The Driscoll Hotel opened May 25, 1942, during a period of rapid growth in Corpus Christi as a result of the arrival of the Naval Air Station. The new seawall construction changed the appearance of downtown forever, as did the arrival of the city’s new tallest building, standing 20 stories and rising above other buildings on the bluff.
As buildings are built and walls go up, you don’t expect to see the steel girders serving as the bones of the building again — at least not until it is demolished. Images like this would usually be the last glimpse of the metal before it is hidden behind walls. After the Driscoll Hotel closed in 1970, instead of sitting vacant for years or being demolished, it was renovated for a second era of use. Part of the renovation involved replacing the façade with black granite, stripping the building once again to its frame to transform it into what we know today as the Wells Fargo Building.
The skyline of the bluff looks different than 1942 if you look closely. Wilson Plaza stands still, although renamed from the Nixon Building after it was purchased by Sam Wilson in 1947. There’s a tall building at 600 Leopard, on the location of the Plaza Hotel, but it was built in 1963 after the Plaza was razed. Then, there stands the original Driscoll Hotel. New façade, same bones, living out its 80th year as a fixture on the bluff.
Photo provided by Corpus Christi Public Libraries, La Retama Special Collections & Archives.