Flashback : Dallas

A Miscellany: History, Ads, Pop Culture

The Arcadia Theater Sign You’ve Never Seen

Best theater marquee EVER! Lower Greenville, late ’20s (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

I LOVE this photo! Forget the sign for a moment (difficult though that may be…) — take a look at Greenville Avenue in the late-1920s! That building at the top right, across the street from the (late, lamented) Arcadia, is still there. The car heading north is just about to pass where the 7-Eleven is now (at Richmond). As for that tree-shaped sign … wow. I’ve never seen anything like that. The photo was used in a promotional campaign for a new sort of electric marquee technology.

Here’s what Arcadia manager Wally Akin (pictured above) had to say about this new-fangled Vendope Changeable ‘Lectric Letter thing:

I’m not sure the Vendope Service System took off, but, damn, that sign is cool. Here’s a another view, from 1930, looking up Greenville from about Alta — you can see how close to the curb the sign was. Imagine driving up the street and seeing that lit up in front of you.


It was a little less cool, though, by 1937 when the “tree” had been pruned and tampered with almost beyond recognition, but, still, that is one weird eye-catcher of a marquee.


UPDATE: The following information comes from a comment to me from the estimable Angus Wynne, who took over the Arcadia in the 1980s (and 1990s?) and booked some great live shows there (several of which I paid to see): “The tree sign evolved from a lesser marquee that was installed in a real tree which grew in the original parkway formerly located adjacent to the street. A very unusual attraction, it remained there for many years until the tree died, upon which the owner had it concreted over and had the electric branches added, pictured here. It was torn down when the theater’s facade and interior were renovated during the 1940’s.”

What a shame that something so wonderful didn’t survive. All those lights! I’d have loved to have seen it lit up at night, back when this lowest stretch of Greenville Avenue was called a “northern” and “remote” part of the city.


Sources & Notes

First three images, including top photo, from the Hardin-Simmons University Library, via the Portal to Texas History — these and other Arcadia Theatre images from this collection can be viewed here. The main photo (MUCH larger when clicked) is undated, but it’s sometime between the Arcadia’s opening in 1927 and the Publix theater chain’s plummet into receivership around 1931. UPDATE: When I posted this photo back in February, 2014, I was excited to think I had stumbled across something that had been unseen for years. At almost the exact time I posted this, Troy Sherrod’s great book Historic Dallas Theatres was published … and this photo was in it. Troy beat me to it!

If you’re into patent-perusing, just google “Vendope” and you’ll see oodles — an example of one them is here. I’m not sure if this is part of the same system described above, but this patent is dated 1931. The inventor (apparently of Fort Worth) had the unlikely name of Vendope L. Pistocco. Or maybe Van Lawrence Vendope. …There’s a Vendope in there somewhere.

1930 view of Lowest Greenville, looking north from Alta, is from the archives of the Dallas Public Library.

For further exploration of the Arcadia (and another photo of the barely recognizable tree), see my follow-up post here.


Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.


Dallas Power & Light Building, Night and Day

by Paula Bosse

Such an incredible building, designed by architects Lang & Witchell in the zig-zag moderne/Art Deco style and built in 1931 to house the corporate offices of the Dallas Power & Light company. I wondered from that night scene whether the building was illuminated at night, and it was. From the city’s application to the National Register of Historic Places: “The building was spotlighted with revolving colors at night, emphasizing it as a downtown landmark; this was discontinued during the energy crisis in 1975.” Argh!

This is a building that is beautiful by night and beautiful by day.


A detailed description of the architectural elements of the DP&L building is in a PDF containing the city’s application of several buildings to be considered for the National Register of Historic Places. The section on the DP&L building begins at page 68 and can be found here.

A photo of one of the portrait busts on the facade of the building is a nod to Thomas A. Edison, King of Electricity, and it can be seen here in an almost Hitchcockian cameo.


Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Hagey Infirmary, No Patient Too Frail — 1894

“A cure is guaranteed…” (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Hagey Infirmary
of Dallas, Texas.

For the cure of the

Cocaine and Tobacco Habits.

No institution in the land is equal to this. The Hagey Remedies are endorsed by thousands of the best people in Texas and other States, and multitudes testify to its efficacy. However frail the patient may be when he enters the institute, he leaves perfectly cured of the habit, with pure blood, strong nerves and restored to health. No disagreeable or bad effects have ever resulted from the treatment. It is absolutely harmless. A cure is guaranteed and accommodation good.

Consultation Free.

Correspondence Solicited.

Morrow Block, Corner Main and Pearl Streets,
Dallas, Texas.
W. F. BALDRIDGE, Manager.


From the Souvenir Guide of Dallas (Dallas: D. M. Anderson Directory Co., 1894).

The Hagey Infirmary was at 516 Main (now the 2100 block of Main, at Pearl), from about 1893 to 1894 (possibly 1895).


Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

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