by Paula Bosse
When I read a Facebook post from Big D History about an eBay collection of 75-or-so photos taken around Dallas in the 1950s and ’60s (links-a-plenty at the bottom of this post), I spent a substantial amount of time browsing though them. They’re just amateur snapshots, oddly framed sometimes and a little muddy, but the person who took them focused on what might seem to most of us as being fairly ordinary (sometimes downright mundane) buildings — and that’s great, because people always take photos of the big, important downtown skyscrapers, but hardly anyone takes a photo of an East Dallas apartment building or a suburban bank.
The two photos I was most excited to see showed buildings I recognized instantly, having seen them practically every day of my childhood, passing them on drives to and from my father’s bookstore. The one at the top of this post is my favorite. I knew immediately that it was the old antique store at McKinney & Hall — I never knew its name, but I knew that it had been around before I was born and that my mother had bought one of our family’s nicest pieces of furniture there and paid for it in ten-dollar installments.
I now know that the name of the crazy-looking antique shop my mother bought our hutch from was called Mary Lee’s Antique Center, at 3306 McKinney. It was in business at that location from 1956-ish to the end of 1971. A succession of antique shops moved in when Mary Lee moved out — I never knew the names of any of the businesses in this building, only that they all looked dauntingly FULL (how I managed to never actually go in any of them, I have no idea).
For many years, McKinney Avenue was lined with antique shops, many of which were in very old wood-frame houses which had been converted from homes into businesses.
The old two-story house that Mary Lee was in was one of the largest. The house was built sometime before 1909, and, happily, this little remnant of the past is still standing (though with a weirdly updated exterior), next to its smaller companion building. Oddly situated on its lot, it’s been sitting for over a hundred years at the corner of McKinney and North Hall. Today it is the home of a leasing company; it faces Bread Winners and an eclectic-looking block of bars and restaurants.
Whether or not it’s true, Mary Lee claimed to have started “Antique Row,” which, in this case, meant the 3300 block of McKinney.
Back in 1959, these dealers were calling themselves “The Antique Circle” and were describing their antique-packed block as “the poet’s row.”
Mary Lee’s — which pretty much sat by itself on the south side of the street — was directly across from a block containing a strip of antique shops. I was glad to see in the same eBay collection a photograph of that north side of the block (probably taken at the same time as the photo at the top of this post).
Seen above is part of that block, with Anna Belle’s Antiques (misspelled in the ad below) and Jackie’s Antiques (which was owned by Jackie Woods, a family acquaintance — her father had a clock shop, and my mother thinks that Jackie’s store may have been adjacent to it).
The buildings in that block are also still there — they’re nowhere near as old as the house across the street, but it’s still nice to see some old and quirky structures still standing (and staying occupied) along a rapidly changing McKinney Avenue.
In the 1980s, the cute little houses which, for decades, had been occupied by a variety of businesses — antique shops, boutiques, clothing stores, salons, etc. — began to disappear from McKinney Avenue. Granted, some had seen better days and were in various states of disrepair, but, personally, I thought they were all charming, and I was sad to see them replaced by buildings conspicuously lacking in character. I had grown up seeing those houses and was especially fascinated by the cigar store Indians that seemed to stand in every yard and on every porch. (It’s pretty weird remembering that there were a LOT of wooden Indians along McKinney Avenue — almost as weird as remembering that there were once yards and porches along McKinney Avenue!)
Now, most of those houses are long gone. A handful survive. The one most people might know is the one at 3605 McKinney, at Lemmon Ave. East — I first began lusting after it when it was Jennivine, and it’s nice to see that it’s still around, now as Uptown Pub. From a quick-ish look at its history, it appears to have been built before 1902. I know there are a lot people who love the severely densely-packed 21st-century version of “Uptown,” but wouldn’t that area be a million times nicer if there were still a street full of places like this?
There are also a couple of 100-plus-year-old houses in the 3400 block. Seen below, the one on the left (3403 McKinney, currently occupied by Cliff’s Bar & Grill) appears to have been built in 1897; the very cute house to the right was built before 1909.
Imagine McKinney Avenue lined with these houses — first as homes, later as funky little shops. It wasn’t that long ago, really….
Sources & Notes
Both 1963 photos are from eBay, in auctions ending Monday night (Nov. 16, 2015). The top photo showing Mary Lee’s Antiques is here; the one showing Anna Belle’s and Jackie’s antique shops is here. See what the north side of this block looks like today on Google Street View, here; rotate it south and see what Mary Lee’s place looks like these days, and then head one block east to see the two old houses in the 3400 block. Look at what surrounds the wonderful house at McKinney & Lemmon (the old Jennivine), here — rotate the view at your own risk.
The entire eBay collection of Dallas snapshots — being offered in individual auctions which all end over the next couple of days — is here. The descriptions of these photos are written by an eBay seller in Ohio, and now that I’ve seen Big Tex described as “Big Tex Cowboy Man,” I’m all for an official name change. Consider it, SFOT!
For more on McKinney Avenue during this period, read the Dallas Morning News article titled “Poverty, Luxury, Art, Jazz — Changing Scene: The Many Faces of McKinney Ave.” by the always entertaining Helen Bullock (DMN, May 7, 1961).
Click pictures for larger images.
Copyright © 2015 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.