Henry Stark’s “Bird’s Eye View of Dallas” — 1895/96

by Paula Bosse

stark_downtown_1895-96_hplCommerce St. looking east from about Akard (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

In the winter of 1895-1896, a St. Louis photographer named Henry Stark traveled to Texas, photographing scenes and vistas across the state. According to The Handbook of Texas, he is believed to be “the first photographer to have made an extensive photographic record of Texas.” A collection of his photos was published under the title Views in Texas.

The photograph above shows Commerce Street looking east, with the post office and its tall clock tower dominating the scene (the clock shows that it is 9:35 in the morning). The Old Post Office was bounded by Main, Ervay, Commerce, and St. Paul.

This is a great photo, showing Dallas as I’ve never seen it before. I’ve zoomed in to see the “hidden” details. (All photos are much larger when clicked.)

stark_det1What is the building on the left? It’s very unusual-looking. (UPDATE: See the comments below. This appears to be the adjoining Bookhout and Middleton Buildings at Ervay and Main.)

stark_det2This is my favorite detail. All that trash. And vacant lots. And a haphazard, meandering fence. Are those steps leading to rear entrances of buildings facing Main? And those utility poles! That block looks kind of squalid. Not Dallas at its best. I think this would be around Akard. (UPDATE: A reader wrote to say that this looks like a “ravine” — that the fence may be following the course of an old stream — something that might explain why that area of prime real estate hadn’t been developed yet.)

stark_det3Houses just a few steps from the giant post office building. Horse-drawn buggies parked at the curb. People on the sidewalk. What looks like a man with his hands on his hips looking down at a child. Or maybe a dog.

stark_det4A bustling Commerce Street at the intersection of Ervay, with trollies in the distance.


This photograph shows almost exactly the same view as one I posted earlier under the title “Something Like N.Y.” — check out the 1904 version here.


The photograph, by Henry Stark, is from the Houston Metropolitan Research Center, Houston Public Library. The resolution is a bit grainy when trying to enlarge the details — to explore the photo for yourself, see it here.

What little is known of Henry Stark can be read in the brief Handbook of Texas bio, here.

For another Henry Stark photo, see the post “Oak Cliff Trolley — 1895,” here.

For other examples of photographs I’ve zoomed in on to reveal unintended vignettes, see here.

All images MUCH larger when clicked.


Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.