Flashback : Dallas

A Miscellany: History, Ads, Pop Culture

Category: 1980s

The G. B. Dealey Library and Reading Room at the Hall of State

hall-of-state_dealey-library_entrance_042517A quiet place to read or study… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

I spent time this week walking around the G. B. Dealey Library and Reading Room at the Hall of State in Fair Park. It is part of the Dallas Historical Society, and it is a quiet, high-ceilinged, airy-but-cozy Western-themed oasis filled with lots of warm wood and featuring two large murals by legendary El Paso artist Tom Lea. If you haven’t seen it, I highly encourage you to go take a look.

What we now call the Hall of State was the architectural jewel in the crown of the Art Deco splendor created throughout Fair Park for the Texas Centennial Exposition in 1936. The room now housing the Dealey Library was originally the West Texas Room — one of four geographically-specific rooms in the Hall of State. The two Tom Lea murals (one depicting a cowboy, the other, pioneers) are on opposite walls (walls finished with an adobe-like plaster, decorated with famous Texas brands, in relief). One wall is covered with cowhide. There are painted ceramic tiles set into both the walls and the floor (the ones on the floor decorated with images of cactus are great!). There is a wood sculpture of a cowboy, carved by Dallas artist Dorothy Austin, who was only 25 years old when the Centennial opened. And … well — like everything in the Hall of State — everywhere you look you see incredible attention to detail. Every fixture, grating, knob … everything is absolutely wonderful.

In 1989, after a two-and-a-half-year renovation, the West Texas Room became the home of the G. B. Dealey Library (named in honor of the former publisher of The Dallas Morning News). The project was headed by architect Downing Thomas who took great care in choosing the Arts and Crafts-style furniture (the chairs, tables, and bookcases were handmade by Thomas Moser in Portland, Maine, the chairs emblazoned with bronze Texas stars and upholstered in tanned leather), reading lamps with mica shades (made by Boyd Lighting of San Francisco), and a woven rug by Sally Vowell of Fort Worth (I don’t recall seeing a rug, but there’s a lot to take in and I might have missed it). I really love this room.

When the library opened in November, 1989, the first guest through the doors was Tom Lea who had been shocked to learn that his then-53-year-old murals were still in place. And they’re still there, 81 years after Lea created them. And you should go see them.

The library and reading room is open Tuesday-Sunday, same hours as the Hall of State. If you are interested in researching materials from the collection of the Dallas Historical Society, you are encouraged to contact the staff in advance of your visit and make an appointment; though the room is open to the public, research hours are limited. More about this and the hours of operation can be found here.

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Below, one of the Tom Lea Murals can be (partially) seen above the cowhide wall-covering and above Dorothy Austin’s cowboy sculpture. (Click photo to see a larger image.) That light fixture is fantastic! (See the full Tom Lea mural here.)

hall-of-state_dealey-library_042517_inside-entrance

Here’s the view from the back corner looking toward the entrance, over which can be seen Lea’s second mural.

hall-of-state_dealey-library_042517_toward-entrance

In the photo at the very top, you can see the floor, which is studded with all sorts of cactus-themed tiles. Here are examples of four of them.

hall-of-state_dealey-library_042517_floor

My absolute favorite of the cactus tiles is this one, in a very Japanese-like rendering.

hall-of-state_dealey-library_cactus-tile

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That’s what the room looks like today. Here are a few photos of the West Texas Room under construction in 1936 (photos from the Dallas Historical Society’s Centennial Visual Collection). The first one shows Dorothy Austin standing below the Tom Lea mural, about where her cowboy statue would be placed. Those ceilings are pretty high.

tom-lea_dorothy-austin_west-tx-room_DHS

And here’s the statue. (See Austin’s statue close up, here, in a 2014 photo by Carol M. Highsmith, from the Library of Congress.)

dorothy-austin_cowboy-sculpture_west-tx-room_DHS

And here is a look into the room from the entrance, showing a construction crew at work.

west-tx-room-construction_hall-of-state_DHS

Below are 28-year-old Tom Lea’s thoughts on being informed of his important commission, from the El Paso Herald Post, March 24, 1936.  (Click to see larger image.)

tom-lea_west-tx-room-murals_el-paso-herald-post_032436

It seems strange that Lea was only in the preliminary-drawing stage of the murals’ creation in March — the Centennial was scheduled to open in June, less than three months away. (It’s worth noting that even though the Centennial — which ran for almost six months — opened in June, the Hall of State did not open to the public until September, three months behind schedule and the only Exposition building that did not meet its deadline. It was finally dedicated on September 5, 1936, the 100th anniversary of Sam Houston’s election as the first President of Texas.)

Below, a photo of Mr. Lea at the 1989 opening of the Dealey Library, with his 1936 mural behind him.

tom-lea_west-texas-room_1989_tom-lea-institute
via Tom Lea Institute

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To read more details on the 1989 opening of the G. B. Library and the renovation of the West Texas Room, please check out these articles from The Dallas Morning News archives:

  • “A Rare Blend — Art Deco, Western and Shaker Unite for a Modern Adaptation at the Hall of State” by Mariana Greene (DMN, Nov. 12, 1989)
  • “G. B. Dealey Library Dedicated at Fair Park — Center Will House Texas Documents” by Todd Coplivetz (DMN, Nov. 13, 1989)
  • “How the West was East at the Hall of State Redo”  by Alan Peppard (DMN, Nov. 14, 1989)
  • “An Old Friend Triumphs Anew: The Hall of State Redo Affirms the Power of Great Architecture” by David Dillon (DMN, Nov. 14, 1989)
  • “Reviving a Cultural Paean to Dallas — Fair Park Changes Designed to Restore Centennial’s Glory” by David Dillon (DMN, April 9, 1986) (this article concerns Fair Park as a whole)

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Sources & Notes

Photos of the Dealey Library and Hall of State door (below) are by me.

