Horses, Carriages, Horseless Carriages: Commerce Street — 1913

by Paula Bosse

new-skyline_c1912_degolyer_smuWest on Commerce, from about St. Paul (click for larger image) / SMU

by Paula Bosse

The photo above is from the indispensable collection at SMU’s DeGolyer Library. It shows a very busy Commerce Street in 1913, taken from the top of the YMCA building at St. Paul, looking west. The two landmarks at either end of Commerce are the first location of the Majestic Theatre at 1901 Commerce (northeast corner of Commerce and St. Paul), seen in the bottom right corner, and the Adolphus Hotel at the top left. I love this photo, mostly because it shows horse-drawn conveyances and automobiles sharing the streets in an already car-crazy Dallas, something that might not be that noticeable at first glance until you start zooming in to see magnified details. Let’s zoom in. Way in. (All images much larger when clicked.)



Dallas has begun to look like a big city.


Below, the building on the right with the steep steps is the old Post Office/Federal Building at Ervay. The Mercantile Bank Building was built on that site in 1942.


I love the detail below for a couple of reasons: first, the car at the curb at the lower right is parked next to what is purported to be the first gas pump in Dallas (the sign next to it that looks like a stop sign says “Oriental Oils” — more below); secondly, the ratio of cars to horses is pretty even.


A block east of the Oriental Oil gasoline feuling station is the Pennsylvania Oil Company feuling station, at 1805 Commerce. When I first saw this last year, I was so excited to discover this seemingly mundane little detail that I wrote an entire post about these early curbside gas pumps (read “Oriental Oil Company: Fill ‘er Up, Right There at the Curb” here).


And a couple more close-ups of this exotic thing which I still find inexplicably fascinating.



So many wires, and tracks. The Harwood streetcar is cool, but that streetlight is cooler.



Below, a listing of most of the businesses seen along this stretch of Commerce, from the 1913 Dallas directory.


Original photo is titled “New Skyline from Y.M.C.A., 1912 & 1913,” taken by Jno. J. Johnson, from the DeGolyer Library, Central University Libraries, Southern Methodist University; it can be viewed here. I have corrected the color.

The current Google Street View of Commerce looking west from St. Paul can be seen here. Very different.

UPDATE: This photograph is from 1913. The Busch Building (later the Kirby Building) began construction on the steel superstructure of the building at the end of December, 1912. The building had reached 13 stories by May, 1913 and was completed in November or December, 1913. I have updated the title from “ca. 1912” to “1913.”

All of these images are really big. Click them!


Copyright © 2015 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.