About the Project

The construction of the Shamrock Hotel began in 1946 and was completed in 1949. Wildcatter Glenn McCarthy decided to build the largest hotel outside of New York and Los Angeles at the intersection of Main Street and Holcomb Boulevard, in the heart of the present-day Texas Medical Center. The project architect was Wyatt C. Hedrick, with Robert D. Harrell as the interior designer and Ralph Ellis Gunn as the landscape architect. The cost of the Shamrock Hotel was $21,000,000, or the equivalent of over $230,000,000 in current value. For the grand opening of the hotel on St. Patrick’s Day 1949, McCarthy brought in around 175 celebrities from Hollywood for this event, with roughly 50,000 Houstonians gathered outside the doors.

The Shamrock Hotel was a popular gathering area for high class Houston socialites, often called the “Houston Riviera,” and even had its own radio show called “Saturday at the Shamrock,” produced by the American Broadcasting Corporation. At the time, it was the only nationally broadcasted radio program not produced in New York or Los Angeles.

The Shamrock Hotel had both significant and unique architectural elements. The biggest of these were the 63 different shades of green incorporated into the interior design – a tribute to McCarthy’s heritage. The 5,000-square-foot lobby was designed in art deco style, and the façade included brick, marble and limestone. The pitched roof also consisted of green tile, keeping with the hotel’s theme. On the other hand, the swimming pool at the Shamrock Hotel was marvel of its own, being over 21,000 square feet – big enough to hold waterskiing expositions equipped with full-size ski boats. The pool was an engineering feat equipped with two wells that allowed water to constantly recirculate, providing a complete turnover of water roughly every eight hours.

Tellepsen Builders had a major role in the construction of the Shamrock Hotel. The company served as the general contractor and ensured McCarthy that his beloved hotel would be completed on time and with all the specific details he had requested. In fact, Tom Tellepsen himself was walking the grounds days before to ensure the hotel was ready for its lavish grand opening.

The Shamrock Hotel was significant to historical preservation and culture of the City of Houston. The hotel was a local icon that was synonymous for senior proms, honeymoons and other large-scale events. The building helped put Houston on the map by attracting famous stars from across the country, including Frank Sinatra and Pat O’Brien. Due to the outrage of many Houstonians for the demolition of the Shamrock Hotel, the City of Houston was inspired to create the Houston Architectural and Historical Commission so that no other significant historical buildings fell to the same fate as the Shamrock Hotel.

The Numbers

  • 18

  • 15


The Details

Type: New Construction
Sector(s): Community
Client: The Shamrock Hotel


  • Architect: Wyatt C. Hedrick
  • Landscape Architect: Ralph Ellis Gunn

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