Pacific Avenue — 1925
by Paula Bosse
by Paula Bosse
Elm Street gets all the glory as Theater Row, but what about Pacific? It had those very same theaters. …Sort of. Pacific gets overlooked a lot. When I see photos like this one — which shows Pacific Avenue looking east from Bryan — I always think of it as a photo showing the back side of Elm rather than as a photo showing Pacific. Always a bridesmaid, never the bride.
This photo was taken only a few short years after the Texas & Pacific railroad tracks were removed from Pacific, making it into an automobile and pedestrian thoroughfare only — no more frightening, smoke-belching trains rumbling right down the middle of the street. The city was hoping that Pacific would become a heavily commercial area like Elm, Main, and Commerce, but it never really reached those lofty heights.
I’ve always wondered if the theaters that lined Elm ever considered having entrances/box offices on both Elm and Pacific. I think that they were really only willing to slap a few posters and paint their names on their back, Pacific-facing walls. Elm Street was glitzy and glamorous. Pacific was not. Back in those early days when people were still trying to get used to Pacific Avenue being newly liberated from its railroad tracks, it might have been seen as something of an afterthought — as more of a very wide alley with traffic than as a contender for one of Dallas’ major streets.
But back to the theaters. In the photo above, we see the Old Mill at 1525-27 Elm (where “The Snob” was playing, featuring John Gilbert and Norma Shearer), the Capitol at 1521-23 Elm (which had Alla Nazimova in “The Redeeming Sin”), and the Jefferson Theater at 1517 Elm (featuring Harley Sadler’s repertory company appearing in “Honest Hypocrites and Saintly Sinners” between vaudeville acts). All of these were playing in May, 1925.
It’s interesting that the only business seen here on the south side of Pacific that had an address on both Elm and Pacific was Van Winkle’s Book Store (before it moved a couple of doors up Elm, it was at 1603 Elm/1614 Pacific). Note the sign advising “Free Passage to Elm Street” — several businesses allowed people to cut through their stores to get to the next street over because the blocks were incredibly long and would sometimes have necessitated pedestrians going three blocks out of their way just to get to their destination.
Other notable landmarks in the photo above: the Medical Arts Building (on the left) and the Dallas Athletic Club.
Here’s a view of Pacific from around the same time, looking west, from about Harwood.
Most interesting detail in this photo? That Murphy Door Bed Co. sign!
Sources & Notes
Top photo from Lost Dallas by Mark Doty (Charleston: Arcadia Publishing, 2012).
Click photos for larger images.
Copyright © 2015 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.