Thomas William Field, pioneer real estate developer and builder of the first opera house in Dallas, was born in September 1847 in Missouri. He arrived in Dallas in 1872, the same year as the first railroad, the Houston and Texas Central, and immediately took an interest in business. He supported the Texas and Pacific Railway and aided in its arrival. He controlled large plots of land in what later became downtown Dallas, dealt in grain, and opened the first opera house in Dallas in the 1870s on the south side of Main Street. In 1872 he married Florence Peak, a woman from a prominent Dallas family; they had two children. They built a house that encompassed an entire block. In the late 1880s and early 1890s Field's firm, Field and Field Real Estate and Financial Agents, developed much of the Dallas area with little planning and no zoning, a lack that led to premature deterioration. Field began his largest project in 1893, the "most elegant hotel east of the Mississippi." The $500,000 Oriental Hotel, at the corner of Akard and Commerce, with 150 guest rooms and many lobbies, bars, and dining rooms, was finished entirely with Italian marble and mahogany and had fully electrified rooms and elevators. Often called "Field's Folly" because of its enormous cost, the Oriental was sold to a group of St. Louis businessmen when Field went bankrupt. He was also forced to sell his house. In 1900 he was living in the Oriental Hotel with his wife and daughter. They later moved to Oak Lawn, where he remained for the rest of his life. Field Street in downtown Dallas was named in his honor.
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Sam Hanna Acheson, Dallas Yesterday, ed. Lee Milazzo (Dallas: Southern Methodist University Press, 1977). William L. McDonald, Dallas Rediscovered: A Photographic Chronicle of Urban Expansion, 1870–1925 (Dallas: Dallas County Historical Society, 1978).
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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Lisa C. Maxwell,
“Field, Thomas William,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed August 16, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
January 1, 1995
This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: