Tuesday, June 25, 2024 Jun 25, 2024
91° F Dallas, TX

Caroline Rose Hunt Was ‘The Guiding Spirit’ of Dallas

The late industry icon, whose business prowess was matched by her philanthropy, brought forth the iconic Crescent complex as the first significant building in what’s now Uptown.
| |Photography Courtesy of The Rosewood Corp.
Uptown Pioneer: Caroline Rose Hunt’s iconic Crescent complex helped kick off the upscale commercial district. Photography Courtesy of The Rosewood Corp.

Heiress Caroline Rose Hunt left an indelible impression on North Texas as a hotelier, businesswoman, and philanthropist. The daughter of Texas oil magnate H.L. Hunt, a commitment to philanthropy and entrepreneurism defined her life. Born on January 8, 1923, in El Dorado, Arkansas, to parents Haroldson Lafayette and Lyda Bunker Hunt, she went to The Hockaday School after the family moved to Dallas and later attended Mary Baldwin College in Virginia The University of Texas at Austin, where she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English in 1943.

In 1943, she married U.S. Navy pilot Loyd Bowmer Sands, with whom she raised five children. During her early years, Caroline laid the groundwork for the family business by working in the mailroom at Hunt Oil. Before founding The Rosewood Corp. in 1979, where her unofficial title was “the guiding spirit,” she transformed the Sheppard King mansion into the five-star Mansion on Turtle Creek and brought forth the iconic Crescent complex as the first significant building in what’s now Uptown.

She transformed a trust from her father into The Rosewood Corporation. While both well-regarded neighborhoods today, Uptown and Turtle Creek were not considered the posh settings they are today when Hunt began doing business there. “My mother changed the complexion of the city,” said her only daughter, Laurie Harrison. “She bought land in an area that nobody wanted to be in and created The Mansion on Turtle Creek. She took something historical and made it useful and beautiful. She took 13 acres that were a car lot and created The Crescent—one of America’s most beautiful Philip Johnson buildings.”

Her philosophy guided her success. “Service, we feel, is the most important thing,” she once said in a CNBC interview. “Not stuffy service, but true, friendly service.” Through the years, Hunt diversified her oil wealth into apparel, aircraft, retail, offices, and luxury hotels. In the 1980s, she was recognized as one of the world’s wealthiest women, with a net worth of $1 billion. Her business prowess was matched by her philanthropy. She co-founded the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas and supported numerous organizations and causes, including Dallas CASA and the Dallas Arboretum. She was also an honorary chair of the Retina Foundation of the Southwest, a nonprofit focused on macular degeneration, which Hunt suffered from.

Her leadership extended beyond boardrooms and ballrooms; she was a steadfast Highland Park Presbyterian Church member and the first woman deacon. United Way of Metropolitan Dallas honored her with the J. Erik Jonsson Award for her commitment to the community.

Among other honors, Hunt was named one of the Most Influential Women in the country by Ladies Home Journal and inducted into the Texas Business Hall of Fame. She was also the author of two cookbooks and a novel called Primrose Past: The 1848 Journal of Young Lady Primrose.

Her legacy lives on through her business prowess and eponymous Rosewood Corp, her philanthropic impact, and her 19 grandchildren and 23 great-grandchildren.


Bridget Reis

Bridget Reis

View Profile