Flashback : Dallas

A Miscellany: History, Ads, Pop Culture

Thank You, Candy’s Dirt! Thank You, Preservation Dallas!

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by Paula Bosse

Thank you so much to Candy’s Dirt — the popular Dallas real estate website and blog — for publishing Deb R. Brimer’s article on me, “Writer Paula Bosse Wins Preservation Dallas Award.” Deb wrote the article as a result of my having recently received Preservation Dallas’ 2019 Education Award, an occasion which, though hugely flattering and wonderfully gratifying, I hadn’t written about here, because, well, it seemed a little embarrassing for me to write about receiving an award. But now that someone else has written about it….

Thanks again to Candy’s Dirt and Deb Brimer!

And, officially, thank you, Preservation Dallas, for the honor of including me in your 2019 Preservation Achievement Awards!

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

The Grand Elm Street Illumination — 1911

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by Paula Bosse

As most of Dallas has now clawed its way back into the world of full electric power after last weekend’s surprise “weather event” (…although, as I write this another big storm is passing through the area), I thought this image might be a timely one. It’s from late 1911 and shows Elm Street with its brand new electric street lights, the installation of which prompted Dallas boosters to dub the street “The Great White Way.” The view is from Ervay, looking west.

1910-1911 was a time of remarkable growth in Dallas. Construction had been started or completed on three important downtown buildings (the Adolphus Hotel, the Southwestern Life Building, and the Butler Brothers building); the historic Oak Cliff viaduct was nearing completion; the dam at the city’s new White Rock reservoir was in operation; and — lo and behold! — ornamental electric street lights (with underground conduits) had been installed along Elm Street, from Market to Harwood.

The buzzword in municipal governments of large American cities at that time was “ornamental street lighting.” What was it? According to The Dallas Morning News:

“Ornamental street lighting” contemplates just what the term signifies. Instead of somewhat indiscriminate and often far from attractive methods of lighting the streets of a city, the adoption of a systematic plan by which, with the placing of uniform lights of pleasing design at regular intervals, a street is not only illuminated, but is ornamented as well. (DMN, Nov. 5, 1910)

The article went on to say that this type of street lighting was an essential element of a progressive and prosperous city (which Dallas most certainly was): not only did it help beautify the city, it also increased property values and helped to decrease crime. …And Dallas leaders really, really wanted it. They just didn’t want to pay for it. Somehow, an agreement was struck in which the cost of the materials, installation, and maintenance of these “ornamental street lights” would be paid for by Elm Street merchants and/or property owners; after one year, the City would take possession of the lights and assume responsibility for their upkeep. Seems like a novel way to fund a city project.

Dallas’ first “ornamental” lights and poles (which, because I like details like this, were painted a soothing olive green) were topped with “bishops’ crooks” (or “shepherd’s crooks”) fashioned in wrought iron, with the lamps suspended from the gooseneck bend. Just over 100 of the magnetite arc lights were installed along Elm, staggered on opposite sides of the street to maximize the illumination’s reach.

The electric lamps will be of a type entirely new in Texas and will give a steady white light that will be more pleasant than the flutter of the common arc light. […] One lamp of 2,000 candlepower will be placed on each pole. (Dallas Morning News, Sept. 14, 1911)

The project was delayed for several months for a variety of reasons (not least of which was the fact that the first shipload of iron poles was mysteriously “lost at sea” as it was en route from New York to Galveston…), but the festive grand unveiling was finally held on September 30, 1911, just in time for Dallas to show off another civic accomplishment to out-of-town visitors who would soon be streaming into town to attend the State Fair of Texas. Dallas’ “Great White Way” thrilled all who beheld it and blazed proudly every night from sunset to midnight. Business owners on Main and Commerce streets were envious of all that fresh, new, well-distributed light over on Elm, and it wasn’t long before those streets had also replaced their garish and old-fashioned, fluttering, stuttering arc lights with the brash new ornamental lights.

Below are examples of what these street lights looked like a few years after they had been introduced in 1911 (the first two are details of photos from a post found here, and the third one is a detail of a photo taken in front of the Queen Theatre at Elm and Akard in 1914).

