The Arcadia Theater Sign You’ve Never Seen

by Paula Bosse

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.

greenville-avenue_1930

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.

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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.

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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.

Most photos larger when clicked.

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Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

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