Flashback : Dallas

A Miscellany: History, Ads, Pop Culture

Category: African-American Dallas

Oak Cliff’s Star Theatre — 1945-1959

star-theatre_troy-sherrod-hist-dallas-theatres_DPLShow Hill, with the Star Theatre at right

by Paula Bosse

This is one of those photographs I could stare at all day long. It shows a shopping area in East Oak Cliff at the intersection of E. Eighth Street and N. Moore Street — this part of Oak Cliff was originally settled as a freedman’s town, and this photo shows an area between the Tenth Street Historic District and The Bottoms (or The Bottom) neighborhood (see a great map, here).

When these buildings were built in 1945 by I. B. Clark, it was an exclusively African-American part of Dallas. The anchor of this strip (which occupied what was described as both the 300 block of N. Moore and the 1400 block of E. Eighth) was the Star Theatre, which was, according to Mr. Clark, the only movie house for black customers in Oak Cliff).

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Boxoffice, April 28, 1945

star-theatre_oak-cliff_negro-directory-1947-48_adDallas Negro Directory, 1947-48

I. B. Clark was a white businessman who lived on a ranch in Cedar Hill; he had owned the Southern Fireworks Company before the war and had frequently battled with Dallas lawmakers about the constitutionality of banning the selling and shooting of fireworks within the city limits.

In the undated photo above, businesses in the retail strip are the Top-O-Hill Food Mart, the Ebony Cafe (Pit Bar-B-Q), the Easy-Wash laundromat, the second location of the Cochran Street Record Shop, the Star Theatre, and hotel apartments.

This hub of businesses was popular with neighborhood residents, who referred to this area as “Show Hill” (for the picture show). I stumbled across a really wonderful 2018 oral history of Margaret Benson, who, in 1944, moved with her family to Dallas and attended N. W. Harllee Elementary School and both Lincoln High School and Madison High School. She describes these shops and says that whenever black entertainers such as Dinah Washington or Sister Rosetta Tharpe came to town, they frequently stayed in the apartments above these businesses, as hotel accommodations for African Americans were few and far between. (I loved the entire recording of Mrs. Benson reminiscing about living for most of her life in this area of Oak Cliff — the part where she specifically talks about “Show Hill” is at the 8:25 mark in the recording at the link above.)

According to Dallas movie theater historian Troy Sherrod, the Star closed in 1959. Over time the area eventually declined and the remaining businesses closed. The strip, which was looking pretty down-at-its-heels in the 1990s, was demolished around 2000. The photo below shows the once-vibrant strip in its later days. (Three more photos, from 1999, can be found here — the addition of more apartments (the “Ebony Hotel Annex”) can be seen in the third one.)

star-theatre_mark-doty_lost-dallas
via Lost Dallas by Mark Doty

Here is what “Show Hill” vacant lot looks like today on Google Street View:

star-theatre_google-street-view-nov-2019Google Street View, 2019

star-theatre_bing-mapsBing Maps

star-theatre_cinematreasures_advia Cinema Treasures

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Sources & Notes

Top photo showing the Star Theatre is from the excellent book by D. Troy Sherrod, Historic Dallas Theatres (Arcadia Publishing, 2014); the photo is from the collection of the Dallas Public Library.

Second photo showing the dilapidated buildings is from another excellent book, Lost Dallas by Mark Doty (Arcadia Publishing, 2012).

The ad for the Star Theatre appeared in the Dallas, Texas Negro City Directory, 1947-1948 (many thanks to Pat Lawrence).  The address for the theater was listed in various places as both 300 N. Moore and as 1401 E. Eighth.

If you have access to the archives of the Dallas Morning News, I encourage you to read “Inner-City Secret — The Bottoms Residents Say They Are Forgotten” by Bill Minutaglio (DMN, Aug. 28, 1994).

Also worth a read is Texas Tribune article “Dallas Neighborhood Established by Freed Slaves Fights to Keep Its History Alive” by Miguel Perez of KERA News.

More on the Tenth Street Historic District can be found on the City of Dallas website here.

Check out photos of a pop-up market on Show Hill in 2014 here.

Also, of related interest is the Flashback Dallas post “Movie Houses Serving Black Dallas — 1919-1922.”

Thank you to reader Jerry Richburg for contacting me with a question about this old strip shopping area — he remembered attending church services in one of the buildings and asked if I knew more about what had been there and if I might have a photo. Thanks, Jerry! You led me down the path to discovering a little pocket of Dallas history I was completely unaware of!

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Copyright © 2020 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Dallas Baseball Team — ca. 1910

dallas-baseball_1910_ebay_black-teammateTeam photo, circa 1910… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

I came across this circa-1910 photo on eBay about a year and a half ago. I thought it was unusual because of the presence of an African American man posing with the team. Sports teams weren’t integrated at this time — was he part of the team but not a player? I don’t know what’s written on his shirt, but it doesn’t have “Dallas” on it like the ones the others are wearing. What do you think?

Happy Opening Day!

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Sources & Notes

Photo found on eBay. (I assume it’s Dallas, Texas….)

More Flashback Dallas posts on baseball can be found here.

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Copyright © 2020 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

African-American Businesses and Notable Dallasites — 1930

mme-pratt-muisc-teacher_dallas-negro-directory_1930_portal_det“Madame Pratt” in her music studio

by Paula Bosse

I’ve recently posted lots of photos of black schools and black churches which appeared in the Official Directory: Dallas Negro Churches, Schools and Other Activities; Civic, Business, Fraternal, Social, Etc., an absolutely fantastic historical document (which is scanned in its entirety on the Portal to Texas History site here) — now I thought I’d post some of the businesses and people featured in the directory.