Photos of the West Texas Room from 1936 are from the collection of the Dallas Historical Society. You can search through low-res thumbnails of some of the images from their very large collection here.

As mentioned above, if you plan a trip to the Dealey Library in order to inspect or research items from the DHS collection, these materials must be requested in advance and an appointment must be scheduled (info here).

More on Tom Lea (1907-2001) can be found at the Tom Lea Institute website, here (with specific information on the Hall of State murals here); a profusely illustrated blog post with an emphasis on his time as a WWII artist-correspondent can be found here.

Obituary for Dorothy Austin Webberley (1911-2001) can be found on the Dallas Morning News site, here; family obituary is here.

Detailed info on the architecture and design of the Hall of State can be found in a Dallas Historical Society PDF, here. The Wikipedia entry is here (someone please correct the erroneous info that the Dealey Library is in the “East” Texas room!), and the always informative Watermelon Kid site has information on the East Texas and West Texas rooms here.

A series of photos of Fair Park, taken in 2014 by Carol M. Highsmith, can be found at the Library of Congress website, here. Her photo of the Hall of State is below.

hall-of-state_library-of-congress_carol-m-highsmith_2014

And, lastly,  a photo I took showing one of my favorite elements of a building packed with aesthetically pleasing details (seriously, everywhere you look): one of the doors of the main entrance to the Hall of State, designed by Houston architect Donald Barthelme, honoring Texas industry (ranching, timber, oil, agriculture, etc.). That sawmill blade gets me every time. And the aerial perspective of oil coming up through a derrick (middle right) is pretty cool, too. (Click to see a larger, more exciting image!)

hall-of-state-doors_042517_bosse

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Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

Remember the Alamo! — In Plano, Behind the Target

alamo-plano_dmn_051284-photoNever forget… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Today is Texas Independence Day. This time last year after posting a photo of the Alamo somewhere, I was informed that there was, in fact, an Alamo replica right here in DFW. I knew about the one(s) in Fair Park, but Plano? Yep, near 75 and Parker Road, at the corner of Lexington and Premier, just west of the highway. See a southward-looking aerial view on Google here; below is the same view, from Bing.

alamo-plano_birdseye-bingBing Maps

Here it is at street level:

alamo-plano_bingBing Streetside

So, um, why is that there?

Not being up on my Plano history, and never having been aware of this, it took me a long time to find anything about it. Which is pretty surprising, because you’d think there would be all SORTS of articles about a very large replica of one of the most famous structures in the world (yes, I’m going to say “in the world”), standing right here in the Metroplex. And it’s been standing here for at least 35 years! I managed to find a couple of ads and an article about the building — it had started out as an arcade called the Alamo Fun Center and later became part of a car dealership — but I could  never find out who built it or why. I thought I’d come back to it in a year — so I could post it on Texas Independence Day — and see if I could find more, looking with fresh eyes. So I tackled it again today, and, glory be, I’ve just discovered that Rick Saigling wrote a piece for Plano Magazine last November titled “Remember the Alamo Fun Center” which answered all of my questions (and had photos of the building when it was new).

The Plano Alamo was built in 1982 by brothers-in-law Nathan White and Gene Cason and other investors as a “fun center” to house a Texas-themed arcade featuring video games, miniature golf, etc. While popular with Plano kids, the Alamo Fun Center was not a successful venture, and it shut its ornately carved doors after only a relatively short time in business. There you have it. Thank you, Rick. I now have closure.

The earliest (only?) mention I found of the “Fun Center” was the ad below, which appeared in The Wylie News a short time before its grand opening in the summer of 1982. The ad seems to indicate that the name of this “western theme park” is Lone Star Recreation Park and Alamo Fun Center (click to see a larger image).

alamo-fun-center_wylie-news_072982
The Wylie News, July 29, 1982

A few months after the Alamo Fun Center opened, Larry Lange Cadillac moved to its new location on the adjacent property. I’m not sure exactly when it closed, but the Plano Alamo was taken by the advancing forces of Larry Lange Cadillac in 1983 or 1984. For whatever reason, the building remained (what Texan is going to demolish the Alamo?) and was incorporated into the Larry Lange business plan.

alamo-plano_dmn_062683-larry-lange-ad-det
June, 1983

In May, 1984, the ad below announced the grand opening of the Larry Lange Adventure Center — the Alamo had been emptied of its batting cages and pizza ovens and had been transformed into an “Indoor Van Showroom Which is ‘As Large as Texas’!” (That doesn’t seem to have lasted very long.)

alamo-plano_dmn_051284-ad
May, 1984

Two years later, in 1986 — the year of the Texas Sesquicentennial — The Plano Star Courier checked in with the then-current occupants of the hometown Alamo, Premier Auto Leasing, to see what it was like working in the Alamo. In Plano. An employee made the impossible-to-believe statement that very few people ever actually commented on the fact that they were leasing their vehicle from a company that occupied a building shaped like the Alamo.

alamo-plano_plano-star-courier_072286
Plano Star Courier, July 22, 1986

In 1999, Diane Jennings of The Dallas Morning News wrote a story on “mock Alamos” around the state. She checked in on the Plano location, then owned by Crest Cadillac, and found it was being used as a warehouse. The general manager, Michael Coston, was not a fan of the building for several reasons, not least of which was the replica’s design.

