City Park Construction Work — 1941
by Paula Bosse
“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 — a construction worker named Henry Pilgrim was crushed when a bridge collapsed on him: “The accident was blamed on the weakened condition of the bridge due to rains and the weight of the workmen on it.”
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!
Photograph from the personal collection of David Roberts, used with permission.
Sullivan Park postcard found on eBay.
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.
Copyright © 2015 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.
For years those old concrete molds sat out by Harry Hines and Walnut Hill on an old lot, they did this same trick at turtle creek, that tunnel goes all the way too the Trinity…..i lived the life of a Tom Sawyer type from 1963 too 1989…even in my 30s, and 40s….and have lived in other states…..this is home in this life…..
Paula, this a rare photo of putting Mill creek under and a very interesting article. My dad grew up on Swiss Avenue and Mill Creek went right through Exall Park and flowed south on College Avenue (now Hall Street) towards the east end of town. He played in parts of Mill Creek when he was very young and recalled it was dry most of the time, but when it rained up north of town it became a raging river. I remember when I was very young going down Hall towards Swiss Avenue he would say there is a creek under this street. I guess today we just think of them as storm sewers. The old Mill Creek diversion out grew its capacity long ago and a new and expanded diversion is in the works. Thanks for posting this very interesting article.
Thanks for the additional information, Danny. Very interesting!
and mill creek was the old Deep elm and the other addition areas dump, that was quite colorful with they dug into such…..the town dump is our or was where all of the secrets ended up….the mill creek flood was very bad and made the areas hard, wet, awful too live in.