First is the woman seen above, Ella Rice Pratt (1893-1966) who was known professionally as “Madame Pratt” and seems to have taught an extremely wide range of musical instruments. According to this 1930 ad, she was “The only woman of her race in Texas who performs successfully upon two instruments at the same time.”  (Most images are larger when clicked.)

mme-pratt-muisc-teacher_dallas-negro-directory_1930_portal1930

Her 1966 obituaries (one of which is here ) list a string of accomplishments, including having studied music at the New England Conservatory in Boston, toured as a concert pianist, trained a 30-piece touring orchestra, and opened what was described as “the first music studio in Dallas where Negro musicians could receive training on all instruments” (Dallas Morning News, Oct. 3, 1966). Not only was she a notable Dallasite, so were members of her family: her father, Charles A. Rice was a principal at Booker T. Washington High School (and is the namesake of Charles Rice Elementary School), her mother, Sally Rice, was the first supervisor of Griggs Park, and her husband, T. W. Pratt was a long-time principal in Dallas schools (at the time of this directory he was the principal of the Pacific Avenue School (he might be seen in this photo which also appeared in the 1930 Negro Directory). The Pratts lived at 3612 Thomas Ave., near Washington, where Madame Pratt also had her studio. (Her headstone in Lincoln Memorial Park has musical notes engraved on it.)

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Speaking of music, R. T. Ashford was a prominent businessman (he was one of the founders of the Dallas Negro Chamber of Commerce) who owned R. T. Ashford’s Music Shop, a popular record store at 408 N. Central (at Swiss), just north of Deep Ellum. Before this 1930 directory was issued, Ashford had called his shop “Black Swan Music”(I’m not sure whether this was an “homage” to the Black Swan record label or some sort of partnership). Ashford’s store was apparently very popular and Ashford himself seems to have been taken seriously by record labels whenever he would recommend local talent (he appears to have figured prominently in Blind Lemon Jefferson’s recording career). Ashford moved from Central Avenue to Hall Street in 1931, but he was a Deep Ellum music and business fixture for many, many years. I think the location of Ashford’s record shop (if not the actual store) can be seen in this photo from 1919 (on the street-level floor of the Thorburn Broom & Brush building). (Fun fact, perhaps only to me: Ashford’s Music Shop was next door to a business proprietor named “Simpson.”)

ashfords-music-shop_dallas-negro-directory_1930_portal1930

ashford_dallas-express_122223Dallas Express, Dec. 1922

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Another entrepreneur was Thad Self, whose main business seems to have been a grocery/general merchandise store on Routh Street south of Colby. He also owned a transfer company, a hotel/boarding house, a barber shop, a cafe, and at least one other general store. Most of his companies were located in buildings on the neighboring lots at 2113 Routh and 2115 Routh, one or both of which he appears to have purchased in 1913 for $100 (about $2,600 in today’s prices). He built a large three-story building on Routh in 1913 (which, according to this 1921 Sanborn map) was built over the Dallas Branch of the Trinity which snaked through downtown and the State-Thomas area — that  basement was probably pretty damp.

thad-else_dallas-negro-directory_1930_portal1930

thad-else_dallas-express_120619_HOTELDallas Express, Dec. 6, 1919

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Speaking of hotels, one of the most prominent hotels in the era when blacks were not allowed to stay in “white” hotels by law was the Powell Hotel at 3115 State Street (between Ellis and Hugo), owned by D. H. Powell and his wife Susie. In May, 1929 Powell was issued a permit to tear down a frame house at 3115 State, and he built his 40-room hotel on the property soon after. The Powell Hotel was where almost every notable African-American visitor to the city stayed. By the late 1940s, Powell had built something of a hotel empire in Dallas with several locations. (I will have to write more about him in a future post!) I like this very early ad, from the 1930 directory, describing it as the “Powel Hotel & Pleasure Dome.” The photo shows a pleasant-looking place, but you and I and Kubla Khan and Coleridge would probably agree it’s no Xanadu.

powell-hotel_dallas-negro-directory_1930_portal1930

powell-hotel_legacies_spring-2007Dallas Public Library, via Legacies, Spring, 2007

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Speaking of “resting places”… another essential element in any community is the funeral home. One of Dallas’ most prominent undertaking firms for black Dallas was the E. J. Crawford Funeral Home at 804 Good (now N. Good-Latimer, between Live Oak and Bryan), founded by Mr. Crawford in 1909. “The last word in funeralizing.”

crawford-funeral-home_dallas-negro-directory_1930_portal1930

crawford_e-j_dallas-express_020422Dallas Express, Feb. 4, 1922

Another prominent funeral home/ambulance service was Black & Clark, founded originally around 1914 by S. C. Black; in 1927 he was joined by his nephew C. J. Clark. For years they were located in Oak Cliff, at 1109 E. Tenth St., west of what is now South R. L. Thornton, near Cliff Avenue. This funeral home is still in business, and there was recently a profile of the Dallas institution on Channel 5 News (watch it here).

black-and-clark-undertakers_dallas-negro-directory_1930_portal1930

black-and-clark_archives_1802-n-washington1802 N. Washington (woozy screenshot of photo in Ch. 5 news story)

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This is Genevieve T. Starks, a woman with a lot of extra-curricular activities! I love this photo.