As a native Texan and history buff, he worries that the inaccurate construction may “deface the fame of the how-many-ever we say gave their lives there.” He is particularly irritated by the parapet, the rounded hump over the door, which most people associate with the Alamo facade, but which was actually added by the U.S. Army decades after the battle. (DMN, Feb. 28, 1999)

Today Crest Cadillac appears to have forsaken Plano for Frisco, but the property is still in the Crest auto family — it’s now occupied by Crest Volvo. But what of The Alamo? It’s now the home of Crest Collision, a body shop.

So there you  have it, the story of Plano’s Alamo.

Instead of rushing out to get a Mirabeau B. Lamar tattoo to show my Texan-ness in these waning hours of Texas Independence Day, I’ve decided instead to post a few photos of the real Alamo, which, strangely enough, was also a neighbor to a car dealership, the Clifton George Ford Motor Co. Remember the Model-T!

alamo_clifton-george-ford_san-antoniovia Texas Transportation Museum

alamo_clilfton-george-ford_e-o-goldbeck_ransom-center_ca-1918via Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas

alamo_herpel-gillespie-ford
via Texas Transportation Museum

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Sources & Notes

Top ad from May, 1984.

Second-from-last photo by an unidentified photographer, circa 1918, from the  E. O. (Eugene Omar) Goldbeck Photography Collection, Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin; more information and a larger image may be found here.

Rick Saigling’s Plano Magazine article “Remember the Alamo Fun Center” (November 21, 2016) is here. It includes several photos of the Alamo Fun Center in 1982/83 and interviews with a former owner and employee. See a (large!) close-up of the unexpectedly ornate stone façade of the Plano Alamo here. (If you’re interested in Plano history, Rick’s also written a nice nostalgic piece, “I Remember When Plano Was a Sleepy Town,” here.)

Photos and clippings are larger when clicked.

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Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

The Mitchell Building: Home to Cotton Gins, Rockets, Frozen Beverages, A/C Units, Slackers, Squatters, Hipsters, and Urban Loft-Dwellers

mitchell-bldg_oct-1988_appl-natl-register-hist-placesIn 1988, the building had seen better days… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

In 1928, the John E. Mitchell Company (discussed previously here, here, and here) arrived in Dallas from St. Louis and built their J. A. Pitzinger-designed 2-story factory at 3800 Commerce Street (a wing was added the next year, and a third story was added the year after that). It produced cotton gins and farm implements. As strange as it seems today, Dallas was once the largest producer of cotton gin machinery in the United States. The Mitchell Company was located in a mostly industrial area very close to several other cotton gin manufacturers (such as the nearby  Continental Gin Company and Murray Company). At the height of their production, these Dallas factories were  responsible for half of the world’s cotton gins.

When World War II hit, the company became an important defense contractor and produced munitions for the U.S. Navy and U.S. Army, making things such as “anti-submarine projectiles,” anti-aircraft shells, rocket nozzles, and “adapters for incendiary bomb clusters.”

After the war, the Mitchell Company continued to manufacture agricultural implements but diversified by turning out other types of machinery, like automobile air conditioners and and cleaning systems. As the 1960s dawned, they developed the machine that made ICEE frozen slushy drinks (forever immortalized by 7-Eleven as The Slurpee).

After the death of company president John E. Mitchell, Jr. in 1972, the business began a slow slide downward. The company appears to have gone out of business in the early 1980s. In the fall of 1982, the company’s equipment was sold at public auction, and, in 1984, the building became the temporary home of the Junior Black Academy of Arts and Letters.

In the 1980s, Deep Ellum and Exposition Park began to explode with new bars, clubs, and galleries. If it was cool, it was in Deep Ellum and Expo Park; if it was in Deep Ellum and Expo Park, it was cool. Artists and musicians began to move into many of the neighborhood’s old warehouses. These usually run-down buildings — in which bohemian types lived (not always legally) and used as studio spaces — were huge and (in the beginning) cheap. The Mitchell Building became something of a ground zero for wild parties and was described in a fantastic 1995 newspaper article by Shermakaye Bass (linked below) as both a “flophouse” and “an artists commune and downtown slacker den.” The building was closed and boarded up by its owners in early 1995 in order to avoid code-violation citations, but by 1999 the building had been purchased, cleaned up, modernized, and converted into 79 loft apartments. Today, the Mitchell Lofts have been a part of the Expo Park scene for almost 20 years.

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In 1991, the Mitchell Building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The photographs below (and the one at the top) were included in the application form. They were taken by Daniel Hardy of Hardy-Heck-Moore in October, 1988. Things weren’t looking great for the building in 1988. It must have been quite an undertaking to convert this large L-shaped building (which had certainly seen better days) into hip, sleek lofts.

Below, looking northwest on Commerce. The Mitchell Building is in an L-shape — the smaller building in the foreground is an old Dallas Power and Light substation, built around 1925. (Click photos to see larger images.)

mitchell-bldg_oct-1988_2

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The back, from the old T&P/Missouri-Pacific railroad tracks.

mitchell-bldg_oct-1988_3

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And two interior views of the second floor.

mitchell-bldg_oct-1988_4

mitchell-bldg_oct-1988_5

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Here’s what the exterior looks like today, spiffified. (Explore it on Google Street view here.)

mitchell-lofts_google_jan-2016Google Street View (Jan. 2016)

mitchell-building_google
Google Maps

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mitchell_sign_war-bk
Mitchell War Book, ca. 1945

mitchell-building_flickr_colteraFlickr

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Sources & Notes

Photos are from the application to the National Register of Historic Places; in addition to the photos, there is a thorough history of both the building and the John E. Mitchell Company, written by David Moore of Hardy-Heck-Moore. The 28-page form can be found in a PDF, here. (3/14/17 UPDATE: The link no longer works for me, and I am unable to find the document. Here’s the full URL: ftp://ftp.dallascityhall.com/Historic/National%20Register/John_E_Mitchell_Plant.pdf.)

