Dallas’ Twin High Schools: Thomas Jefferson and Bryan Adams

by Paula Bosse

bryan-adams_1961It’s one or the other… (click to see a larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Perhaps everyone knows this, but this is news to me. While compiling recent posts about Bryan Adams High School (named, by the way, after the business manager for the Dallas school system), I discovered that the plans used for the building were the exact same plans originally drawn up for Thomas Jefferson High School. That’s weird, right? TJ opened its brand-spanking-new building on Walnut Hill in North Dallas in January, 1956; BA opened its brand-spanking-new building on Millmar in the Casa View area of East Dallas in 1957. And they looked just alike. Here are aerial photos of the two campuses from the schools’ respective 1961 yearbooks (Thomas Jefferson can be seen is the top photo — click to see a larger image):


Here they are, as seen from street level: a 1957 photo of TJ on top, a 1961 photo of BA below it.


So why did this happen? By the mid-1950s, demand for new schools — which were needed to keep up with the population growth and sprawl — was intense. Two sites were chosen in the early ’50s: in North Dallas and in the White Rock Lake area of East Dallas. The two high schools were planned to be about the same size and were meant to serve about the same number of students (2,500). Plans for Thomas Jefferson High School in North Dallas were completed first. But then … the architects wondered, “If these two school are to be the same size and built one right after the other … why not just use the same architectural plans for both?”

Even though duplicating architectural plans for schools had never been done before (in Dallas, anyway), and even though local architects were very unhappy about this, the architects on both projects — Robert Goodwin and L. C. Cavitt, Jr. of Goodwin & Cavitt, Architects — argued that this duplication would be both practical and economical: using the same plans would save money as well as more than six months in planning time.

I don’t know if this sort of thing happened again in DISD, but the cross-town twin high schools opened in Dallas in 1956 and 1957.

And I still think it’s kind of strange.

bryan-adams_1958_new-kids1957-58 Bryan Adams yearbook


Sources & Notes

Drawing at the top appeared in the 1961 Bryan Adams yearbook, but it might well have been the architectural rendering prepared for the Thomas Jefferson project. Either way, it’s pretty damn cool-looking.

The schools have undergone changes over the years, but they still look alike. See current aerial views of both campuses, via Google: Thomas Jefferson is here; Bryan Adams is here.

More can be found in the archives of the Dallas Morning News:

  • “Super High School Planned” (Thomas Jefferson) by Francis Raffetto (DMN, Dec. 9, 1953)
  • “Schoolmen OK Duplicate Plan” by Lester Bell (DMN, June 23, 1955) — the architectural plans for the new high school (Bryan Adams) would duplicate the Thomas Jefferson design — the AIA was not amused
  • “Doors Open at Newest High School” (Thomas Jefferson) (DMN, Jan. 31, 1956)

All images and clippings are larger when clicked.


Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.