Back When the Kessler Couldn’t Catch a Break — 1957

by Paula Bosse


by Paula Bosse

One of the casualties of the famous tornado that hit Dallas and Oak Cliff in 1957 was the Kessler Theater. In 1957, the Kessler — then only 15 years old — had hit hard times and was being used to house an evangelical church. It was rebuilt after the tornado, but soon after it was hit by a three-alarm fire. Conclusion? Do not disturb the entertainment gods — that place was meant to be a theater!


From the post-tornado reports in The Dallas Morning News:

At the West Davis and Clinton business district, an evangelical church in a converted theater building at the intersection was caved in, leaving little more than two walls standing. The church’s cross from atop its more than 50-foot tower was crumpled in the gutter. (DMN, April 3, 1957)

And in a survey of the clean-up:

At Davis and Clinton, where the old Kessler Theater was being used as a revival center before the tornado, workmen were busy wrecking the building, completing what the tornado had started. […] J. T. Hooten, foreman for Winston A. Caldwell, explained that the damaged sections of the theater which might give way under a slight strain and cause further damage had to be torn out. His crew carefully but hurriedly dismantled the old Davis Street landmark. Hooten said the owner may rebuild the theater as a 1-story office building. (DMN, April 10, 1957)

Here is a detail of an aerial photo by photographer Squire Haskins, showing the damaged Kessler in the center (see the full, very large photo here):



Sources & Notes

Top photo from an incredibly detailed website devoted to the 1957 Dallas tornado, the home page of which can be seen here.

Second photo from D. Troy Sherrod’s Historic Dallas Theatres (Charleston: Arcadia Publishing, 2014); photo from the collection of the Dallas Public Library.

Aerial photograph by Squire Haskins from the Squire Haskins Photography, Inc. Collection, UTA Libraries, Special Collections; more information is here (click the thumbnail to see a larger image).

Website of the recently (and beautifully) restored Kessler is here.


Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.