City Park Construction Work — 1941

by Paula Bosse

city-park-construction_1941_david-roberts-photo“City Park, 1941” (click for huge image) / Collection of David Roberts

by Paula Bosse

This great family photo was sent in by reader David Roberts. It shows his grandfather, David Crockett (D.C.) McKay working on a construction crew. The reverse of the photo reads “City Park, 1941.” David has identified his grandfather as the man standing on the makeshift wooden bridge, just to the right of the cement mixer. I love this photograph!

City Park (now “Old” City Park), was Dallas’ first park, acquired in 1876. It became a popular (and beautiful) recreation area, and the adjacent Browder Springs was home to the city’s first waterworks. In 1936, City Park was briefly re-named “Sullivan Park” in honor of Dan F. Sullivan, the city’s first highly-accomplished Water Commissioner. But it was officially UN-re-named (or RE-re-named) and went back to being “City Park” again in May, 1941, because after 60 years of being known as City Park, the “Sullivan” thing just never caught on, and the two names were causing confusion. So the name was changed back.

So what construction was going on around City Park at the time this photo was taken? In 1941, there were major improvements going on throughout the city’s park system, and City Park was one of the beneficiaries of an $800,000 city-wide improvements package. ALSO happening in 1941 was some Mill Creek storm sewer work — Mill Creek ran through the park and there had been ongoing work to its sewers since the ’30s. In January, 1941, The Dallas Morning News reported that a large construction contract was pending on a Mill Creek storm sewer “from Browder to Beaumont” — this may have been a bit beyond the actual park, though. I mention this only because the photo above appears to show construction of a large sewer in the City Park area.

On April 16, 1941 a short article ran in The Dallas Morning News about a fatal accident at a City Park construction site, perhaps the same site that DC McKay was working on:

BRIDGE CAVE-IN KILLS WORKER
Crushed when a concrete bridge in Sullivan Park collapsed on him, Henry D. Pilgrim, a 37-year old city laborer, was killed Tuesday afternoon while working underneath the bridge on a storm sewer project. He lived at 1310 Williams, just off Eagle Ford Road. The accident was blamed on the weakened condition of the bridge due to rains and the weight of workmen on it. Pilgrim is survived by his wife, Mrs. Maggie Pilgrim, and three children.

Construction work is hard, sweaty, and dangerous. Mr. Roberts says his grandfather worked for the J. W. Slaughter Construction company, often on concrete culvert and drain projects.

Some of my earliest memories of visiting his house in the evenings (early ’60s) was that you had to be quiet during the weather, because that forecast was how he knew if he had to work the next day.

Mr. McKay, who was born in 1903, would have been in his 60s then! But hard construction work must have agreed with him, because DC McKay lived until the ripe age of 84.

Thank you so much for sharing your photo, David! It’s great to see Dallas infrastructure in the making!

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Photograph from the personal collection of David Roberts, used with permission.

A photo of D. C. McKay (1903-1987) and his wife, Opal McKay, is here.

Two pertinent articles from the Handbook of Texas: the history of Old City Park is here; the history of Browder Springs is here.

Photo is really big. Click it!

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Copyright © 2015 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

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