Happy 75th Anniversary, Stonewall!
by Paula Bosse
Stonewall Jackson Elementary School, 1938 rendering (click for larger image)
by Paula Bosse
Classes begin today for students in DISD schools, one of which is Stonewall Jackson Elementary School, located at Mockingbird and Matilda. Stonewall turns 75 years old this year (2014), and I’m proud to say it’s where I spent many years as a happy student. When I learned recently that the school had originally been built as a single-story building (instead of the two stories we know today), I was pretty surprised, and this little unknown nugget prompted me to look into the early years of my alma mater.
In the 1920s and ’30s, Dallas was expanding very quickly northward from Vickery Place, the residential neighborhood around Belmont and Greenville. As the area we now know as Lower Greenville and the M Streets was developed, the two elementary schools (Vickery Place School, then at Miller and McMillan, and Robert E. Lee, at Matilda and Vanderbilt) were soon filled to capacity. Building a new school to serve burgeoning “Northeast Dallas” was an immediate necessity. So in 1938, the city purchased a 9-acre chunk of land along Mockingbird, one block east of Greenville Avenue and right alongside the Denison interurban tracks that ran on Matilda (when I was growing up a couple of blocks away, I used to see remains of those tracks but didn’t know what they had been used for — I wrote about those tracks here and here). The land had been part of the vast Caruth land holdings.
The building was designed by architect C. H. Griesenbeck. It had eleven classrooms, a cafeteria, and an auditorium with a seating capacity of 400. Although originally built as a one-story building, Griesenbeck was mindful that expansion would be necessary in the future, and his design took into account that a second story would be added in the years to come. Construction began in late 1938 and was scheduled to be completed for the opening of the 1939-40 school year.
The name of the new school was decided upon a few months later:
“Stonewall Jackson’s name was chosen for the new school, Dr. Norman R. Crozier, superintendent, said because of the high ideals of Thomas Jonathan Jackson, one of the unique and romantic figures of the War Between the States, and as a companion to its nearest school, Robert E. Lee.” (Dallas Morning News, Feb. 1, 1939)
But if you’re going to sink a hundred thousand dollars into a school, you’ve got to have houses for families to live in to make sure your future student pool doesn’t run dry — and at that time very few houses had been built that far north. Cut to W. W. Caruth, Jr., son of the Caruth family patriarch who basically owned everything north of Mockingbird (Caruth owned a huge expanse of land once estimated at being over 30,000 acres). Not long after selling the land at Mockingbird and Greenville to Dr Pepper, Caruth fils began to develop the land around the then-under-construction school — he called the new neighborhood “Stonewall Terrace.”
The property went fast.
As the neighborhood was taking shape and the construction of the school building was nearing completion, the school’s official boundaries were announced:
“Boundaries of the Stonewall Jackson School will be from the alley south of Morningside on the east side of Greenville Avenue and from the alley south of Mercedes on the west side of Greenville to the M-K-T Railroad on the north.” (DMN, Sept. 3, 1939)
Despite some problems with labor shortages, the school managed to open on time, on Sept. 13, 1939, the start of the new school year.
The school and the neighborhood grew quickly, and the number of students soon doubled. In 1950 the school board approved preliminary plans for an addition to the school. This addition (which would cost $369,000 and be handled by the architectural firm of Tatum & Quade) would include a first-floor wing with four classrooms, a gymnasium, and a lunchroom, and a second story containing eight classrooms, a library, and a music room. (The cost of construction would probably have been quite a bit more had the original architect not had the foresight to design the building with the expectation that a second story would be added in the future.)
The construction was substantial enough that it had to be done during the 1951-52 school year. Because the old lunchroom was being dismantled while the new wing was being built, students were required to bring their lunches the entire year. All they could get at school was milk. No fish sticks, no Salisbury steak, no chess pie. Just milk. Sorry, kids.
The new addition was completed in time for the beginning of the 1952 school year. And that’s the version of the building that stands today, looking pretty much unchanged.
It was a cool building then, and it’s a cool building now. It’s sad to see how much of the playing fields keep disappearing as ugly portable buildings take over, but the new garden is a great new addition — I wish they’d had that when I was there.
I really loved that school. When I was a student there, grades went from 1st to 7th, and I loved all seven years I spent there. Thanks for the great childhood memories, Stonewall. And Happy 75th Anniversary!
