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.
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.
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.
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.
Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.