genevieve-starks_dallas-negro-directory_1930_portal1930

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The G Clef Club was organized around 1921 by Lincolnia Hayes Morgan, music supervisor for Dallas’ (black) public schools. A blurb about the group appeared in The Crisis, the official publication of the N.A.A.C.P.: “The objects of the club are to assist worthy music students and to raise the music standard of the community” (June, 1921).

g-clef-club_dallas-negro-directory_1930_portal1930

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A popular singing group was the Belt Sacred Quartette (comprised of J. J. Mollis, J. Poindexter, F. W. Grant, and N. Tisdale) — listen to their recording of “I Have Another Building” below.

belt-sacred-quartette_dallas-negro-directory_1930_portal1930

belt-sacred-quartette_blackwell-OK-journal-tribune_072332Blackwell (OK) Journal-Tribune, July 23, 1932

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The Davis Bible Singers (C. Davis, I. H. Burrell, R. Smith, and O. B. Walker) seem to have been pretty popular, having appeared on KRLD, WFAA, and WRR radio. They even recorded for Columbia Records (listen to their great recording of “Daniel Saw the Stone” below).

davis-bible-singers_dallas-negro-directory_1930_portal1930

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One of the most important doctors in Dallas in the 1920s and ’30s was Dr. Lee Gresham (L. G.) Pinkston (1883-1961), who opened the Pinkston Clinic at 3305 Thomas Avenue, between Hall and Central, in 1928 or 1929 (it made its first appearance in the 1929 city directory). In 1954, Pinkston — physician, surgeon, and civic leader — was one of the first five black doctors allowed to practice in a “white” Dallas hospital (St. Paul’s Hospital) — before that, the only hospital in Dallas where black doctors could practice was the Pinkston Clinic, which had 15 beds (32 beds were allotted for black patients at St. Paul’s in 1954). (See a photo of the five doctors here, Dr. Pinkston is seated.) A new West Dallas school — Pinkston High School — was named in Dr. Pinkston’s honor and opened in 1964, three years after his death. 

pinkston-clinic_dallas-negro-directory_1930_portal1930

pinkston-clinic_DHSDallas Historical Society

Below, a portrait of Dr. Pinkston with the artist, Calvin Littlejohn (whom I’d known only as a photographer previously), destined to hang in the new school.

pinkston-l-g_portrait_calvin-littlejohn_pittsburgh-PA-courier_112864Pittsburgh (PA) Courier, Nov. 28, 1964

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Sources & Notes

All 1930 images are from Official Directory: Dallas Negro Churches, Schools and Other Activities; Civic, Business, Fraternal, Social, Etc. compiled by James H. Smith, 1930; from the Tarrant County Black Historical and Genealogical Society, via the Portal to Texas History. This fantastic resource is scanned in its entirety here.

See the two other Flashback Dallas posts which also use this wonderful directory as a source:

mme-pratt-muisc-teacher_dallas-negro-directory_1930_portal_det_sm

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Copyright © 2020 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Black Churches in Dallas — 1930

randolph-free-will-baptist-church_dallas-negro-directory_1930_portal

by Paula Bosse

Yesterday I posted several photos of schools for Dallas’ African American community from a 1930 “Negro Directory” — today it’s churches. Of these, only two survive, and only one continues as a church. (All images are larger when clicked.)

Above, my favorite building of these churches, a small one serving as the home of Randolph Free Will Baptist Church, Flora and Watkins streets (3113 Flora — the location can be seen on this 1921 Sanborn map).

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Below, Boll Street C.M.E. Church (Christian Methodist Episcopal), corner of Boll and Juliette (2631 Juliette), near Booker T. Washington High School. It can be seen on this 1921 Sanborn map as “Morning Chapel C.M.E. Church” (this area was obliterated when Woodall Rogers was built).

boll-street-church_dallas-negro-directory_1930_portal


boll-st-church_cook-coll_degolyer-lib_SMUca. 1932, via DeGolyer Library, SMU (info at bottom of post)

boll-street-church_patton-coll_DHSvia John L. Patton Collection, Dallas Historical Society

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Church of God in Christ, Thomas and Ellis streets (3028 Thomas Avenue).

church-of-god_rev-paige_dallas-negro-directory_1930_portal

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Greater Macedonia Baptist Church, corner of Good and Bryan (902 Good Street). This building later became home to Good Street Baptist Church.

greater-macedonia-baptist-church_dallas-negro-directory_1930_portal

greater-macedonia-church_cook-coll_degolyer-lib_SMUca. 1932, via DeGolyer Library, SMU

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Metropolitan Tabernacle (Baptist), Thomas and Boll streets (this was apparently never built — a Metropolitan Tabernacle was listed in 1930 at 2202 Thomas, but it was not this building.)

metropolitan-tabernacle_baptist_dallas-negro-directory_1930_portal

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New Hope Baptist Church, southwest corner of San Jacinto and Bogle (sometimes spelled “Bogel”) — see it on a 1921 Sanborn map here).

new-hope-baptist-church_dallas-negro-directory_1930_portal

new-hope-church_cook-coll_degolyer-lib_SMUca. 1932, via DeGolyer Library, SMU

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New Salem Baptist Church/Salem Missionary Baptist Church, 1110 S. Preston Street (see it on a 1921 Sanborn map here).

new-salem-baptist-church_dallas-negro-directory_1930_portal

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New Zion Primitive Baptist Church, 2215 Wheeler (address is incorrect in caption; the street name “Wheeler” soon changed to “Lowery”).