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Read the progress report on the installation of the new lighting system (all images are larger when clicked):

elm-street_illuminated_dmn_091411_detailsDMN, Sept. 14, 1911

Excited anticipation of the soon-to-be “Great White Way” was building:

elm-street_illuminated_dmn_092711DMN, Sept. 27, 1911

Sanger Bros. was one of the many businesses celebrating the arrival of the ornamental lighting. On the day the lights were to debut in downtown Dallas, the department store ran an ad which invited Dallasites to dine in their “lofty” seventh-floor cafe and, afterwards, stroll along the well-lit thoroughfare and soak up the brand new illumination:

elm-street_illuminated_093011_sangers-ad_detSept. 30, 1911, the night the lights were turned on

Below is the News’ report of the inaugural switch-flipping. (Missing from the article was the fact that someone had been stabbed that night as crowds jostled each other in the streets and along the sidewalks, climaxing with the perp being chased for several blocks before being apprehended; all of this had happened under the glow of the expensive, new, very-bright, law-enforcement-aiding artificial light — that new lighting system was already paying off!)


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DMN, Oct. 1, 1911

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Souces & Notes

Postcard showing “Grand Elm Street Illumination, Compliments of the Camera Shop” is from an old eBay listing. (There is also a copy in the George W. Cook Collection at SMU’s DeGolyer Library, here — you can zoom in a bit more for details, even though, ironically, it’s still pretty difficult to make much out in the shadows. A line from the postcard message reads, “This is a photo of Elm Street at night — pretty swell I think.”)

Businesses seen on the right side of the photo are the Texas Seed & Floral Co. and the Lontos Cafe, which were located near the northwest corner of Elm and Ervay (years later, this was the appoximate site of the Palace Theatre); the Wilson Building (then the Titche-Goettinger department store) is either wholly out of frame at the extreme left, or is only partially visible.

In 1911 — before the ornamental lights were installed — Dallas had something like 1,000 electric (and a few gas) street lights in operation around the city; the arrival of the brighter and more aesthetically appealing Brave New Luminescence of Elm Street’s “Great White Way” spelled the inevitable phasing-out of the old-fashioned arc lights.

Read about how Dallas responded to the 1912 lighting of the Oak Cliff viaduct, the world’s longest concrete bridge, at the bottom of this post.

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

The Majestic Hotel/The Park Hotel/The Ambassador Hotel: R.I.P. — 1904-2019

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by Paula Bosse

The historic Ambassador Hotel at 1312 S. Ervay in the Cedars was destroyed by fire this morning — the building was 115 years old and was under renovation. Watching news footage of flames engulfing the South Dallas landmark is heart-wrenching.

Built in 1904 alongside City Park, the Majestic Apartment Hotel opened in early 1905. It was designed by popular local architect Earle Henri (E. H.) Silven (who, incidentally, was arrested on suspicion of setting fire to the then-historic Knepfly Building in 1906, a fire which resulted in two deaths, but a grand jury declined to prosecute because of insufficient evidence — I actually wrote about this fire in passing a few years ago in a completely unrelated post).

The Majestic was originally an “apartment hotel” which was more apartment house than hotel, intended for long-term residents. Financial backing of this endeavor was shaky, and the Majestic soon fell into receivership; after a change of owners, the newly renamed Park Hotel opened in 1907. Several years later, in 1933, it became the Ambassador Hotel. Over the 115-year life of the building, these various incarnations came with a dizzying number of owners and operators, and news of its impending renovation and rebirth was heard frequently over the past 20 or 30 years. Recent plans, though, seemed like they were actually going to finally happen. …And now, unfortunately, they won’t.

Below are several images of the hotel, beginning back when Dallasites were still using a horse and buggy to get around. (All images are larger when clicked.)

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Majestic Apartment House, Dallas Morning News, Jan. 1, 1905

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Majestic Hotel, 1905 Dallas directory (ad, detail)

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Majestic Hotel, 1905 (via DeGolyer Library, SMU)

I’m not sure which iteration of the hotel is seen in this postcard, but here it is viewed from City Park, with the Confederate Monument in the foreground:

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(via DeGolyer Library, SMU)

The Park Hotel opened in September, 1907.

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Park Hotel, August 11, 1907

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Park Hotel, Oct. 1, 1907

One of my favorite views of the hotel is this one, from City Park, with the Hughes Candy factory at the left (the original photo is here):

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In 1933 the hotel got a new stucco exterior and tile roof and was renamed the Ambassador.

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(via DeGolyer Library, SMU)

Ambassador Apartment Hotel Dallas

For a while the hotel served as a retirement community — here is an odd, incredibly wordy ad, beckoning retirees with prospects of late-life romance, while also sharing (somewhat) accurate local history:

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Ambassador Retirement Hotel ad, Jan. 30, 1972

ambassador-hotel_historic-dallas_fall-1982_portal_photo

ca. 1982

This morning:

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Dallas Fire Rescue, via Twitter

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Sources & Notes

Top image from the Portal to Texas History.

Read a comprehensive history of the building in an article by Harvey J. Graff in Historic Dallas here and here.

