Flashback : Dallas

A Miscellany: History, Ads, Pop Culture

Category: Architecture/Significant Bldgs.

Main Street, West Toward the Clock Tower

main-street-west-from-st-george-hotel_ebayEnjoy it while you can…

by Paula Bosse

A nice view of Main Street, looking west toward the probably pretty new courthouse (built in 1892). Streetcars, the St. George Hotel, the North Texas Building, the Trust Building. Much the same shot is seen in this photo from 1954 (more buildings, less sky).

I hope citizens back then weren’t getting too attached to that beautiful clock tower, because it would go bye-bye in April, 1919 after it had been determined that it might be on the verge of collapse. 

From The Dallas Morning News, Jan. 22, 1919:

COURTHOUSE TOWER IS ORDERED REMOVED

Believing the courthouse tower to be a nuisance to the safety of persons in the building, the Commissioners Court yesterday ordered H. A. Overbeck, architect, to prepare specifications for its removal. The tower will be leveled off even with the balcony.

Mr. Overbeck recently made an inspection of the tower, reporting that while there is no immediate danger, it is altogether advisable that the tower be demolished, as a strong windstorm might cause it to collapse. The walls have numerous cracks in them, the sandstone is disintegrating in places, and some of the iron supports are rusted and deteriorating, he said.

The work of removing the tower will begin as soon as Mr. Overbeck can complete the necessary plans.

It wasn’t even 30 years old. The tower came down a few months later at a cost to the county of $10,000 (the equivalent today of about $153,000). 

From The Dallas Morning News, April 20, 1919:

COST $10,000 TO REMOVE COURTHOUSE TOWER

The work of razing the courthouse tower was completed this week, and workmen yesterday began tearing down the scaffold and improvised elevator shaft which had been erected to facilitate the removal of the large quantity of stone and steel contained in the old tower.

It is estimated that there were close to 75 tons of material in the tower. It cost the county $10,000 to have it removed.

75 tons!

But, oh dear — it looked bad without the tower. Real bad. …I mean REAL bad.

old-red-courthouse_no-clock-tower_postcard_ebayYikes

But, thankfully, the Dallas County Courthouse got a brand new clock tower in 2007, and Old Red looks beautiful again!

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Sources & Notes

Images from eBay.

main-street-west-from-st-george-hotel_ebay_sm

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Copyright © 2021 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Municipal Building, Bird’s-Eye View

municipal-bldg_hilton-hotel_ebayDallas’ beautiful City Hall

by Paula Bosse

Sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever have the time or energy to write a proper historical post again. I’m still dealing with a lengthy illness of a family member, a situation which has all but taken over my life. Someday I’ll get back to researching and writing. But for now, here’s a really cool photo I came across on eBay a year ago — I’ve never seen this view of the Municipal Building. Or the Hilton. I like this photo so much I’m posting it even though it has a dreaded watermark.

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Sources & Notes

Photo found on eBay. 

To flesh this out a bit, check out these related Flashback Dallas posts:

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Copyright © 2021 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Simms Super Service Station, Cedar Springs & Maple — 1930

simms-super-service-station_atlantic-terra-cotta-co-coll_UT_ca-1930Let us vulcanize your tires!

by Paula Bosse

If you call yourself a “Super Service Station,” you’d better be pretty super. And the one in the photo above is pretty super. It opened in 1930 at the intersection of Cedar Springs and Maple (on the northernmost tip of the land now occupied by the Crescent). 

Construction of the station and attached retail spaces was announced in 1929 by the Dallas-based Simms Oil Company (headquartered in the Magnolia Building, with a refinery on Eagle Ford Road in West Dallas) — it was reported that the impressive building would cost about $40,000 (about $615,000 in today’s money). It would be the 34th Simms service station in the city but it would be the first SUPER service station. Its grand opening at the end of April, 1930 was a big event, broadcast over KRLD radio, with singers, music, and flowers for the ladies. No business was conducted during the grand opening — it was strictly an open house, offering prospective customers the opportunity to walk among the gas pumps and admire what the company called “the last word in service station art.”

simms_cedar-springs-maple_grand-opening_043030_detDetail from grand opening ad, April, 1930

The filling station will be equipped with ten electrically operated gasoline pumps. Every kind of automobile repairs and battery and tire vulcanizing service will be offered. (Dallas Morning News, Oct. 20, 1929)

The building is of terra cotta in modernistic design with the well-known Simms color scheme of blue, white and red used. […] On top of the structure is a beacon bearing the Simms triangle. It will revolve with flood lights playing on it all the while. (DMN, April 27, 1930)

I never think of businesses of that period being open 24 hours a day, but this one was. Super!