Sources & Notes
Top image is architect C. H. Griesenbeck’s architectural rendering of Stonewall Jackson Elementary School, originally a one-story building.
Here are a few articles to check out in the Dallas Morning News archives:
- “$11,250 Offer Made for New School Site” (DMN, Oct. 26, 1938)
- “Contracts for $104,150 Let on Northeast Dallas School” (DMN, Dec. 22, 1938)
- “New Northeast Dallas School Named Jackson; Board Pays Tribute to Famous General” (DMN, Feb. 1, 1939)
And, yes, it probably sounds weird to outsiders, but students actually do call the school “Stonewall” — just like we call Woodrow Wilson High School (the high school Stonewall feeds into) “Woodrow.” It’s like a secret handshake.
Below, an undated photo from DISD’s Pinterest board (if you squint, you can see the Piggly Wiggly at the southwest corner of Mockingbird and Matilda).
UPDATE: After years of controversy, Stonewall Jackson Elementary School will be rechristened “Mockingbird Elementary” in 2018. Whatever its name, it’s still a great school!
Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.
Dallas’ population growth in the face of the depression was slow compared to the previous decade; from 1930 to 1940 the city’s number of inhabitants grew by about 35,000. That was the same total growth as Austin, which in 1930 had less than a quarter of Dallas’ population (53,000 compared to 260,000).
I can remember in the early 1950s standing on the sidewalk in front of the Wilshire theater on Mockingbird Lane just east of the Skillman intersection and looking north across the roadway at the grasslands that seemed to stretch to the horizon. But for good or otherwise that situation didn’t last much longer.
[…] “Happy 75th Anniversary, Stonewall!” I actually went to Stonewall Jackson Elementary School, so the popularity of this post makes me […]
Wonderful article. I attended Stonewall Jackson from 1952 until 1959. I can still remember each teacher I had during my tenure there. First grade was Anita Andrews, second grade was Ann Macmillan, third grade was Jewell York, and fourth grade was Jean Ann Derryberry. In the fifth grade we went home room. My home room teacher was Kathleen Boone who also taught us Health-science. Math was taught be Doyle Patterson. Sixth grade home room was Ida Mae McMillan. Our math and science teachers were the same as the previous year. Seventh grade was taught by Vera McSpadden. Our gym instructor was Billy Glenn Gaines. Our principle was A.J Hilliard. I have very fond memories of the school
Thank you, James! I remember all my teachers, too (Rogers, Douglas, Chamberlain, Smith, Propst, Peterson, Sneed, Ballard, Brown, Gregory, Pahmeier, Woods, Ridelheuber (I’m sure that’s spelled wrong), et al. Of the ones you mentioned, only Mr. Gaines was still there in the ’70s. Our principal was Mr. Davis. I can remember every inch of that place!
Pahmeier…that’s her married name…she started at Stonewall as a single woman then got married one summer and came back as Mrs. Pahmeier. What was her maiden name? I believe I had her for 2nd then 3rd grade both, that’s how I remember the name change.
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I was the first male PTA President of Stonewall Jackson Elementary, 1976. My wife and I were instrumental in getting the PTA meetings changed from afternoon to evening so that men, and not just stay at home moms, could be included. After I became president, we invited teachers to join the board, making it more inclusive and not “us vs. them” as it had previously been. Stonewall Jackson was a unique and marvelous learning experience for both our daughters. Neither was hearing impaired, but the innovative integrating of hearing and hearing impaired provided a great introduction to their education and one which they have never forgotten. I’m sure that the powerful administrators in their ivory towers will insist on a name change, but I find it a political finger in the eye for those of us who have fond memories of Stonewall Jackson.
[…] 1936 it had made it up to Penrose; and by 1939 it had finally reached Mockingbird (in time for the opening that year of Stonewall Jackson Elementary School, located at Mockingbird and […]
It will always be stonewall Jackson elementary. I went there 1946-1952.
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Flashing back and glad to see many feel the same way about good times. From the ’68 to ’70. Many of the teachers names above (Ballard, Pahmeier, Gaines, Davis, still resonate. Some great times at school, with friends on Martel and all around. Thanks for the memories.
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i have many memories of the teachers . and my classmates . No matter what they call you now . you will always be Stonewall to me! Thanks for life time of memories ,
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Thanks for sharing thhis
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