Stonewall Jackson Elementary School — C. H. Griesenbeck’s architectural rendering
(click for larger image)
by Paula Bosse
Classes begin today for students in DISD schools, one of which is Stonewall Jackson Elementary School, located at Mockingbird and Matilda. Stonewall turns 75 years old this year, and I’m proud to say it’s where I spent many years as a happy student. When I learned recently that the school had originally been built as a single-story building (instead of the two stories we know today), I was pretty surprised, and this little unknown nugget prompted me to look into the early years of my alma mater.
In the 1920s, Dallas was expanding very quickly northward from Vickery Place, the new-ish residential neighborhood around Belmont and Greenville. As the area we now know as Lower Greenville and the M Streets were developed, the two elementary schools (Vickery Place School, then at Miller and McMillan, and Robert E. Lee, at Matilda and Vanderbilt) were soon filled to capacity. Building a new school to serve burgeoning “Northeast Dallas” was an immediate necessity. So in 1938, the city purchased a chunk of land along Mockingbird, one block east of Greenville Avenue and right alongside the Denison interurban tracks that ran on Matilda (when I was growing up a couple of blocks away, I used to see remains of those tracks but didn’t know what they had been used for).
(Dallas Morning News, Oct. 26, 1938)
On Dec. 22, 1938, an architectural rendering of the new school (shown above) appeared in the pages of The Dallas Morning News with the following caption:
CONTRACTS FOR $104,150 LET ON NORTHEAST DALLAS SCHOOL
“Contracts totaling $104,150 were awarded Wednesday by the Dallas Board of Education and the City Council for the construction of the Northeast Dallas Elementary School. The building, to be located on Mockingbird Lane just east of the interurban track, will consist of eleven classrooms, a cafeteria and an auditorium with a seating capacity of 400. The school, designed by C. H. Griesenbeck, is arranged so that a second story can be added. Work on the building will start before Jan. 1 and will be completed for the opening of the 1939-1940 session.”
The name of the new school was decided upon a few months later by school superintendent Dr. Norman R. Crozier: “Stonewall Jackson,” in honor of the “high ideals” of the “unique and romantic figure” of the Civil War (…er, the “War Between the States”). Besides, it worked as a sort of “theme” with nearby Robert E. Lee.
(DMN, Feb. 1, 1939)
But if you’re going to sink a hundred thousand dollars into a school, you’ve got to have houses for families to live in to make sure your future student pool doesn’t run dry — and at that time very few houses had been built that far north. Cut to W. W. Caruth, Jr., son of the Caruth family patriarch who basically owned everything north of Mockingbird (Caruth owned a huge expanse of land once estimated at being over 30,000 acres). Not long after selling the land at Mockingbird and Greenville to Dr Pepper, Caruth fils began to develop the land around the then-under-construction school — he called the new neighborhood “Stonewall Terrace.”
(DMN, April 23, 1939)
The property went fast.
(DMN, Sept. 23, 1939)
As the neighborhood was taking shape and the construction of the school building was nearing completion, the school’s official boundaries were announced:
“Boundaries of the Stonewall Jackson School will be from the alley south of Morningside on the east side of Greenville Avenue and from the alley south of Mercedes on the west side of Greenville to the M-K-T Railroad on the north.” (DMN, Sept. 3, 1939)
Despite some problems with labor shortages, the school managed to open on time, on Sept. 13, 1939, the start of the new school year.
Custodian Emmett Lanford (left) and two helpers assemble desks at Stonewall Jackson (DMN, Aug. 25, 1939)
The school and the neighborhood grew quickly, and the number of students soon doubled. In 1950 the school board approved preliminary plans for an addition to the school. This addition (which would cost $369,000 and be handled by the architectural firm of Tatum & Quade) would include a first-floor wing with four classrooms, a gymnasium, and a lunchroom, and a second story containing eight classrooms, a library, and a music room. (The cost of construction would probably have been quite a bit more had the original architect not had the foresight to design the building with the expectation that a second story would be added in the future.)
The construction was substantial enough that it had to be done during the 1951-52 school year. Because the old lunchroom was being dismantled while the new wing was being built, students were required to bring their lunches the entire year. All they could get at school was milk. No fish sticks, no Salisbury steak, no mashed potatoes. Just milk. Sorry, kids.
The new addition was completed in time for the beginning of the 1952 school year. And that’s the version of the building that stands today, looking pretty much unchanged. It was a cool building then, and it’s a cool building now. It’s sad to see how much of the playing fields keep disappearing, but the new garden is great new addition — I wish they’d had that when I was there.
I really loved that school. When I was a student there, grades went from 1st to 7th, and I loved all seven years I spent there. Thanks for the great childhood memories, Stonewall. And Happy 75th Anniversary!
All newspaper clippings from The Dallas Morning News.
Bottom color photo from the DISD website, here.
For a collection of articles about Stonewall Jackson referenced in this post, see them in a PDF, here.
And, yes, it probably sounds weird to outsiders, but students actually do call the school “Stonewall” — just like we call Woodrow Wilson High School (the high school Stonewall feeds into) “Woodrow.” It’s like a secret handshake.
Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.