new-zion-primitive-baptist-church_dallas-negro-directory_1930_portal

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Trinity Methodist Episcopal Church, 5006 McKinney Avenue, between what is now Monticello and McCommas. (This is not to be confused with the church of the same name designed by James Flanders which was located at McKinney and Pearl.)

trinity-methodist-episcopal-church_dallas-negro-directory_1930_portal

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And, lastly, the two buildings which are still standing. First, St. James A.M.E. Church (African Methodist Episcopal), Good and Florence streets (620 Good Street, now 624 N. Good-Latimer Expressway). Designed by noted black architect William Sidney Pittman (who was also the son-in-law of Booker T. Washington), the building is currently home to several non-profit groups. Read the history of the building in the landmark nomination form here, and see what it looks like now — with its historical marker in front of it — on Google Street View here.

st-james-ame-church_dallas-negro-directory_1930_portal

st-james-church_cook-coll_degolyer-lib_SMUca. 1932, DeGolyer Library, SMU

st-james_a-m-e_church_dallas-express_101819Dallas Morning News, Oct. 18, 1919

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And, finally, the only one of these churches still standing, and still functioning as a church, St. Paul Methodist Episcopal Church (now St. Paul United Methodist Church), corner of Burford and Juliette streets (1820 Burford, now 1816 Routh Street), also designed by architect William Sidney Pittman. See it on a 1921 Sanborn map here as “Juliette M.E. Church” (it wasn’t completed until 1922 and seems to have been given a place-holder name). Read about its history here, and see it today on Google Street View here.

st-paul-methodist-episcopal-church_dallas-negro-directory_1930_portal

st-paul-church_cook-coll_degolyer-lib_SMUca. 1932, via DeGolyer Library, SMU

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Sources & Notes

Photos from Official Directory: Dallas Negro Churches, Schools and Other Activities; Civic, Business, Fraternal, Social, Etc. compiled by James H. Smith, 1930; from the Tarrant County Black Historical and Genealogical Society, via the Portal to Texas History. This fantastic resource is scanned in its entirety here (the full list of churches begins on p. 10).

The five “ca. 1932” photos are from a scrapbook/photo album of amateur photos called “Graphic History of Negro Dallas” which was compiled by the Priscilla Art Club in 1932; the scrapbook is from the George W. Cook Dallas/Texas Image Collection, DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University; links to the individual photos are in the photo captions.

Of related interest: “Twelve Prominent Black Baptist Churches — 1967.”

randolph-free-will-baptist-church_dallas-negro-directory_1930_portal_sm

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Copyright © 2020 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

Black Schools in Dallas — 1930

booker-t-washington-high-school_dallas-negro-directory_1930_portal

by Paula Bosse

Let’s take a look at six schools for African American children in segregated Dallas in 1930. Three of the schools are still standing.

Above, the only high school for black students in 1930 was Booker T. Washington High School. Its address in 1930 was 1801 Burford Street (Burford and Flora). The school still stands and is now the Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in a much-renovated and expanded building. See what it looks like now on Google Street View here. (A 1921 Sanborn map showing the neighborhood and school — and street names no longer in use — can be seen here.) (More Flashback Dallas posts about or related to Booker T. Washington can be found here.)

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Below, the N. W. Harllee School (still standing) in Oak Cliff at 1216 E. 8th, at Denley. (The name of the school was misspelled in the caption.) See it today on Google Street View here, and on the same site (then at 8th and Miller, when different buildings housed the 9th Ward Public School) on a 1922 Sanborn map here.

harllee-school_dallas-negro-directory_1930_portal

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The Phillis Wheatley School is also still standing, in South Dallas at Metropolitan and Meyers. See it on Google Street View here, and on a 1922 Sanborn map here.

wheatley-school_dallas-negro-directory_1930_portal

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The B. F. Darrell School was at 3212 Cochran, at Hall. See the still-empty lot on Google Street View here, and the location on a 1921 Sanborn map here when the site was occupied by Dallas’ first high school for black students, known as the “Colored High School”; when Booker T. Washington opened in the 1920s, this building was renamed B. F. Darrell and became an elementary school; according to Dallas Rediscovered by William L. McDonald, the building was built in 1895 and was demolished in 1973.

darrel-school_dallas-negro-directory_1930_portal

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The Pacific Avenue School at 1221 Fletcher, near East Grand in the Fair Park area, was about to be left behind when students moved to the Julia C. Frazier School on Spring Ave. the next year. The site is now occupied by the Fannie C. Harris Youth Center and can be seen on Google Street View here. See the buildings on a 1922 Sanborn map here.

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pacific-ave-school_1910_education-in-dallas
Pacific Avenue School, ca. 1910

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And, lastly, the J. P. Starks School, at 1600 S. Preston, at Gano, near Old City Park. There’s nothing there now, but its general location is on Google Street View here. The school can be seen on a 1921 Sanborn map here when it was the Fred Douglass School (the school’s name was changed after the death of principal J. P. Starks — in 1930 there was another Fred Douglass school in West Dallas at Williams and Pine streets — in fact, I think there have been several schools in Dallas named after Frederick Douglass). 

starks-school_dallas-negro-directory_1930_portal

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Other schools for black children in Dallas in 1930 (excluding kindergartens) were the following:

  • Beeman School (2518 Detonte)
  • Fred Douglass School (1401 Williams)
  • Eagle Ford School
  • Elm Thicket School
  • Fair Grounds School (4508 Collins Ave.)
  • Fair Grounds School Annex (Carter, near Spring Ave.)
  • Julia C. Frazier School (Spring Ave. and Carter)
  • Lincoln Manor (Rowan Ave. and Dyson)
  • Wesley School (5123 Keating Ave.)
  • York School (3rd Ave. and Carrie)

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Sources & Notes

Photos from Official Directory: Dallas Negro Churches, Schools and Other Activities; Civic, Business, Fraternal, Social, Etc. compiled by James H. Smith, 1930; from the Tarrant County Black Historical and Genealogical Society, via the Portal to Texas History. This fantastic resource is scanned in its entirety here (the full list of schools, kindergartens, colleges, trade schools, etc. begins on p. 29). I will be posting more from this directory soon.