More info on the Mitchell Company and its building through the years can be found in the following Dallas Morning News articles:

  • “Dallas Gets Gin Factory” (DMN, March 17, 1928) — the announcement that a permit has been granted for the construction of a two-story brick factory and warehouse
  • “John E. Mitchell Exemplifies Faith as Secret to Success,” by Helen Bullock (DMN, July 17, 1949) — an entertaining profile of John E. Mitchell, Jr.
  • “Demise of a Dream Factory — Deep Ellum’s Historic Mitchell Building Leaves a Legacy of Artistic and Industrial Vision,” by Shermakaye Bass (DMN, Feb. 5, 1995) — for those who grew up when Deep Ellum was experiencing its (first) renaissance, the article is a great snapshot of what things were like in Deep Ellum and Exposition Park back in the ’80s and early ’90s

See what the Mitchell Lofts look like now in this Candy’s Dirt article from 2014; more photos are here. Pretty hard to believe people used to manufacture things like cotton gins and anti-aircraft missiles there.

The Mitchell Lofts website is here.

Click pictures and clipping to see larger images.

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Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

Belmont & Greenville: From Caruth Farmland to Hub of Lower Greenville

hockaday-campus_aerialHockaday campus — Greenville Ave. at the right (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

If you’ve driven down lower Greenville Avenue lately, you’re probably aware that the buildings that most recently housed a retirement home at the northwest corner of Belmont and Greenville were scheduled to be been torn down. When I drove past that intersection a few weeks ago and saw the entire block leveled, I was shocked. It’s weird suddenly not seeing buildings you’ve seen your entire life. It got me to wondering what had been on that block before. I’d heard that Hockaday had occupied that block for several years, but even though I’d grown up not too far away, I’d only learned of that within the past few years. When I looked into this block’s history, the most surprising thing about it is that it has passed through so few owners’ hands over the past 140 or so years.

As far as I can tell, the first owner or this land was Walter Caruth (1826-1897), a pioneer merchant and farmer who arrived in this area in the 1840s (some sources say the 1850s), along with his brother, William. Over the years the brothers amassed an absolutely staggering amount of land — thousands and thousands of acres which stretched from about Inwood Road to White Rock Lake, and Ross Avenue up to Forest Lane. One of Walter Caruth’s tracts of land consisted of about 900 acres along the eastern edge of the city — this parcel of land included the 8 or 9 acres which is now the block bounded by Greenville, Belmont, Summit, and Richard, and it was where he built his country home (he also had a residence downtown). The magnificent Caruth house was called Bosque Bonita. Here is a picture of it, several years after the Caruths had moved out (the swimming pool was added later).

caruth_bosque-bonita_dallas-rediscovered

Most sources estimate that the house was built around 1885 (although a 1939 newspaper article stated that one of Walter’s children was born in this house in 1876…), but it wasn’t until 1890 that it began to be mentioned in the society pages, most often as the site of lavish parties. (Click pictures and  articles to see larger images.)

bosque-bonita_dmn_020390Dallas  Morning News, Feb. 3, 1890

At the time, the Caruth house was one of the few buildings in this area — and it was surrounded by endless acres of corn and cotton crops. It wasn’t long, though, before Dallas development was on the march eastward and northward. This ad, for the new Belmont Addition, appeared in April of 1890, and it mentioned the Caruth place as a distinguished neighboring landmark.

belmont-addition_dmn_041690
DMN, April 16, 1890

By the turn of the century — after Caruth’s death in 1897 — it was inevitable that this part of town (which was not yet fully incorporated into the City of Dallas) would soon be dotted with homes and businesses.

caruth-farm_dmn_092703
DMN, Sept. 27, 1903

At one time the Caruth family owned land in and around Dallas which would be worth the equivalent of billions of dollars in today’s money. After Walter Caruth’s death, the Caruth family became embroiled in years of litigation, arguing over what land belonged to which part of the family. I‘m not sure when Walter Caruth’s land around his “farmhouse” began to be sold off, but by 1917, the Hardin School for Boys (established in 1910) moved into Bosque Bonita and set up shop. It operated at this location for two years. The Caruth house even appears in an ad.

hardin-school_dmn_071517_bosque-bonita_ad
DMN, July 15, 1917

I’m not sure if the Hardin School owned the land or was merely leasing it and the house, but in 1919, Ela Hockaday announced that she had purchased the land and planned to move her school — Miss Hockaday’s School for Girls (est. 1913) — to this block and build on it a two-story brick school building, a swimming pool (seen in the photo above), tennis courts, basketball courts, hockey fields, and quarters for staff and girls from out of town who boarded.

hockaday_dmn_051119DMN, May 11, 1919

hockaday_dmn_070619
DMN, July 6, 1919

Ground was broken in July of 1919, and the first session at the new campus began on schedule in September. Below, the building under construction. Greenville Avenue is just out of frame to the right.

hockaday_greenville_construction_hockaday100Photo: Hockaday 100

hockaday_greenville-ave_1919_reminiscences

hockaday_greenville-belmont_1920s_horses

The most interesting thing I read about the Hockaday school occupying this block is that very soon after opening, the beautiful Caruth house was moved from its original location at the northwest corner of Belmont and Greenville. It was rolled on logs to the middle and back of the property. “Bosque Bonita” became “Trent House.” Former student (and later teacher) Genevieve Hudson remembered the moving of the house in an oral history contained in the book Reminiscences: A Glimpse of Old East Dallas:

caruth-house_hockaday_reminiscences-bk

You can see the new location of the house in the top aerial photo, and in this one:

hockaday_aerial_dplDallas Public Library

Another interesting little tidbit was mentioned in a 1947 Dallas Morning News article: Caruth’s old hitching post was still on the property — “on Greenville Avenue 100 feet north of the Belmont corner” (DMN, May 2, 1947). I’d love to have seen that.

