by Paula Bosse
You know how sometimes someone nonchalantly mentions something to you which should have been introduced by a fireworks display? That’s what happened when my friend Rod Hargrave sent me a link he had come across about a new online resource from the University Park Public Library: the city’s “Brown Books,” fully digitized. I made a note to check out the link when I had time but didn’t get to it for a week. I’m not the kind of person who uses “OMG,” but… O..M..G !! This is just unbelievably fantastic.
Here’s the blurb form the University Park Public Library post:
Brown Books at UP Public Library
March 2, 2022
Spend some time with one of the library’s newest resources! The City’s Brown Books contain thousands of subdivision records of individual construction permits for homes and some businesses across several decades. In these pages, you can find interesting and helpful information about the original structure. Data includes notations about square footage, construction date, original building price, along with details about the interior of the building and more. Over 98 percent of all documents include a photograph of the original structure.
PHOTOGRAPHS! Almost everything I looked up had a photo. I looked up addresses of places I’d written about – photos! I looked up businesses along Preston, Hillcrest, and Lovers Lane — photos! I looked at just about every business in Snider Plaza — photos! I even looked up the still-standing house my family lived in for a couple of years on Milton — photo! The earliest photos I found were from 1931. And all of this available to anyone with a computer — for free! Thank you, University Park Public Library!
And as the blurb says, not only are there photographs of the properties, but there is a whole history of the building, complete with renovation info, builder info, a drawing of the original footprint, etc. This includes tons of buildings which have been torn down — nothing ever dies in city/county records.
Below are some of the photos I found. Scroll down below them for instructions on how to access these records yourself on your computer.
Here are a few photos of businesses on “the drag” — Hillcrest Avenue, across from SMU. (Click pictures to see larger images.)
6200 block of Hillcrest, at Granada (in 1931). (See this property’s Brown Books page here.)
6209 Hillcrest (1959) — Jackson Arms, once my father’s home-away-from-home. (Brown Books page is here.)
6401 Hillcrest, at McFarlin (1931). The Couch Building, which burned down a few years ago — I wrote about that building here. (Brown Books page is here.) I **LOVE** this photo. I love the billboards on top of the building.
6407 Hillcrest (1948). Luby’s! What an interesting design. (Brown Books page is here.)
6601 Hillcrest (1931). The Mustang Garage — but instantly recognizable today as the home of JD’s Chippery and Cotton Island. (Brown Books page is here.)
And, a few Snider Plaza highlights. First, the photo at the top of this post, the Sinclair service station at 6600 Snider Plaza (1934). (Brown Books page is here.)
6600 Snider Plaza #313 (no date). The Beef Bar. (Brown Books page is here.) Another fantastic photo! BBQ in UP, before Peggy Sue (RIP).
6730 Snider Plaza (1931). A sandwich shop and a Hires Root Beer stand. (Brown Books page is here.)
6828 Snider Plaza (1941). Skillern’s Drugs and M. E. Moses. (Brown Books page is here. After a facelift, another photo is here.) I remember spending a lot of time in that dime store when I was a kid — it had a weird change in floor level, which looks like it must have been where a wall had once separated it from the space Skillern’s occupied.
7001 Snider Plaza (1946). Cabell’s. (Brown Books page is here.)
A quick jog over to 6001 Preston Road, at Normandy (1931). Country Club Pharmacy (it later moved to Inwood Road). (Brown Books page is here.) My mother worked for a few years as the office manager for the First Unitarian Church diagonally across from this drug store. When I was a kid hanging out waiting for my mother to finish work, I dropped a LOT of cash at the drug store on Archie comic books.
And, lastly, 4129 Lovers Lane (1947). A post-war duplex. (Brown Books page is here.) Every single time I drive down Lovers Lane, I always look forward to seeing this little house which has somehow managed to evade bulldozers. I love this house so much. And this is one of the very few times when I think that it has actually improved in appearance from its original design (see it today on Google Maps here). Hang in there, little house!
FIND YOUR HOUSE! OR ANOTHER (AT LEAST PRE-1970s) BUILDING IN UNIVERSITY PARK.
- Go here. (This is the “welcome page” — if this doesn’t load, go to the UP Public Library blog post here and click through. If you get an error message, go back to “welcome page” and you should see the search page.)
- Enter the address (number + street name) you want to find in the search box. You can also just type in a street name, and it will bring up all addresses on that street. (I typed in “Binkley” and got 18 pages of results — seems like overkill, but they’re all in chronological address order.) This works if you enter “Snider Plaza” — take a tour through the Snider Plaza of yesteryear. Some addresses will have more than one sheet. And there’s TONS of info on each property.
And that’s it! You’ve lost a day! Or several!
UPDATE: It appears this resource is no longer accessible by the general public. I haven’t checked, but my guess is that it is available only to University Park residents who have a library card. Please say it isn’t so, UP Public Library!
Not 100% sure where the boundaries for University Park are? See a City of University Park map here.
Sources & Notes
Absolutely everything you see here is from the University Park Public Library and the Brown Books in their collection. This is such an amazing resource. Thank you, UPPL and the City of University Park for digitizing these records and putting them online for all of us to use!
And thank you, Rod, for alerting me to this resource which I will be using constantly!
DOES DALLAS HAVE ANYTHING LIKE THIS??? IMAGINE!
Copyright © 2022 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.