hopefully it will spark a rebirth of downtown Big Spring. As someone who has lived in Big Spring all my life, that's something to be excited about.


First a very short history...

The 15 story art deco hotel, designed by David S. Castle, was built at 3rd and Runnels by W.R. and Lillian Settles. Construction began in 1929, at a cost of $500,000; $700,000 including furnishings, and opened on October 1, 1930. When built, the hotel was the largest building between El Paso and Fort Worth and was often compared to the finest hotels of it's day. One hotel manager, Fred W. Crow, said "I have no hesitancy of comparing the class, service and beauty of the Settles Hotel with that of the New Yorker in New York City. In fact, I think this hotel is superior in many respects."

Since it's construction the hotel has risen above the Big Spring skyline. It's location on the old Bankhead highway (U.S. Highway 80), along with a Texas and Pacific Railroad passenger depot located two blocks away ensured a steady steam of travelers daily. However, W.R. Settles, within a few years, would be bankrupted during the great depression and sell the hotel.

During the hotel's heyday it saw many memorable things. Many big band orchestras played at the Settles. Well known celebrities such as Lawrence Welk and Elvis Presley entertained there. Former President Herbert Hoover stayed there in February of 1935. High school proms were held there. My dad has talked about being a member of a barber shop quartet that, along with others, would practice on the mezzanine for the guests and patrons of the hotel and it's tenant businesses.

Oil booms and busts came and went.  I20 was routed around the town, channeling travelers away from Highway 80 and to hotels located on the new highway. In March of 1967 the Texas and Pacific Railroad closed it's passenger terminal. Web Air Force Base closed. People's habits changed from doing business 'downtown' to shopping at malls. Through it all, the hotel became less and less viable, eventually closing in the early 1980s.

While it had been in decline for years, once the hotel closed it quickly fell into disrepair. Windows were broken in, allowing rain, birds and vandals easy access to the interior. Much vandalism occurred, bringing widespread destruction to the interior and exterior. Many of the capstones from the parapet were broken off and thrown onto the roof leading to holes and easy entrance to more rain and birds.

Throughout the years there were different people, who promised to rebuild the Settles, would be allowed to buy the hotel for almost nothing, have the back taxes forgiven, then strip the hotel of anything deemed valuable. Then they would leave town. 

Beginning in 1997 a group named 'Friends of the Settles,' led by local businessman Tommy Churchwell, started raising money to pay for windows to seal the weather out of the hotel. The cost was $150 per window. This effort slowed the decay of the building and gave the hotel a better appearance from the outside.

Now for some current information...

Stairs Going Up
To The Mezzanine Level
In 2006 the Settles Hotel Development Company (SHDC), funded by G. Brint Ryan, was formed to manage a renovation project to bring the Hotel Settles back to it's former glory. Troy Tompkins, a resident of Big Spring, is a member of the SHDC team and helped with the negotiations between the Moore Development Corporation, SHDC, and the City of Big Spring. Beginning August 21, 2008, with a ground-breaking ceremony, construction began on the renovation project. Kris Ryan, Brint's brother, managed the construction project. The project left the first floor, mezzanine and third floor as constructed originally while rebuilding the upper floors to more modern standards. The hotel re-opened on December 28, 2012, with a public lighting ceremony. It is hoped that the Settles will be a boost to the efforts that Big Spring is making in the revitalization of the downtown area.

Chandelier And Table
At The Third Street Entry

The Settles, which cost about $700,000 to build and furnish originally, cost over $30 million this time around. Some of that cost came from the amount of asbestos and lead paint that had to be removed and disposed of as well as a massive amount of salvage and demolition work before the rebuilding phase could even begin.

One Of The Third Floor Rooms
Efforts were made to try to locate old, original artifacts from the hotel's previous life. The original chandelier in the lobby was returned by the Heritage Museum. The original phone booths were also located and included.

The Settles was rebuilt to become a destination for people to come visit, not just a stop-over while traveling some place else, although you can do that as well.

Amenities at the hotel include:
Dining At The Settles Grill
  • The Pharmacy Bar and Parlor, located where the old drug store used to be, has a poker room, TVs and fireplace.
  • The Settles Grill, which offers an outside dining area, with breakfast, lunch and dinner daily, as well as a private dining room for special occasions.
  • A Day Spa, located in the old barber shop area, which offers hair styling, pedicures and manicures.
  • The hotel has a computer room, a "judge's chamber" smoking area and fitness center in the basement and a pool and hot tub are being constructed outside.
  • The area that was the old Boy's Club, east of the hotel, will be transformed into a mini park which will have hiking trails and a putting green.
  • On the second floor, or mezzanine level, there is a large ballroom which can be used for parties or other functions. There is also a couple of smaller ballrooms and a conference room.
  • Guest rooms on the third floor were rebuilt to historical standards while the fourth floor and above were rebuilt to modern standards and will be much larger. These rooms include normal size hotel rooms, residential suites and a penthouse. With these changes, the total number of rooms has shrunk from 150 to 65.
You can make reservations either online at or you can call 432-267-7500.

If you have more information and/or stories about the Settles leave a comment below to share the knowledge with others, if you would like.


  1. A great article Tony - It's also my hope that this will bring down town Big Spring back to life.

    1. Sally T. Gregg HudsonMay 16, 2016 at 7:09 AM

      I was born in Big Spring 1946. I learned that my father worked at the Hotel before going to war and returned there after the war to work as well. His name was Thomas Troy Gregg. I was just informed of this by a second cousin, Rodney Smith. I certainly would love to see it at some point if I ever get back to Texas from Chicago. Beautiful.

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