Nestled in the heart of downtown Corpus Christi, Texas is a building that embodies the saying, “if these walls could talk.” In this Sparkling City by the Sea, at the corner of Water and Starr Street you will find one of its hidden gems. This three-story structure was originally built in the early 1920’s by the Elks Lodge and has been the host to various businesses over the years.
It was in 1944 when North Beach native, Linn “Doc” Mason, leased the space and transformed it into what was once referred to as, “one the most elite and lavish nightclubs in the nation.” Hand hammered copper doors, a wood-paneled foyer, and maple parquet flooring characterized the building. The Dragon Grill served as an oasis for an exquisite nightlife in Corpus Christi, being recognized for its food, atmosphere, live orchestra, and illegal gambling.
The third floor of this building, referred to then as the Jalna Room, was just as grandiose as the main floor. Complete with marble walls, secret passageways, and hidden panels, this room was one that attracted illegal activity during prohibition years. For added security, the Jalna room was only accessible by a special elevator that was operated by “Pop” Powers. It was equipped with lights and sirens that would alert those inside should uninvited visitors gain access to the private space.
In 1953, despite all security features, a local police officer gained access to the secret third floor and surprised many when he presented his badge to the illegal gamblers. Linn Mason was arrested and charged with running an illegal gambling operation. In 1954 he sold the infamous nightclub to The Town Club, which occupied the historical building for over thirty years.
In 2001 Bac and Lien Nguyen purchased the building and transformed it in to The Vietnam Restaurant and The V Boutique Hotel, we now know today. Both businesses have been instrumental in the growth of the developing downtown business district and economy.