After 42 years of sustained growth at the Greenville Avenue location (and five years after the passing of Miss Hockaday), the prestigious Hockaday School moved to its current location in North Dallas just after Thanksgiving, 1961. Suddenly, a large and very desirable tract of land between Vickery Place and the M Streets was available to be developed. Neighbors feared the worst: high-rise apartments.

The developer proposed a “low-rise,” “semi-luxury” (?) group of four 5-story apartment buildings, each designed to accommodate specific tenants: one for swinging singles (“where the Patricia Stevens models live”), one for single or married adults, one for families with children, and one for “sedate and reserved adults.” It was to be called … “Hockaday Village.” The architect was A. Warren Morey, the man who went on to design the cool Holiday Inn on Central and, surprisingly, Texas Stadium.

Bosque Bonita — and all of the other school buildings — bit the dust in preparation for the apartment’s construction. Hockaday Village (…what would Miss Hockaday have thought of that name?) opened at the end of 1964.

hockaday-village_dmn_101864
Oct., 1964

hockaday-village_dmn_101864_carpet-of-treetops
Oct., 1964

hockaday-village_dmn_031365
March, 1965

And then before you knew it, it was the ’70s, the era of waterbeds and shag carpeting. (Miss Hockaday would not have tolerated such tackiness, and I seriously doubt that Mr. Caruth would have ever understood why shag carpeting was something anyone would actually want.)

hockaday-village_dmn_052271_waterbeds
1971

Then, in 1973, the insistently hip ads stopped. In April, 1974 this appeared:

hockaday-village_FWST_042874
Fort Worth Star-Telegram, April 28, 1974

The apartments were being offered for public auction by the “Office of Property Disposition” of the Federal Housing Authority and HUD. Doesn’t sound good. So who bit and took the plunge? The First Baptist Church of Dallas, that’s who. The plan was to redevelop the existing apartments into a retirement community called The Criswell Towers, to be named after Dr. W. A. Criswell. But a mere three months later, the Baptists realized they had bitten off more than they could chew — the price to convert the property into a “home for the aged” would be “astronomical.” They let the building go and took a loss of $135,000. It went back on the auction block.

Two years later, in the summer of 1976 … the old Hockaday Village became Belmont Towers — and the new owners must have thought the Baptists’ idea was a good one, because Belmont Towers advertised itself as “mature adult living at its finest” — “perfect for retired or semi-retired individuals.”

hockaday-village_dmn_043083_belmont-towers
April, 1983

It was Belmont Towers for 20-or-so years. In 1998, the buildings were renovated and updated, and it re-opened as Vickery Towers, still a retirement home and assisted living facility. A couple of years ago it was announced that the buildings would be demolished and a new development would be constructed in its place. It took forever for the 52-year-old complex to finally be put out of its misery since that announcement. Those buildings had been there my entire life and, like I said, it was a shock to see nothing at all in that block a few weeks ago.

vickery-towers_050516_danny-linn-photoPhoto: Danny Linn

In the 140-or-so years since Walter Caruth acquired this land in the 1870s or 1880s, it has been occupied by Caruth’s grand house, a boys school, the Hockaday School, and four buildings which have been apartments and a retirement community. And that’s it. That’s pretty unusual for development-crazy Dallas. I’ll miss those familiar old buildings. I hope that whatever is coming to replace them won’t be too bad.

greenville-belmont_bing_aerial
Bing Maps

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Sources & Notes

The top aerial photograph is from the Vickery Place neighborhood website, here. Belmont is the street running diagonally at the left, and Greenville is the street running diagonally at the right. I’m not sure of the date, but the Hockaday Junior College (which I had never heard of before) can be seen at the northwest corner of Belmont and Greenville — the original location of Bosque Bonita before it was rolled across the campus.

That fabulous photo of Bosque Bonita is from the book Dallas Rediscovered by William L. McDonald.

Photo of Hockaday girls playing tennis is from the book Reminiscences: A Glimpse of Old East Dallas.

Photo of girls on horseback … I’m not sure what the source of this photo is.

Photo of the block, post-razing is by Danny Linn who grew up in Vickery Place; used with permission. (Thanks, Danny!)

All other sources as noted.

In case you were confused, the Caruth Homeplace that most of us might know (which is just south of Northwest Highway and west of Central Expressway) was the home of Walter Caruth’s brother William — more on that Caruth house can be found here.

The Hockaday School can be seen on the 1922 Sanborn map here (that block is a trapezoid!).

More on the history of the Hockaday School can be found at the Hockaday 100 site; a page with many more photos is here. Read about the history of the school in the article “Miss Ela Builds a Home” by Patricia Conner Coggan in the Spring, 2002 issue of Legacies, here.

Additional information can be found in these Dallas Morning News articles:

  • “Proposal to Change Hockaday Site to Apartment Zoning Opposed” (DMN, Oct. 29, 1961)
  • “Retirement Home Plans Going Ahead” (regarding the purchase by the First Baptist Church of Dallas) (DMN, June 15, 1974)
  • “Church Takes $135,000 Loss on Property” (DMN, Sept. 10, 1974)

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If you made it all the way through this, thank you! I owe you a W. C. Fields “hearty handclasp.”

Photos and clippings larger when clicked.

