For years, the site on which Heritage Plaza sits held a very historically significant building that had "out-lived its usefulness" according to some. At one time the building served the city as a quality hotel and had been "the" place to meet in Longview. The hotel's construction began in 1929 with a grand opening in 1930. It was a five-story 64-room structure that cost $128,000 to build and opened as the Gregg Hotel.
In 1935 Conrad Hilton acquired the hotel and added a new wing which doubled the size to 128 rooms. It was the second property in the Hilton chain. The hotel went through several ownership changes and was last operated commercially as the Downtowner Hotel. The hotel closed in 1976 when it was given to LeTourneau University which used the building for student housing for about two years, then shut it down.
, under the leadership of its president, Dr. Bud Austin successfully completed a campaign to raise the necessary capital to have the old hotel demolished. With a vision in place for the property, the City of Longview
purchased the land, and One Hundred Acres of Heritage agreed to undertake the design, fund-raising and construction of Heritage Plaza - a historic park for Longview.
Actual construction on Heritage Plaza began in July 1999. RLM General Contractors who also became a partner in the project by donating their fee oversaw construction management. Other major sponsors of the park included LeTourneau university, City of Longview, The Meadows Foundation, Texas Bank & Trust and Eastman.
On December 30, 1999, a Time Capsule was buried in Heritage Plaza. The capsule will be opened in 2099 and will give future generations a glimpse of life in Longview at the turn into the 21st century.
There are over 100 heritage and historical markers in Gregg County. Many of them are within the city limits of Longview.
You can take quick on-line tour of Longview's Heritage Markers set in place by the One Hundred Acres of Heritage Main Street.
The park construction was completed in April 2000 after more than five years. Dedication ceremonies for Heritage Plaza took place on July 20, 2000 with a crowd of more than 100 people gathered in downtown Longview.
Longview Partnership Chairman Bill Simms proclaimed that the park captures the legacy of the city. "The mission of the park is to enhance the economic development of the downtown business area," Simms said. "Our highest hopes for Longview's future are in this salute to its past.
The "salute," referred to by Simms, can be found throughout Heritage Plaza but most specifically on its historic wall displays which tells the story of Longview during its first one hundred years, 1870-1970. A relaxed tour through the Plaza will reveal the following history in capsule form on the walls.