Read the City of Dallas Designation Report from 1982 seeking Landmark Status here.

Read the 2018 application for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places (with MANY pages of photos) here.

Coverage of today’s fire can be found on the NBC-DFW site here; a 2017 video walk-through of the Ambassador in happier, more optimistic times can also be found on the Channel 5 site, here.

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Theaters at 1517 Elm: The Garden, The Jefferson, The Pantages, The Ritz, and The Mirror — 1912-1941

garden-theatre_ca-1912_ebayThe Garden Theatre, ca. 1912

by Paula Bosse

The photo above shows the Garden Theatre, located at 1517 Elm, on the north side of the street, between Akard and Stone Street. It was opened in the fall of 1912 by partners W. J. Brown and R. J. (Ray) Stinnett (who also operated the Cycle Park Theatre at Fair Park). The Garden was a vaudeville stop for touring companies.

1912_garden-theatre_variety_sept-1912Variety, Sept. 1912

It was one of many local theaters which simulcast World Series baseball games via telegraph updates, in the days before radio and TV (I wrote more about this fascinating subject here).

1912_garden-theatre_101612Oct. 16, 1912

As seen in the top photo, the Garden Theatre sat between the Pratt Paint & Paper Co. and the Roderick-Alderson Hardware Co.

garden-theatre_1913-directory_1517-elm1913 Dallas city directory

The photo at the top was found on eBay, with the seller-provided date of 1912. Zooming in, one can see a placard in front of the theater advertising the appearance of the Hendrix Belle Isle Musical Comedy Company (misspelled on the sign as “Henndrix”) — for many years this troupe toured with a production called “The School-Master”/”School Days,” the very production seen here on offer to audiences at the Garden. (Read a review of a 1912 Coffeyville, Kansas performance of the troupe’s bread-and-butter act here.)

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In April, 1913 Brown and Stinnett split, with Brown taking the Cycle Park action and Stinnett keeping the Garden (and a handful of other theaters).

On March 8, 1915 the theater changed its name and reopened as the Jefferson Theater. As the ad below stated, “This is the only theater in Dallas presenting popular players in repertoire […] Not moving pictures.”

1915_jeffersosn-theater-opens_dmn_030715March 7, 1915

I’m not sure where the “Jefferson” name came from, but….

jefferson-theater_061115June 11, 1915

There were a few back-and-forths as far as operators and leases of the Jefferson, but in 1923, Ray Stinnett “sold” (or probably more accurately sub-leased) the theater in order to concentrate on his other (bigger! better! brighter!) venture, the next-door Capitol Theater, but he reacquired it in 1925 and renamed it the Pantages. (This has caused confusion, with some thinking it had become the Pantages earlier — the confusion is understandable, as the Jefferson was affiliated with the Pantages vaudeville circuit between 1917 and 1920, and during that time the word “Pantages” appeared prominently on the theater’s marquee, but it was still the Jefferson. See a photo from May, 1925, showing the Jefferson from the Pacific side here, after it had become a Loew’s-affiliated theater.)

The Jefferson became the Pantages Theater on December 27, 1928 when Stinnett opened the newly remodeled venue which offered vaudeville stage acts as well as motion pictures. (All images are larger when clicked.)

pantages-opening_122725Dec. 27, 1925

That incarnation didn’t last too long. Goodbye, Pantages, hello, Ritz. The Ritz Theater opened on October 14, 1928, operated by the R & R (Robb & Rowley) chain but leased from Stinnett. The first film shown was “The Lights of New York,” the first all-talking feature-length movie.

1928_ritz_101028Oct. 10, 1928

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Oct. 13, 1928

1928_ritz_101528Oct. 15, 1928

Below, a 1929 photo showing the 1500 and 1600 blocks of Elm Street, the heart of Theater Row: seen here are the Ritz, Capitol, Old Mill, and Palace theaters (the regal Queen was a few doors west of the Ritz, at the corner of Elm and Akard).

ritz_capitol_old-mill_palace_photo_sherrodphoto from “Historic Dallas Theatres” by D. Troy Sherrod

A postcard showing the Ritz (and neighbors) a couple of years later, in 1931:

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But the Ritz didn’t last all that long either — a little over three years.

1931_ritz-mirror_120831Dec. 8, 1931

In 1931 the theater was acquired by the Hughes-Franklin company (as in Howard Hughes, the super-rich Texan who had an obsession with Hollywood). The plan was to renovate the building and rename it the Mirror, “a duplicate, in so far as possible, of the famous Mirror Theater of Hollywood. A feature will be the extensive use of mirrors in the lobby and foyer” (Dallas Morning News, Nov. 29, 1931).

mirror_motion-picture-times_122931Motion Picture Times, Dec. 29, 1931

The Mirror Theater opened at 1517 Elm on Christmas Day, 1931.