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Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

Blackie Sherrod: “The Most Plagiarized Man in Texas” — 1919-2016

blackie-sherrod_dmn-video

by Paula Bosse

Legendary sportswriter Blackie Sherrod died yesterday at the age of 96. My father was not a follower of sports, but I remember he read Blackie Sherrod’s columns because, along with other great, larger-than-life, and exceptionally talented DFW sportswriters such as Bud Shrake, Dan Jenkins, and Gary Cartwright, Blackie was — for want of a better word — a “literary” journalist whose style transcended his subject matter. His writing appealed to everyone who enjoyed and appreciated well-written and caustically funny forays into, around, over, and under the world of sports. Sports fans — and other sportswriters — loved the guy. And so did everyone else.

In the December 1975 issue of Texas Monthly, Larry L. King (forever known as the man who made more money from the best little whorehouse in Texas than any of the girls who plied their trade there) wrote a fantastic profile of Blackie (“The Best Sportswriter in Texas”), in which he described Blackie Sherrod as being “the most plagiarized man in Texas.” Sportswriters around the state routinely stole all of Blackie’s best lines and inserted them, unattributed, into their own columns. King himself admits he was one of the worst offenders. The lengthy profile is great. Great. Read it here.

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Sources & Notes

Watch a Dallas Morning News-produced video tribute to Blackie Sherrod from 2013.

The Dallas Morning News obituary — “Legendary News Sportswriter Blackie Sherrod Dies at 96” — written by Kevin Sherrington, is here.

Several of Blackie’s Sherrod’s books can be purchased online, here.

Moments after I posted yesterday’s photo of the Dallas Times Herald lobby, I read that Blackie had died. He must have walked through that lobby thousands of times. That was an odd bit of synchronicity.

See an early photo of Blackie with his famed co-workers in the post “Legendary Sports Writers of the Fort Worth Press — ca, 1948.”

Thanks, Blackie.

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Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Spider-Man: Christmas in Dallas! (1983)

xmas_spider-man_cover_sm

by Paula Bosse

Remember when news photographer Peter Parker was covering a charity ball in Dallas? You  know, the one attended exclusively by millionaires from around the country who were raising money for orphans?

xmas_spider-man_intro(click for larger image) via Sense of Right Alliance blog

And then the Kingpin showed up dressed as Santa Claus and held the wealthy crowd for ransom, but Peter Parker managed to slip away and — whoa! — hey, Spider-Man appeared, and he and the Kingpin duked it out for awhile until an inventor of an anti-gravity device stepped in to aid the Webbed Wonder, and together they sent the Kingpin packing as he floated away, presumably into outer space. And, with Evil thwarted, Peter Parker was able to fly back home to spend Christmas morning with his beloved Aunt May. I’m sure you remember that! It was in all the (evening) papers.

This exciting adventure was told in a special give-away supplement included in a 1983 edition of The Dallas Times Herald. In the panels I’ve seen, there isn’t anything overtly Dallas-y, but that’s probably because the comic book aficionados who have scanned various pages are more interested in Spider-Man than in Dallas.

There are local ads, though. Like this one for Morgan Boots. (Is it too much to ask for them to have slipped a couple of special custom-designed sticky-soled boots onto Spider-Man’s Spidey-feet? Come on, Stan Lee!)

xmas_spider-man_morgan-boots-_1983(click for larger image)

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Sources & Notes

“Spider-Man: Christmas in Dallas!” (by Jim Salicrup, Alan Kupperburg, and Mike Esposito) was issued as an advertising supplement by The Dallas Times Herald in 1983. I haven’t found a scan of the full mini-comic book online, but several panels are here and here and here (the first two of these linked blogs have scans of several of the local ads).

 Quite honestly, this looks like it could have been prepared for Anytown, USA (“Spider-Man: Christmas in [insert your city’s name here]”). I much preferred Captain Marvel’s visit to Dallas in the ’40s when there were Dallas-specific things EVERYWHERE: see my previous post “Captain Marvel Fights the Mole Men in Dallas — 1944” here.

Incidentally, tons of these are available on eBay right now — averaging about $5.00 each. Need one?

xmas_hulk_spider-man-xmas-in-dallas_1983

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Copyright © 2015 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

The “Dallas” Theme Song You’ve Never Heard — En Français

paris-texas_eiffel-towerNo, not Paris, TEXAS…. (via anatravels.org)

by Paula Bosse

You know that theme music for the TV show Dallas? Actually, that should just be a statement of fact: you KNOW that theme music for the TV show Dallas. We all do. But you know what you DON’T know? You don’t know what the French did to “improve” the J.R.-watching experience. For reasons which I don’t exactly understand, they had someone (Jean Renard) write a theme song for the show. A song. Une chanson. With lyrics. To all-new music. Sounds crazy and unnecessary, but it was a big hit on the French pop charts. And it’s so gloriously awful and fabulously weird that it must be shared. This is not a joke. This is the actual music that accompanied Dallas when it was shown on French television.

I give you a rough approximation of the lyrics (the French lyrics are here).

Dallas, your ruthless world,
Dallas, where might is right,
Dallas, and under your relentless sun,
Dallas, only death is feared.

Dallas, home of the oil dollar,
Dallas, you do not know pity;
Dallas, the revolver is your idol,
Dallas, you cling to the past.

Dallas, woe to him who does not understand,
Dallas, one day he will lose his life.
Dallas, your ruthless world,
Dallas, where might is right.

And here it is. Sing along!

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Catchy, huh? What could be better than hearing it sung? Watching it being sung! I’m not sure who the singer is, but he’s attacking this song with a rock attitude that totally isn’t warranted.

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Nice hat!

This was a big, big hit in France. I’ve even seen the word “beloved” used to describe it. Remember this the next time you might feel a lack of confidence or a twinge of inadequacy in the presence of a chic and sophisticated Parisian. Stand tall, my fellow Texans, and remember OUR Dallas theme.