Photo of the exterior of the Pacific Avenue School is from Education in Dallas, 1874-1966, Ninety-two Years of History by Walter J. E. Schiebel.

booker-t-washington-high-school_dallas-negro-directory_1930_portal_crop_sm

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Copyright © 2020 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

Christmastime at Booker T. Washington High School — 1950s

booker-t-wash_xmas-decDecking the halls…

by Paula Bosse

Most of us have fond memories of holiday-themed activities in school — here are a few photos from the Christmas season at Booker T. Washington High School in the early ’50s.

Above, girls hang decorations on the office door.

Below, the Library Club poses for a photo at a Christmas party (all photos are larger when clicked).

booker-t-wash_xmas-party_1952via John Leslie Patton Papers, Dallas Historical Society

And the bottom two photos show members of the Booker T. Washington chapter of the American Junior Red Cross standing with the articles they’ve made and/or collected for distribution to various hospitals and institutions — a couple of girls can be seen crocheting and knitting items which will be added to the collection of things destined for grateful recipients.

booker-t-wash_xmas-red-crossvia John Leslie Patton Papers, Dallas Historical Society

And below, Mrs. Catherine Robinson, the organization’s sponsor, stands with students and their gift-wrapped presents which are ready to be delivered to places such as the Hutchins Home for Convalescent Patients, Woodlawn and Parkland Hospitals, orphanages, boarding homes for juvenile wards of the state, and even to the leprosarium in Carville, Louisiana (a hospital which treated leprosy patients — a 1953 newspaper article reported that most of the then-current 400 patients were from Texas).

booker-t-wash_xmas-red-cross2via John Leslie Patton Papers, Dallas Historical Society

Organized in 1917, the American Junior Red Cross had Dallas chapters in most — if not all — schools by 1918, including Booker T. Washington. By 1949 Dallas County had Jr. Red Cross chapters in 183 schools, with more than 78,000 students taking part; they made and/or collected 30,000 items that year which were distributed to active servicemen, to hospitalized veterans and children, to the needy, and to the aged. There were regular collection drives for reading material (elementary kids donated a LOT of comic books!), and there were regular visits to hospitals, etc., to entertain and perform (“except in times of polio epidemics”). Students also wrote letters to military personnel and to children in other countries and were trained in safety and first-aid procedures..

american-junior-red-cross_poster_1952_vintageposterworksvia Vintage Poster Works

Because of the efforts of Junior Red Cross members like these from Booker T. Washington High School, many who were convalescing, lonely, or in need were assured a happier Christmas than they might otherwise have had.

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Sources & Notes

All photos of Booker T. Washington High School students are from the John Leslie Patton Papers collection of the Dallas Historical Society. (More on Patton, the legendary principal of Booker T. Washington for 30 years can be found at the Handbook of Texas site here.)

More on the American Junior Red Cross can be found in these articles:

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

State Fair of Texas, Miscellaneous Tidbits from Its History

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by Paula Bosse

The State Fair of Texas is, once again, in full swing. Here are a few random SFOT images and ads from the past.

First up, an ad for the very first state fair in Dallas, in 1886. Almost unbelievably, this “Dallas State Fair” (held on 80 acres of land now known as Fair Park) was one of two competing state fairs held in the city that year — the other one was the “Texas State Fair,” which was held about three miles northeast of the courthouse on a 100-acre site roughly about where Cole Park is near present-day North Dallas High School. The two state fairs ran concurrently, and both were smash hits. The “Dallas State Fair and Exposition” eventually became the State Fair of Texas in 1904. Below are the ads for those competing two fairs. (Click to see a larger image.)

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The East Dallas fair, Dallas Herald, Oct. 9, 1886

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The North Dallas fair, Dallas Herald, Oct. 20, 1886

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One of the original buildings built for the 1886 Dallas State Fair was the massive Exposition Building, designed by architect James Flanders. On a site devoted to the career of Flanders, the architect recalled this project many years later: “The progress of the work on the structure was watched by most people with a degree of curiosity far more intense than is excited by the loftiest skyscraper in these days when people have no time to wonder. Such an apparition on the bald prairie attracted crowds of the curious from far and near on Sundays.”

state-fair_exposition-bldg_ca-1890s

Above, the huge Exposition Hall, enlarged from its initial design, which, in 1886 was reported to contain 92,000 square feet of unrivaled exhibition space. Unfortunately, the wooden buildings seen above burned to the ground in the early hours of July 20, 1902. The blaze was so intense that “the whole of the city was lit up with the brilliancy of the sunrise” and that “flames rose to such great height that they were seen as far west as Fort Worth, where it was thought the whole city of Dallas was burning” (Dallas Morning News, July 21, 1902). More on this building can be found on the Watermelon Kid site, here.

