its twin, castle-like turrets and high-arched entrances the Metropole
Hotel stood as Waco's
version of Austin's stately
The Metropole, built within five years of the Driskill, saw as much
or more history than the capital city's famous downtown landmark.
Unfortunately, there's one big difference between the two hostelries.
When it opened as the Pacific Hotel at 4th and Franklin streets
in 1882, it was the finest guest house in Waco,
complete with the city's first elevator. And given that Waco
had six rail lines and ranked as the nation's largest inland cotton
shipping point, the ornate 150-room, five-story brick hotel did
a flourishing business in the heart of a city that still bills itself
as being in the heart of Texas.
"We were generally full up," long-time owner J. W. Moore recalled
in a 1928 newspaper interview. "The curb used to be lined with wagons
and buggies left standing there when the owners unhitched the horses
and stopped at the Pacific…"
In the 1890s, choice rooms cost $2.50 a night, a rate that included
three hot meals a day.
"I specialized in good meals," Moore said. "Steaks from Kansas City...and
The hotel was convenient to the city's various railroad stations
and railroad employees, as well as those traveling for business
or recreation, liked to stay at the Pacific. Austin short story
writer O. Henry said the Pacific saw as many honeymooners as Niagara
But all was not pacific in and around the Pacific.
T. Fowser, a Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railroad conductor, was
one railroad man who liked the Pacific. Waco
wasn't on his normal run, but in the winter of 1892 he came to town
on what one newspaper called a "pleasure trip."
Shortly before 11:30 p.m. on January 23, it became apparent that
Fowser had taken pleasure in one too many drinks. The wife of the
hotel's owner at the time came downstairs to tell her husband that
an intoxicated guest was creating a disturbance on the second floor.
O.W. Buck went upstairs and, as the newspaper put it, "remonstrated"
with Fowser. Words failing to sidetrack the rowdy railroader, Buck
slapped him soundly on the face. Taking offense at that, Fowser
pulled a pistol. Luckily for Buck, the weapon went off before the
booze-addled conductor intended it to and the bullet went into a
Buck ran partway downstairs and then jumped off the railing to get
to his office and secure his gun. Sprinting back up the stairs,
Buck put four bullets into the still-armed Fowser. Despite his wounds,
the conductor managed to shoot Buck. Fowser died; Buck recovered.
shootout amounted to mere bird shot compared with the gun play that
five years later. On Nov. 19, 1897, G. B. Gerald and newspaper editor
J.W. Harris began blazing away at each other at 4th and Austin streets,
the shots easily heard at the nearby Pacific Hotel. At least the
two men did not overly burden the local judicial system, since each
died of his wounds. But as the newspapers put it, the shooting "created
quite a sensation" in Waco.
Everyone knew that both victims in that impromptu duel had essentially
been stand-ins for the principals in the big fight to come, a clash
between the nationally known editor William Cowper Brann, who published
an acerbic if well-written monthly called "Brann's Iconoclast" and
whoever finally decided to kill him. That turned out to be Tom Davis.
To greatly condense the issue, Brann had been particularly critical
Baylor University in his publication, and Davis was a loyal Baylor
finally came to a head on April Fool's Day 1898. This time, the
shooting started right outside the Pacific. Again, neither of the
combatants lived to face trial. Brann killed Davis outright but
soon died of his wounds.
to those well-publicized shootings and others, the home of Baylor
University and numerous churches became known as Six-Shooter Junction.
In fact, the standing joke was that when passenger trains approached
the onboard ticket punchers would call out, "Waco, 20 minutes for
dinner; walk a block and see a killing." Another version holds that
conductors liked to say, "Waco, Texas, get your guns!"
Of course, the Pacific was more than a large bullet backstop. Traveling
salesmen, called drummers in the day, stayed there and displayed
their merchandise in one of the hotel's meeting rooms. The hotel
hosted the annual meeting of the Texas Confederate Veterans in 1894
and numerous other conventions and political events, including a
speech by presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan.
The hotel even saw its share of humorous happenings, including a
delightful hoax that the Waco Times-Herald fell for. When a spring
hailstorm pounded the city, two gentlemen with a great gag in mind
hurried to buy a couple of blocks of ice. Sneaking them back into
the hotel, they artfully chipped away at the frozen squares to transform
them into basketball-size spheres. Then they hurled them from their
room to the sidewalk below. The two phony hailstones were heralded
in the next day's Herald as amazing, record-size works of nature.
Back to what distinguishes the Metropole Hotel from the Driskill
is that the Austin hotel, built in 1886, remains in business. The
Metropole stood for 55 years, but fire gutted it on Valentine's
Day 1936 and the venue for a half-century's worth of Waco
history was gone.