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Silly Frenchmen.

 dallas-french_youtube

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UPDATE: Julia Barton has hipped me to her segment about “Dallas” which aired on public radio’s “Studio 360” in 2011, focusing on the sometimes surprising global and sociopolitical impact of this pop-culture juggernaut. I went to college in the UK, and there wasn’t a day that passed without several people gleefully asking me about J.R. Ewing. It was weird. Had the TV show never existed, I’m sure I would have been queried endlessly (and possibly angrily) about JFK, and I might well have been shunned — yes, shunned! (I remember when people embarking on international trips pre-Southfork were advised to respond to the question “Where are you from?” with the somewhat vague answer “Texas” rather than the explosively specific “Dallas,” because, post-assassination, we were “the city of hate” around the planet.) I’d much rather have had people ask me about a soap opera character than blaming my hometown for killing an American president. So, um, thanks, Lorimar!

Listen to Julia Barton’s 15-minute “Studio 360” segment here (audio plays above J.R.’s silhouette).

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Read about this odd practice the French have of concocting whole new TV theme songs for American television shows, here.

I can’t believe I’ve never heard of this. All thanks to my friend Carlos Guajardo for passing along this very entertaining nugget of Dallas kitsch! Thanks, Carlos!

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Copyright © 2015 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

2222 Ross Avenue: From Packard Dealership to “War School” to Landmark Skyscraper

packard-dealership_2222-ross_detroit-pub-lib_1940Packard automobile showplace, 1940 (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

In late summer of 1939, a new 60,000-square-foot. $250,000 home for Packard-Dallas, Inc. featuring a “luxurious showroom” was announced. The first Packard automobile dealership had opened in 1933 at Pacific and Olive, and in the intervening six years, their growth had been tremendous, necessitating several moves and expansions.

packard_ross_rendering_1939

The attractive art deco building, faced with Cordova limestone and decorated with glass bricks, cast aluminum letters, and neon, was designed by J. A. Pitzinger and Roy E. Lane Associates, and was constructed at 2222 Ross Avenue in a mere three months. The large building was right across the street from the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, in the block bounded by Ross, Crockett, San Jacinto, and N. Pearl. The president of Packard-Dallas was J. A. Eisele and the secretary-treasurer was his son, Horace. The grand opening on Dec. 16, 1939 was a big enough deal that the home-office Detroit honchos flew in, and there was even a 15-minute radio program devoted to it on KRLD.

Under the headline “Growing With Dallas,” the opening-day ad featured a photograph of Joe and Horace Eisele and “A Message of Appreciation and an Invitation”:

packard_dmn_121639_ad1

packard_dmn_121639_ad2Ad, Dec. 16, 1939 (click for larger image)

“It’s Texanic!”

And another ad featured this nifty little line drawing of the cool building:

packard_dmn_121639-drawing-detDec. 16, 1939 (ad detail)

One of the stories about the opening of Dallas’ new auto showroom palace boasted that this big, beautiful, brash building was here to stay — Packard-Dallas had a 15-year lease on the place. …Which is why it was surprising to read that the building was sold less than two years later.

The U.S. was on the inevitable brink of involvement in the European war, and the National Defense School had begun operation in Dallas in July, 1940. After a year of classes in which young men were taught “to do the technical and mechanical work necessary to warfare” (DMN, March 20, 1941), classrooms at the Technical high school and at Fair Park were bursting at the seams, and a larger facility was necessary. The Dallas Board of Education (which oversaw the program, often called “the War School”), was given the go-ahead to purchase the building (and, presumably, the property) for $125,000 in August, 1941.

I’m not sure why J. A. Eisele sold the building (his name was listed as owner, rather than the Packard Company) — it wasn’t even two years old, and he got only half of what it cost to build. Patriotism? His son Horace had been drafted in April, so … maybe. Eisele seems to have left the auto sales business, which he had been in for decades, and had moved out of Texas by 1945.

After the U.S. officially entered the war and it became obvious that “defense schools” around the country would have to admit women in order to maintain manufacturing quotas, women began to work beside men at the Ross Avenue school in January, 1942.

Eighty women Saturday pulled their fingers against the triggers of aircraft rivet guns as the Dallas National Defense School, 2222 Ross Avenue, started the state’s first major training course designed to place women side by side with men in Texas war materials plants. (DMN, Jan. 4 1942)

This “War School” was a training school for war-time jobs at places like North American Aviation.

defense-school_dmn_090643Sept., 1943

Thousands of men and women trained at the Ross Avenue facility until the war ended in 1945. The school continued, but no longer as a Defense School — it became Dallas Vocational School, and its first students were veterans.

In 1976, the school was designated as one of the Dallas Independent School District’s magnet schools — it became the Transportation Institute, where “students interested in owning their own dealership, becoming a technician-mechanic or an auto body specialist will receive on the spot training in a laboratory consisting of a new car showroom, a modernly equipped repair center and a complete auto rebuilding facility” (DMN, Aug. 22, 1976). Back to its roots! And it only took 37 years.

The school continued for a while but, inevitably, the property became more and more attractive to developers. In 1981, as the developers were circling, a City Landmark Designation Eligibility List was issued. It contained buildings which had “particular architectural, historical, cultural and/or other significance to the City of Dallas,” and, if approved, were eligible to receive historic landmark designation. I’m guessing 2222 Ross Avenue didn’t make the cut, because Trammell Crow bought the building in 1983 and tore it down the next year.

transportation-institute_lost-dallas_dotyvia Lost Dallas by Mark Doty

But … Crow sold the facade to real estate developer and investor Lou Reese, who said that he would reassemble the limestone facade and incorporate it into a restaurant he planned to build in Deep Ellum. That was an interesting plan. (Incidentally, in the same city council meeting in which the demolition/disassembling of the building’s facade was discussed, the council also considered “a request for more than $7 million in federal funds for a project to renovate the Adams Hat Co building into apartments” (DMN, Aug. 8, 1984). …Lou Reese owned the Adams Hat building. What a coincidence!)