Below, the Exposition Building can be seen from the fairgrounds racetrack in a photo published in 1900 in an issue of The Bohemian magazine (via the Fort Worth Public Library).

fairgrounds_racetrack_bohemian_1900_fwpl

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A moment from the opening day parade festivities of the 1903 fair is captured in the photo below, with the following caption from the 1941-42 edition of the Texas Almanac: “Gov. S. W. T. Lanham (in rear seat of pioneer horseless carriage) in opening day parade for 1903 State Fair of Texas formed on Main Street. Fair President C. A. Keating was seated beside him, and Secretary John G. Hunter of Board of Trade is seen standing beside the gasoline buggy.”

state-fair_opening-day_1903_tx-almanac_1941-42_portal
Main Street, looking west, via Portal to Texas History

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Here is a 1911 view of the state fair midway taken by John R. Minor, Jr. in a real-photo postcard. (More on Mr. Minor is here; more images of the Shoot the Chutes water ride can be found here.)

state-fair_street-scene_john-minor_1911_cook-colln_degolyer
via George W. Cook Collection, DeGolyer Library, SMU

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From the 1920s, an ad for Clayco Red Ball gasoline (“It’s RED in color”). I’m always a sucker for ads containing photos or drawings of Dallas landmarks, and here we see the entrance to Fair Park. (Why was the gas red? Why not? It was the brainchild of Dallas advertising man Wilson W. Crook, Sr. who needed a way to make this Oklahoma gas different. He remembered that during his WWI days in France that higher quality airplane fuel was colored red to distinguish it from regular gasoline. When the gas was introduced to Dallas in August, 1924, he devised a promotion that gave away 5 gallons of this gas to every red-headed person who showed up at participating service stations.)

ad-red-ball-gas_state-fair_dmn_101224-det

ad-red-ball-gas_state-fair_dmn_101224Clayco Red Ball ad, Oct. 1924

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If we’re talking about the State Fair of Texas and we’ve come to the 1930s, there’s a pretty good chance there’s going to be a photo from the Texas Centennial. And, looky here: a nice shot of concessionaires waiting for thirsty patrons at the Centennial Exposition in 1936. A couple of nickels could get you a Coke and a phone call.

sfot_concessionaires_coke_unt_portal_1936via Portal to Texas History

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During World War II the State Fair was on hiatus. Here’s an ad from the 1941-42 Texas Almanac pre-closure, with a nice pencil sketch of the Esplanade and Hall of State:

state-fair_tx-almanac_1941-42

state-fair_tx-almanac_1941-42_det

And a 1946 magazine cover story on the imminent reopening of the fair:

state-fair_texas-week-mag_100446_portal_cover
via Portal to Texas History

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In 1956 Big Tex warned/assured you that the Esplanade lights would “knock your eyes out.”

state-fair_big-tex-ad_092456

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Speaking of Big Tex and lights knocking your eyes out, in the 1960s Big Tex was memorialized on the side of a downtown building, like a giant bow-legged Lite-Brite.

sfot_big-tex_illuminated_1960s

Back at Fair Park, Huey P. Nash was supplying fair throngs with barbecue from his Little Bob’s Bar-B-Q stand. In 1964, Nash was the first African-American vendor to be granted a food concession at the State Fair. Little Bob’s (which I believe is still in business) was, at the time of this 1967 ad, located in South Dallas at 4203 S. Oakland (now Malcom X), at the corner of Pine. (Ad is from the 1967 Souvenir Program of the 74th Annual Session of the Missionary Baptist General Convention of Texas; more photos from this publication can be seen here.)

sfot_little-bobs-bbq_baptist-convention-program_1967_photo

sfot_little-bobs-bbq_baptist-convention-program_oct-1967

The 1960s also gave us the Swiss Skyride, which replaced the Monorail (which, when it was introduced in 1956, was the first commercially operated monorail in the United States). The Swiss Skyride was erected in Fair Park in August, 1964, and the 6-minute ride debuted a few months later at the 1964 State Fair of Texas.

state-fair_swiss-sky-ride_tinkle-key-to-dallas_1965_replaced-monorail_
via Lon Tinkle’s children’s book Key to Dallas (1965)

sfot_swiss-skyride_FWST_101864

sfot_swiss-skyride_FWST_100964

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Allen & Cochran: Allen Street Drugs, St. Peter’s Academy, St. John Baptist Church — ca. 1946

allen-street-drugs_1920-allen_ca-1946_dpl
Allen Street Drugs at Allen & Cochran… (photo: Dallas Public Library)

by Paula Bosse

Above, a group of men and boys gathered outside Allen St. Drugs — 1920 Allen Street, at the corner of Cochran — posing for famed Dallas photographer Marion Butts. Behind the group is St. Peter’s Church and St. Peter’s Academy, a Catholic church and affiliated school for black children (at 2018 Allen); facing St. Peter’s (but out of frame) is St. John Baptist Church (2019 Allen). This was a busy and well-traveled intersection for the African American neighborhood of “North Dallas.”

