Around 1:30 am on Tuesday morning of May 28th, 2019, approximately 100 firefighters responded to a call at 1312 South Ervay Street about a large fire at the vacant Ambassador Hotel near downtown Dallas in the Cedars neighbourhood. Officials are still investigating the cause of the fire.
The fire burned through sunrise, completely devastating the 114-year-old building. The disaster recovery contractor on scene, Darrell Bost has stated that the fire department has now secured the area, and the remaining structure will be bulldozed due to the unsafe conditions of the site.
Jim Lake and partner Amanda Lake bought the hotel with plans to restore the building into modern micro-lofts with a restaurant on the ground level and a speakeasy bar in the basement. Renovations have already begun on the building, and just last week the Dallas City Council had passed approval on the abandonment amendment to the small strip of Saint Paul Street that cuts through the property.
“We’re doing everything we can given the current situation, and we’re first and foremost focused on working with the Fire Department and ensuring everyone’s safety right now,” states Lake.
The groundskeeper employed by Jim Lake Companies, Jerry Nappi, was living in a trailer on the property and was present at the time of the fire.
Source: Dallas Fire Department
Nappi recalls his experience, “At approximately 1:15 this morning a male yelling outside of my trailer woke me up. As I tried to figure out what he was yelling about, I opened my front door and there was smoke pouring out of the second, third, fourth and fifth level windows of the hotel. Approximately two minutes later I was being bombarded by glass shattering and big chunks of embers falling down, so I grabbed my keys, phone and dog and moved my personal truck out of the way, then I grabbed my company vehicle and moved it as well. Not 10 minutes later, a huge chunk of the Ambassador Hotel crashed down on the the trailer that I was living in.”
The Ambassador hotel has lived a rich history, and like many of his projects, is a huge reason Jim Lake had such passion for this project. It was constructed as a luxury hotel in 1904 under the name The Majestic, but after many changes in ownership, it was finally dubbed The Ambassador and was redesigned in the early 1930s. The hotel has seen many exciting historic events– many U.S. Presidents, including Roosevelt and Hoover, preferred the hotel when they visited Dallas, and during the years of prohibition the hotel featured a speakeasy with a tunnel leading out of the building in the event of a police raid. Since then it was discontinued as a hotel and from the 1970s, it has served many other purposes: a retirement home, a religious school for girls, a center of worship for a local Baptist Church and as an event space.
Jim Lake Companies is working with the Fire Department and the disaster recovery contractor to determine the next steps for the property.