The city council’s decision?

The council authorized developer Trammell Crow to disassemble the art deco facade of the former Transportation Institute Magnet High School on the condition that the facade be reconstructed in Deep Ellum…. The company [has] demolished all but the building’s limestone facade, which was determined to be eligible for designation as an historic landmark. (DMN, Aug. 9, 1984)

So? Where’s that facade? There was no mention of it for three years, until an article in the Morning News about another developer who had big plans for a major Deep Ellum complex called “Near Ellum,” which would be be bounded by Commerce, Crowdus, Taylor, and Henry streets.

Highlighting Near Ellum will  be a 40-foot art deco facade, formerly on the front of the Transportation Institute on Ross Avenue, in the main parking plaza. The plaza will also include an outdoor stage for concerts and special events. (“Developer Plans Deep Ellum Project,” DMN, June 25, 1987)

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand … that never happened. I wonder if that 76-year-old disassembled limestone facade is still crated up somewhere around town? Somehow I doubt it.

So, 2222 Ross Avenue. What’s there now? None other than the 55-story skyscraper, Chase Tower, also known as “The Keyhole Building.”

You could get a lotta Packards in there.

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Sources & Notes

Top photo from the Detroit Public Library’s Packard Collection in the National Automotive History Collection, viewable here; I’ve straightened and cropped it. The reverse has this notation: “Packard Motor Car Co., branches/dealerships/agencies, 2300 [sic] Ross Avenue Dallas, Texas, exterior, show windows left to right; 1940 Packard 110 or 120, eighteenth series, model 1800 or 1801, 6/8-cylinder, 100-120-horsepower, 122/127-inch wheelbase, convertible coupe (body type #1389/1399), special furniture display.”

The developer who apparently came into possession of the facade after Lou Reese was Ed Sherrill. Perhaps someone associated with the Near Ellum project might know what became of the “saved” facade.

Chase Tower info on Wikipedia here; photo of it here. Imagine a teeny-tiny car dealership at its base.

Packard automobiles? Some of them were pretty cool. Check ’em out here.

A lengthy article on the notorious developer Lou Reese — “Hide and Seek” by Thomas Korosec (Dallas Observer, June 8, 2000) — is here.

Most images larger when clicked.

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Copyright © 2015 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

My Birthdays at Kirby’s: Filet Mignon for Everyone!

kirbys-birthday

by Paula Bosse

I grew up in the Lower Greenville area, and since we had a nice steakhouse just a couple of blocks away, that’s where we always went for family birthdays and special occasions: Kirby’s. I had forgotten about the birthday cards they sent out until my mother came across one in a recent move which was addressed to “Miss Paula Bosse.” Other than receiving actual mail, the thing that made these cards really exciting for a child was the inclusion of a dime. I always thought of it as a little birthday treat, but my mother suggested it was more of a subtle reminder to the parents to spend that dime on a call for reservations.

I loved that place. It was very dark. My brother and I always had the same thing: a non-alcoholic, super-sweet Shirley Temple from the bar, a salad with big chunks of roquefort in the salad dressing, a baked potato, and, oh my god, a filet mignon. I was mesmerized by the bacon wrapped around the steak. And the little wooden marker that showed how the meat was cooked. It was a nice, friendly neighborhood steakhouse. It was loud and happy. You could hear the steaks sizzling on the grill. It was always a treat to go to Kirby’s. And the place smelled GREAT! Even out on the sidewalk.

I was sad when they tore the building down, and even though there is now a chain of restaurants with the name “Kirby’s” — they even built a new one a couple of blocks down from the original location — there’s no way it could ever be  the same.

Looking around for the history of the original “Kirby’s Charcoal Steaks,” I was surprised to discover that the man who owned Kirby’s — B. J. Kirby — was the son of the man who founded the Pig Stand chain of drive-ins. The Pig Stand started in Dallas, and it was the first drive-in restaurant EVER. They had the first carhops. The first onion rings. The first Texas toast. The Kirby’s steakhouse location — 3715 Greenville — had actually been a Pig Stand! B. J. Kirby had grown up working at his father’s restaurants, and when his father died, he sold all the Pig Stands except for the Greenville Avenue location (i.e. Pig Stand No. 4). In 1954 he turned the pig-sandwich-serving drive-in into a nice sit-down steakhouse which remained popular until the restaurant closed in 1987 when Mr. Kirby retired.

Watch Ch. 5 news footage of B. J. Kirby and the auction of the restaurant fixtures at UNT’s Portal to Texas History site, here.

kirbys_ch-5_closing_screencap_portal

I could really go for a bacon-wrapped filet mignon right about now. And one of those Shirley Temples would even hit the spot.

kirbys_1958

kirbys_color

kirbys_1951

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Sources & Notes

“Something to Crow About!” card from the author’s collection.

Color photo of the Kirby’s sign is a screenshot from the Channel 5 news coverage of the auction of the Kirby’s fixtures, which aired April 14, 1987, viewable here; from the KXAS-NBC 5 News Collection, UNT Libraries, via the Portal to Texas History.

First ad from 1958; bottom ad from 1951.

An entertaining history of the Pig Stand No. 4 and its transformation into Kirby’s Charcoal Steaks can be found here.

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Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

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