St. Peter’s Academy — which was still around into the late 1980s — was built in 1908, largely due to the urging of black entrepreneur Valentine Jordan and his wife Mary Jordan who were impressed with the education provided to the (white) students attending the Catholic Ursuline Academy; they requested that Bishop E. J. Dunne open a similar school for black children, and Bishop Dunne obliged. Before it was named “St. Peter’s Academy,” it was known as The Sisters’ Institute (named for the Sisters of the Holy Ghost). Elementary and high school classes were taught, and boarding options were offered to girls. In the mid 1960s the school had 600 (predominantly Protestant) students.

sisters-institure_dallas-express_090624
Dallas Express, Sept. 6, 1924

sisters-institure_dallas-express_082721
Dallas Express, Aug. 27, 1921

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Dallas Express, Jan. 6, 1923

st-peters-church_dallas-express_011323
Dallas Express, Jan. 13, 1923

st-peters-acad_negro-in-tx_1935_lg
St. Peter’s Academy, circa 1935

The large St. John Baptist Church was a fixture of the community, led for many years by its pastor Ernest C. Estell.

church_st-john-baptist-church_negro-directory_1947-48
Dallas, Texas Negro City Directory, 1946-47

Sadly, these buildings are no longer standing. St. Peter the Apostle is located in a new building at Allen and what is now Woodall Rodgers Freeway, and much of their congregation is of Polish ancestry, with services conducted in both Polish and English. The drugstore seen at the top sat on land razed for construction of Woodall Rodgers. The view today can be seen here.

allen-cochran_1944-45-directory
Allen St., between Munger & Hallsville — 1944-45 Dallas directory

allen-cochran_1952-mapsco
1952 Mapsco (star indicates location of Allen St. Drugs)

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Sources & Notes

Top photo by Marion Butts, from the Marion Butts: Lens on Dallas Collection, Dallas Public Library. More information on the work of Mr. Butts may be found here.

Most images are larger when clicked.

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Dallas History on the BBC

big-tex_bbc_radio-4_julia-barton_photo
“Howdy, chaps!”

by Paula Bosse

A few years ago, when writing about one of the many attempts in the never-ending saga of trying to make the Trinity River a navigable waterway, I stumbled across the 99% Invisible podcast website where I discovered Julia Barton and her long audio piece on the very same topic. I was surprised — and excited — to find someone with a similar background to mine tackling Dallas’ history and looking at it from a thoroughly 21st-century perspective. I felt she and I had been separated at birth, and I enthusiastically contacted her via Twitter. Since then we’ve met a couple of times, chatted back and forth online, and, this year, she asked if I would help with research for a radio piece about Dallas she was preparing for BBC Radio. Of course I would!

Julia Barton is a radio and podcast editor and has worked extensively in public radio; she is currently working on Malcolm Gladwell’s hugely successful Revisionist History podcast. She also presents stories, some of which are about Dallas, a city she seems to have a lingering fascination with, even though she hasn’t lived here in decades. Though born in Minnesota, Julia spent most of her childhood in Dallas, growing up in the Little Forest Hills area, attending Alex Sanger Elementary, Gaston Middle School, and Skyline High School (Class of ’87) where she appears to have been an overachieving student journalist. She lives in New York City now, where she puts those journalism tools to good use.

julia-barton_skyline_1987-yearbook_photo

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Julia Barton, 1987 Skyline High School yearbook

The first tidbit I heard about Julia’s story for the BBC involved another former Dallas resident, Dennis Rodman (of basketball and North Korea diplomacy fame), who grew up in both South Dallas and South Oak Cliff and attended Sunset High School for a couple of years before transferring to South Oak Cliff High School, where he graduated in 1979.

rodman-dennis_south-oak-cliff-high-school_senior-photo_1979

Senior photo, South Oak Cliff High School, 1979

I’m not sure about the chronology of the piecing-together of the various aspects of Dallas history which comprise the finished half-hour BBC program, but an important kernel was Rodman’s childhood memory of hiking for miles with friends through underground sewage tunnels to Fair Park in order to get into the State Fair of Texas without the burden of paying — they just popped up a manhole cover when they’d reached their destination and … voilà! — they were inside Fair Park. He wrote about this in his autobiography Bad As I Wanna Be, and you can read this passage here (if bad language offends you, buckle up). I really love Rodman’s story about these tunnels — so much so that after Julia shared it with me, it got to the point where I was asking everyone I ran into if they’d ever heard about what I assumed was an apocryphal story. But the tunnel-to-Fair-Park-legend was true. And that weird kernel snowballed into a half-hour personal narrative about Dallas, race, inequality, education, school desegregation, and, yes, Big Tex. History isn’t always pretty, but let’s hope we can learn from past mistakes.

Listen to Julia Barton’s “Big Tex,” here.

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Sources & Notes

“Big Tex” was presented by Julia Barton for the UK’s BBC Radio 4. It features Julia’s classmates Sam Franklin (Class of ’86) and Nikki Benson (Class of ’87), her former teacher at Skyline Leonard Davis (an all-around great guy and fellow Dallas Historical Society volunteer — hi, Leonard!), as well as former teenage tunneller Melvin Qualls, local historian Donald Payton, and sixth graders from Julia’s alma mater, Alex Sanger Elementary School. It is a Falling Tree production, produced by Hannah Dean and Alan Hall. The link to the audio — and background on the production — is here. (Top photo is from the BBC page.)

Jim Schutze of the Dallas Observer wrote a great piece on this radio program (“Before Desegregation, Black Kids Had a Secret Tunnel Into the State Fair. Truth!”) — read it here (it includes a few production photos taken as Julia researched the story in Dallas).

Julia Barton’s website is here; a collection of her stories for Public Radio International (PRI) is here.