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Dec. 25, 1931

Theater Row, 1936:

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More Elm Street:

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The Mirror chugged on for several years as a second-run house, apparently less and less profitable as the years passed. On August 4, 1941 the theater burned down in an early-morning fire. The property owner, Vice Admiral Adolphus Andrews, decided against rebuilding.

mirror-fire_variety_081341Variety, Aug. 13, 1941

Here’s the same view as seen above, only now the space next to the Capitol is a nondescript one-story retail building. (The Telenews, a theater showing newsreels, opened in November, 1941.)

telenews_missing-mirror-post-fire_capitol_postcard

Below, a photo from around 1942, the first time in 30 years without a theater at 1517 Elm Street.

theater-row_by-george-mcafee_degolyer_SMUphoto via the DeGolyer Library, SMU

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Sources & Notes

Top photo of the Garden Theatre is from an old eBay listing.

More Flashback Dallas posts on Dallas theaters can be found here.

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

The Ambush of Bonnie and Clyde — 85th Anniversary

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by Paula Bosse

Today is the 85th anniversary of the 1934 killing of Depression-era outlaws Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, two of Dallas’ most notorious former residents. I’ve written several Bonnie and Clyde-related posts over the years, including the following:

As other Bonnie and Clyde posts are added, they can all be found here.

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Sources & Notes

Top image is the lurid front cover of a rare 1935 Mexican publication about Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow titled “La Pistolera de Texas” — it is from the collection of the Dallas Historical Society and was featured on their Instagram feed (more info is here).

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

The Aldredge Book Store — 2909 Maple Avenue

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The last location of The Aldredge Book Store, next to the Stoneleigh Hotel

by Paula Bosse

Today is the birthday of my late father, Dick Bosse. For most of the life of The Aldredge Book Store, he either managed it or, later, owned it. The store’s first location was in an old Victorian house at 2800 McKinney Avenue, at Worthington (a photo showing the house with weirdly overgrown vegetation is here), the second location was at 2506 Cedar Springs, near Fairmount, and the final location was the one seen above, at 2909 Maple Avenue, right next door to the Stoneleigh Hotel. My brother, Erik, took the photo, sometime in the 1980s, I think. The Stoneleigh is the building partially seen at the right. The bookstore occupied the building’s lower floor, and the top floor was occupied by the engineering business of the owner, Ed Wilson.

We closed the store in the early 2000s, a few years after my father’s death. Erik and his friend Pete removed the letters spelling out the store’s name which were bolted to the brick exterior over the entrance. I came across them a few years ago and laid them out in my driveway (in a much jauntier arrangement than was seen on Maple).

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As far as I can gather, the two-story building was built about 1930 and was originally a duplex — a classified ad shows that the lower floor (where the bookstore was) was a 6-room apartment with 3 bedrooms and a tile bath. Sometime in the late ’30s, building owner Glen Shumaker opened up the Dallas Music Center, where students (children and adults) took music lessons; a sort of “music business school” was also offered as part of the curriculum. That business seems to have been around at least into the early 1950s.

dallas-music-center_0527471947 ad

dallas-music-center_0124481948 ad

It was later the home of several businesses, including sales offices and an advertising company, a farming trade magazine, a correspondence school, and the Dallas Diabetes Association. I’m not sure when the bookstore moved in — maybe 1979 or 1980.

Sadly, the building was demolished in the early-to-mid-2000s and is currently a driveway/parking area for the Stoneleigh Hotel. It still surprises me to not see the old building when I drive by.

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Dick Bosse

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Sources & Notes

Photograph of The Aldredge Book Store by Erik Bosse; photo of the ABS letters by Paula Bosse.

Other Flashback Dallas posts on The Aldredge Book Store can be found here.

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

From the Vault: A Walk Through Downtown — 2017

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So much fantastic architecture!

by Paula Bosse

I visited downtown several times last week, and it’s always nice to be reminded that some of my favorite old buildings in the Central Business District have somehow managed to survive the wrecking ball and/or over-zealous renovators (I’m not sure which is a worse fate). Two years ago I walked around and took some photos of buildings I really love: see them in the 2017 post “Downtown Dallas, Last Week.

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Dallas: Major Convention Center — 1963

dallas-major-convention-center_june-1963_ebayCity of dreams, city of motels… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Here’s an interesting shot of the downtown skyline: from an unidentified motel (possibly along Harry Hines?).

