Arcadia Theater, 1927…
by Paula Bosse
Above is a rendering of architect W. Scott Dunne’s design for the Arcadia Theater on Greenville Avenue, at Sears Street, between Ross Avenue and Belmont. (The low-flying bi-plane is a nice touch.) Among the many Dallas theaters designed by Dunne were the Esquire in Oak Lawn and the Texas Theatre in Oak Cliff (as well as another entertainment mecca, the Fair Park Band Shell).
The Dallas Morning News had this to say about Dunne’s concept for the new “suburban theater” in 1927:
W. Scott Dunne, architect of Arcadia, is working out an interior design that should prove in harmony with the theater’s name — an atmospheric design of as near rustic simplicity as is possible in a theater.
A photo of the not-particularly-rustic exterior in 1930:
The fabulous giant tree marquee, posted previously (link to post below), from about this time can be seen here.
All went well for many years until 1940 or ’41 when the original 1927 building was badly damaged in a fire; it had to be gutted and completely overhauled by architects Pettigrew & Worley. John A. Worley wrote an article for Box Office magazine about the rebuilding process (link below), including the hard-to-believe tidbit that the firm had been “vigorously instructed to studiously avoid any pretense of ‘super-colossal’ — or, more thoroughly defined, we were told to steer clear of that ‘regal’ air, which had been known to impel theater patrons to take off their shoes before daring to walk across the foyer.”
The article even has a photo of the lopped-off, now-sadly diminished tree sign. (The author — in something of a reach — explains that the “stump” was there as a symbol of the “Arcadian” nature of the theater.) (You just know that both Pettigrew and Worley were praying for the go-ahead to just get rid of it already.)
There was another bad fire in 1958, which led to further renovation. By then, that tree was loooooong gone and but a dim memory.
There sure were a lot of fires at the ol’ Arcadia. Including the final, fatal one, in 2006. R.I.P. And from the ashes sprang the present-day Trader Joe’s.
Sources & Notes
Photo showing “The Vagabond King” (1930), from the Hardin-Simmons University Library via the Portal to Texas History, here.
Photo showing “stump” is from the June 21, 1941 issue of Boxoffice.
An interesting article on the Arcadia — and life along Lowest Greenville — can be found in a Lakewood Advocate article “The Rise and Fall of the Arcadia,” here.
The original post that spurred a further look into the early days of the Arcadia — and the one with the crazy huge electric tree marquee — can be found in the Flashback Dallas post “The Arcadia Theater Sign You’ve Never Seen,” here.
Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.