I’d already had a taste of this sense of place that the Rosewood brand prides itself on (indeed, the company has adopted the term as its official credo) a few days earlier in Dallas, Texas, which is as close to central Mexico as any flight from Asia will take you. There, I spent a couple of nights easing into the time zone at the Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek, an iconic Dallas hotel founded in 1981 by oil heiress Caroline Rose Hunt. The property’s namesake mansion, a faux-Renaissance confection of arched windows, cathedral doors, and vaulted ceilings topped by a dainty cupola, was built in the 1920s as the home of a cotton magnate; Hunt spent two years and US$21 million converting the historic residence (Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Tennessee Williams were among its house guests) into a restaurant and bar, then opened a nine-story guest wing alongside it. Tucked in the monied residential neighborhood of Turtle Creek, it became a cornerstone of the Dallas hospitality scene, and the flagship of a group of hotels admired as much for their posh accommodations as for their individuality.
Now with 18 properties in its portfolio, Rosewood Hotels & Resorts was purchased in 2011 by Hong Kong–based New World Hospitality (since renamed Rosewood Hotel Group). Yet Hunt’s legacy endures.
“It’s business as usual for us,” said Rosewood Mansion’s chief concierge Mary Stamm, who has been with the hotel for almost its entire history. “Guests still get the personalized service and customized experiences that they’ve come to expect from us over the years. Our heritage, our values—nothing’s changed there. I guess now, with the new ownership, it’s just that we feel part of something bigger, a bigger family.”
And that family is geared up for expansion. The 283-room Rosewood Beijing will debut this spring in the city’s Chaoyang district, marking the group’s much-anticipated return to Asia (Jakarta’s elegant Dharmawangsa was run as a Rosewood hotel until 2005). New properties in Chongqing, Phnom Penh, Phuket, and Dubai are slated to open within a couple of years, followed by Bangkok, Bali, and Jakarta.
In the meantime, I had Dallas to explore. Armed with a list of must-sees from Stamm, I headed downtown for a look at the original Neiman Marcus store, whose sixth-floor Zodiac Room restaurant has been a favorite with the ladies-who-lunch crowd for six decades. From there, it’s a 10-minute walk to Dealey Plaza and the old Texas School Book Depository, the redbrick building from which Lee Harvey Oswald fired his assassin’s bullets at President John F. Kennedy half a century ago. Out on the grassy knoll, a posse of gun-rights activists stood around with automatic rifles slung over their shoulders. Inside, at the Sixth Floor Museum, I joined a line of visitors as they filed somberly past an extensive assemblage of photographs, news footage, and displays (including a chilling recreation of Oswald’s sniper nest) chronicling the national tragedy.
With a few hours left in the afternoon, I had time for a tour of the outdoor sculpture garden at the Renzo Piano–designed Nasher Sculpture Center, and for an abbreviated visit to the adjacent Dallas Museum of Art, whose well-endowed collection of more than 22,000 pieces of art spans everything from ancient Greek statuary, Mughal miniatures, and Tibetan thangkas to contemporary American art and works by such postwar European virtuosos as Gerhard Richter and Joseph Beuys. Both facilities anchor the largest arts district in the U.S., a 19-block precinct that is home as well to I. M. Pei’s Meyerson Symphony Center and the AT&T Center for the Performing Arts, codesigned by Rem Koolhaas and Norman Foster. Not for nothing is Dallas’s current marketing campaign titled “Big Things Happen Here.”
Back at the Mansion, I was invited to a wine tasting at the bar—all dark wood and leather and gilt-framed equestrian paintings—by Tracy Fitz, the hotel’s dapper director of marketing (he also looks after its Uptown sister property, the Rosewood Crescent). Between sips of something red from Oregon, I mentioned my surprise at all this art; even the malls had installations—in the case of the NorthPark Center, a virtual fountain of cascading dollar bills and a 14-meter-tall sculpture of red steel beams by Mark di Suvero.
By way of a response, Fitz asked, “Do you like ballet? I can get you tickets.”
And just like that, I ended up at the opening night of the Texas Ballet Theater’s Romeo and Juliet in Fort Worth, 40 minutes up the highway.