Thompson’s, 1520 Main — 1916
by Paula Bosse
by Paula Bosse
Above, the newly constructed building at 1520-1522 Main Street, between Akard and Stone, home to Thompson’s, a national chain of restaurants owned by John R. Thompson of Chicago. It was built and opened in 1916.
Dallas Morning News, July 16, 1915 (click for larger image)
The site had previously been the location of the Happy Hour Theater (which can be seen in this photo), the demolition of which was announced in January, 1916.
And it was a beautiful building!
Thompson’s remained in this location until the 1930s. When Bond Clothes took over the space in 1938, news accounts rather ominously mentioned that the building would be completely remodeled, inside and out.
Workers are engaged in ripping out the front of the building. An all black glass front will be installed on most of the building and near the top of the second floor glass brick will be featured. Bronze trim will be used throughout. (DMN, Feb. 13, 1938).
All that beautiful glossy white terra cotta “ripped out”!
But things got worse. Much worse. It’s hard to believe, but this is the same building:
Photo from Selzer Associates Facebook page
In recent years, though, Selzer Associates Architects and Nedderman & Associates worked some absolutely stunning restoration magic. (Read the story of the restoration in Texas Architect magazine here, starting on p. 36.) I mean, look:
It’s beautiful again! Thank you, magic-workers!
Sources & Notes
The circa-1916 photograph by Dallas photographer Frank Rogers is from the Alexander Architectural Archives, University of Texas Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin — more info on this photo can be found here.
See an interior shot of a Thompson’s restaurant in a 1927 photo here.
Read more about the Thompson’s restaurant chain in the following articles:
- “The Lost Thompson’s Restaurant — 33 Park Row” from Daytonian in Manhattan
- “Thompson’s Cafeteria Restaurants of Chicago, Illinois” from the Digital Research Library of Illinois History Journal.
- “Early Chains: John R. Thompson” from Restaurant-ing Through History
Copyright © 2021 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.
So were Thompson’s and the Humble station at Jackson and Commerce elements of a random outbreak of architectural good taste quickly reined in or is there more to this?
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Both buildings had ties to the Atlantic Terra Cotta Company and both photos I’ve shared were taken by Frank Rogers. So. I think “yes” and “yes.”
The hotspot I’m chained to doesn’t permit a lot of looking around, so I was unable to get back to your earlier post. Thanks!
I love the arms-spread guy in the first photo. Is he photo-bombing? It was 1916 but he was in 2016.
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