This cover of a 1963 Dallas Chamber of Commerce magazine carries the headline “Dallas: Major Convention Center” — that year Dallas was named the #3 convention center (Chicago and New York held the top two spots) in a survey conducted by the trade publication World Convention Dates based upon the number of conventions booked — Dallas had 405 conventions booked, as of July, 1963. The previous year Dallas was ranked #9, so that’s quite an improvement. The GOP was even considering the city as the site of their 1964 Republican National Convention (which, considering the events of November, 1963, is an odd thing to contemplate).

Why was Big D so popular? An advertorial in The Dallas Morning News listed a few reasons:

…clear, dry weather; cosmopolitan atmosphere; numerous modern and attractive hotels and motels – with more being built every day; a marketplace with wares from over the nation and world; fun things to do and see including cultural, sports and theatrical offerings; a world-wide shopping center; easy accessibility via gleaming highways, freeways and an airport which ranks 10th in the nation. (DMN, Oct. 6, 1963)

So… pretty much the same things you hear today (except our highways might not be quite so gleaming — but our (new) airport ranks a lot higher than #10). All these years later, Dallas remains near the top of the convention-attracting cities in the United States. (I have a feeling the motel seen in the photo above did not have such a rosy future….)

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Sources & Notes

Image shows the cover of the June, 1963 issue of Dallas, the magazine of the Dallas Chamber of Commerce; found in an old eBay listing. (If anyone has any old copies of this magazine they would like to divest themselves of — or loan out for a short time — please contact me at the email address in the About/Contact tab at the top of this page.)

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

From the Vault: Research Challenge!

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Mission: track down this house’s location….

by Paula Bosse

Some people look at research as tedious, some people look at it as fun. I definitely think it’s fun. I really loved researching the image above, which I approached as a chance to solve a mystery more than anything else: I wondered if I could find out where the house once stood, the only clues being in the message on the postcard — and I did! Read the original post from 2015: “Tracking Down a Photo Location & Discovering a City Pioneer: D. M. Clower, The Man Who Brought the Telephone to Dallas.” Follow along as I chronicle how I figured it out and what Dallas-history resources I used along the way.

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

The Star Lounge, 4311 Bryan

star-lounge_next-to-brannon-bldg_city-of-dallas-preservation-collectionThe 4300-block of Bryan Street… (City of Dallas photo)

by Paula Bosse

You know those photos that just really grab you? This is one of those for me. It shows the Star Lounge & Bar (that sign!), located at 4311 Bryan, just east of Peak in Old East Dallas. The Star Lounge was opened in 1962 by Mrs. Wanda Nolan; Clark K. Curtis closed it in 1978 or 1979: that’s a lot of beer and cocktails over the lips and through the gums.

The building was built in 1922 by J. S. Johnson (the building permit had the estimated cost of construction at $3,500). Before the arrival of the Star Lounge, previous occupants of the space had included a barber shop, a cleaners, and a floor-covering and linoleum-installation company. (In 1931, when ABC Cleaners was there, the back wall of the building was blown out when two sticks of dynamite were planted one night by racketeers who were attempting to control the dry cleaning industry in Dallas by threatening violence if small-business owners refused to raise prices as a bloc and funnel the extra cash — basically “protection money” — back to them. The bad guys were thwarted.)

Early classified ads for the Star Lounge were want-ads for waitresses; in 1965, want-ads for “waitresses” were replaced by ads for “amateur go-go girls and exotic dancers.” I’m not sure how long that lasted, but it’s interesting to note that both sides of the 4300 block of Bryan were, at one time, jammed with bars which had similarly-themed retro-cool names (but which probably were more seedy than cool): the Orbit Lounge, the Rocket Lounge, the Space Lounge, and the Apollo Lounge. I’ve never seen that before. By 1970 those space-age gin mills were joined by an adult theater/bookstore. So… lively place! I’m hoping there was a lot — or even some — neon strobage going on.

This photo was probably taken around 1974, the year that Strom Radio & Appliances seems to have left the neighborhood. Neighboring businesses seen in this photo are Golden Furniture & Appliances (which has signs for Zenith and RCA-Victor out front), Peak & Bryan Beauty Shop, and the D & B Cafe. The three-story building on the corner of Bryan and Peak is the Brannon Building. All those buildings still stand — see the (sadly) more sedate block these days on Google Street View, here.

star-lounge_google-street-view_june-2018Google Street View, June, 2018

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Sources & Notes

This photo is from a really great, somewhat random collection of 35mm slides from the City of Dallas Historic Preservation Program archives — most are from the 1970s and ’80s. Read about the recently rediscovered photos here, and browse through the entire fantastic collection on Flickr, here.

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

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