1400 Block of Main Street, ca. 1946

by Paula Bosse

main-street_century-room_ca-1946_bell-collection_DHS_detThe Century Club, the Adolphus Bar, and the Manhattan Cafe await…

by Paula Bosse

A few years ago, I went in to the Dallas Historical Society a few times a week to volunteer. I ended up basically cataloging an entire collection of photos taken by a man named James H. Bell — and I really enjoyed it. Bell wasn’t a professional photographer, he was just a guy who liked to take a lot of photographs. The photos were all taken, as I recall, in 1946 and 1947, when he was apparently visiting Dallas — which I gather was his hometown — on a trip from his new home in California. He took a lot of pictures of places around Dallas that no one really bothered to document: businesses, street life, houses. He was also something of a pinball and jukebox aficionado, because a large number of his photos had coin-operated machines in them. Like a LOT. He also liked buses. And he seemed to always have his camera with him.

The photo above (which, sadly, I’ve had to crop because of image issues) shows the south side of the 1400 block of Main Street. I’ve never seen a photo from this period of the Main Street entrance to the Adolphus Hotel. That cool 1936 deco sign for the Century Room is great (even though it looks a little out of place next to the overly ornate early-20th-century arch next to it). (See the full wonky image — apologies for the low resolution — all my fault — here.)

I can tell you exactly why Bell took this photo: he saw a coin-operated machine being unloaded from a truck (or loaded into a truck). There were others photos in this collection taken in similar circumstances. I don’t know whether he was following jukebox and pinball trucks around town (a very definite possibility…), or whether he just happened upon these coin-op machine deliveries, camera at the ready. Whatever the case, he got a nice action-photo of a jukebox delivery in the wild, while, at the same time, he secured for posterity a nice historical image of everyday life on Main Street. And, we have the added bonus of seeing the long-gone sign for the swanky Century Room nightclub.

This was the Dallas Historical Society description I wrote for the full photo:

Downtown Dallas, 1400 block of Main Street. South side of Main, with Akard intersecting at left. Partial view of the Southwestern Life Building (southeast corner of Main and Akard, with Travis cigar stand at street level); Andrews Building (southwest corner of Main and Akard); C C Liquor Store (1412-B Main); Elko Camera Store (1410 Main); Ragir’s (1412 Main); Adolphus Hotel, rear entrance (with Century Room nightclub sign); Adolphus Bar (1406 Main); the Marquee restaurant (1404 1/2 Main); Paul R. Brown’s Restaurant. Also: a sign for Manhattan Cafe or Cafe Manhattan, pedestrians, 1940s vehicles, workman securing a pinball or other coin-operated machine into back of pickup truck.


Sources & Notes

This photo was taken by James H. Bell in about 1946, and it is from the James H. Bell Collection at the Dallas Historical Society. The Accession Number is 2017.48, and the Object ID is V.2017.48.531. For some reason, an image is not on the DHS online database, but the link to the photo description is here.



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