Two of Julia’s Dallas narratives:

  • “Port of Dallas” — history of the attempt to navigate (and monetize) the Trinity River: as an audio-only podcast, and as a video presentation done as a TEDx Talk at SMU
  • “The Failed Socialist Utopian Dream That Helped Dallas Become a Major City” — a look at the La Réunion community of the 1850s, from the PRI “World in Words” podcast (starts at about the 5:30 mark)

Thanks for asking me to help with research, Julia — I particularly enjoyed fact-checking the question “was-Mussolini-*really*-invited-to-the-Texas-Centennial?” (He was!)

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Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

Stop at the Delmonico — ca. 1919

delmonico-hotel_degolyer_SMU_ca-1919The Delmonico Hotel & Thorburn Broom factory… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

How does one refer to the area just above Pacific and Central, where Swiss once crossed Central? “Deep Ellum-adjacent”? “Far North Deep Ellum”? The “Extreme Western Edge of Old East Dallas”? It was very close to the old union railroad depot, where the T&P and H&TC tracks crossed (about where Pacific and Central crossed). It was once a bustling area, but after the depot closed in the ‘teens, it didn’t bustle so much anymore. 

The photo above — looking to the northeast and taken about 1918 or 1919 — shows the Delmonico Hotel (at 2309-2311 Swiss Avenue) and, to the right, the Thorburn Broom & Brush Co. factory (2405-2409 Swiss). (See the Swiss Avenue occupants of these two blocks as listed in the 1919 Dallas directory here.) The street that runs between the two blocks is Central Ave. The railroad tracks running horizontally at the bottom of the photo run along Pacific, and the streetcar tracks curve up and to the right to run along Swiss.

The Delmonico Hotel was at this location for only a couple of years until it moved a block around the corner, facing Central — the new, larger “Greater” Delmonico opened in July, 1919, occupying the upper floor at 302 Central. The proprietress of both locations was Miss Mary Howard (later Mrs. L. O. Clark). Miss Howard was, apparently, an enterprising African American woman who ran what was described in Dallas’ premiere black newspaper as “the largest and most commodious hotel for Colored in Texas… [catering] to first class trade” (Dallas Express, July 5, 1919). It remained in business at its second location on Central Ave. until 1927 or 1928.

delmonico-hotel_dallas-express_011119Dallas Express, Jan. 11, 1919

Above, an ad for the hotel’s first location (the address should read “2309-2311 Swiss”). Below, a nice article on the opening of the second location on Central.

delmonico-hotel_dallas-express_070519_NEW-greater-delmonicoDallas Express, July 5, 1919

delmonico-hotel_dallas-express_082319Dallas Express, Aug. 23, 1919

It’s interesting that the 1919 Dallas directory has a business listing for this hotel (the first location, the one seen in the photo) — it is the sole hotel for “colored” patrons listed (denoted with the letter “c” — you can see the list of hotels from the 1919 directory here).

The first location can be seen in this detail of a 1921 Sanborn map, circled in black; the second location is circled in blue; the Thorburn Co. broom factory at Swiss and Central is labeled. (All images are larger when clicked.)

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The 2300 block of Swiss is no longer there — it is now empty land beneath the elevated North Central Expressway. The 2400 block (where the broom factory stood) is still there and is the site of a self-storage business (the Thorburn factory once stood here, across from the Lizard Lounge).

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The large white building housing the Delmonico appears to have been built in 1889 by Swiss-born John Jacob (“J. J.”) Yost, who soon opened the Bear Hotel, which seems to have been a popular rooming house/hotel for German immigrants. By 1902 Yost was looking for a buyer for the hotel (“with saloon”) and placed the ad seen below (an ad which appeared not too long after a court notice appeared in the papers showing  that Yost had been found guilty of operating a “disorderly house” (a brothel) and had been fined $200, which was a huge fine at the time).

bear-hotel_dmn_042602_for-saleDallas  Morning News, April 26, 1902

As Yost described it, the hotel really was in “a fine location” — just a block or two from a very busy passenger-train depot. Perhaps he was asking too much for it, but the Bear Hotel appears to have remained in operation until 1906, when it became the International Hotel (which was in business until 1918 when the hotel became the Delmonico, the first of these hotels to be owned by an African American for a strictly black (segregated) clientele). Below is an amusing (or terrifying) news tidbit from 1909 about a guest at the International Hotel. When you find yourself asking “what did people do before air-conditioning?” remember what happened to poor Fritz Brockmann:

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DMN, July 5, 1909

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The Thorburn Broom & Brush Co. manufactured … brooms and brushes in their factory seen at the right in the photo above. A few bristly factoids about the company were included in a Chamber of Commerce-like series of ads from 1922.

thorburn-broom-brush_june-1922June, 1922

Thorburn’s marquee brand seems to have been the trademarked Red Star brooms (“Red Star brooms are Wife Savers”).

thorburn_red-star-brooms_1924Piggly Wiggly ad, 1924

red-star-broom-label

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Sources & Notes

Top photo — titled “[Swiss Avenue at Central and the Houston and Texas Central Tracks]” — is attributed to George A. McAfee and is from the DeGolyer Library, SMU Libraries, Southern Methodist University; more information on this photo may be found here.

More info about the old Union Depot — which was one block south from the location seen in the photo above — can be found in these Flashback Dallas posts:

  • “The Old Union Depot in East Dallas: 1897-1935,” here
  • “The Union Depot Hotel Building, Deep Ellum — 1898-1968,” here
  • “The Gypsy Tea Room, Central Avenue, and The Darensbourg Brothers,” here

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Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

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