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Here are a few zoomed-in close-ups of the top photo, which shows the Cedar Springs side of the building. (Click pictures to see larger images.)

At the left of this detail you can see a glimpse of Maple Avenue, which, at the time, was still lined with large, expensive homes.

simms_det_to-maple

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In the shadows, a man who no doubt has prodigious vulcanizing skills.

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In addition to housing a gas station, the building had 6 retail spaces — 3 on Maple and 3 on Cedar Springs. One of the businesses seen here places the date of this photo at 1930, when The Radio Shop was located at 2304 Cedar Springs (the next year it appears to have moved around to the Maple side of the building). Next to it is the Fishburn Oriental Cleaners at 2308 Cedar Springs. (The official address of the Simms station was 2623 Maple, but it was usually just listed as being at the southeast corner of Maple and Cedar Springs — after Simms, the building’s address was 2312 Cedar Springs.)

simms_det_truck_oriental-cleaners_radio-shop

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Here’s a close-up of the company truck and an easy-to-remember number when you needed to call for help with a broken-down vehicle.

simms_det_simms-truck

And here it is in an ad. That motorcycle is cool. For some reason I really want that sidecar to be filled with sloshing gasoline.

simms_ad_082630_detAd detail, Aug. 26, 1930

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And here’s the revolving rooftop beacon. (What looks like a spray of water is just damage to the surface of the photograph.) (…But a fountain on top of a gas station would be pretty amazing.)

simms_det_tower-cu

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You know you’ve got a cool building if you can include an instantly recognizable line drawing of it in your ads.

simms_cedar-springs-maple_060330_detAd detail, June 3, 1930

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I think the company might have disappeared before the 1930s ended. Because this is the only “old” “modern” map I’ve got, here’s where the Simms gas station had been located, courtesy of a 1952 Mapsco.

cedar-springs-maple_1952-mapscoMapsco, 1952

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Here are a couple of later photos of the building, post-Simms. The first one is from a grainy Shook Tires ad from 1938. The color postcard is from the 1960s when it was the C. S. Hamilton Chrysler dealership. The beacon is still there but, surely, it was no longer beaconing (unlike the Republic Bank “rocket” seen in the background, which was beaconing big-time). (See below in the comments for a 1940s photo of the building.)

shook-tires_ad_2312-cedar-springs_051338Shook Tires, 1938

hamilton-car-dealership_cedar-springs-at-maple_ca-1962_ebayC. S. Hamilton Chrysler, ca. 1962

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Sources & Notes

Photo — titled “Simms Oil Station (Dallas, Tex.): exterior view of front entrance, corner perspective” — is from the Atlantic Terra Cotta Company Architectural records and photographs, 1914-1941, Architectural Terra Cotta, Alexander Architectural Archives, University of Texas Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin; more info can be found here

simms-super-service-station_atlantic-terra-cotta-co-coll_UT_ca-1930_sm

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Copyright © 2021 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Snider Plaza & The Varsity Theater — 1920s

varsity-theater_1929_galloway_1600The Varsity Theater, Snider Plaza, 1929

by Paula Bosse

Snider Plaza, the University Park shopping center near the SMU campus, was formally opened on June 2, 1927 when its centerpiece fountain was switched on as a crowd of thousands watched. The buildings weren’t completed yet, but it was a sure sign to everyone that a large project was underway in an area of town which was not yet fully developed.

It was announced in December, 1926 that a 30-acre tract at the northwest corner of Hillcrest and Daniel had been purchased by Wichita Falls businessman Charles W. Snider (he had recently funded Snider Hall, the women’s dormitory at SMU) and University Park mayor J. Fred Smith from Miss Fannie B. Daniel, whose family had owned the land since 1851. The purchase price was $82,500 (which would be the equivalent of about $1.25 million in today’s money) (…let that sink in for a moment…). Snider Plaza, along with SMU, was both the heart of University Park and an impetus for real estate development around it.

Here’s an ad from October, 1927 from the University Park Development Co. (click to see larger images) — lots were going for $1,890 ($30.000 today):

university-park-develpment-co_ad_100927_a

university-park-develpment-co_ad_100927_bOct., 1929 — Hurry!

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Below are a couple of VERY early photos of Snider Plaza.

First off, the fountain. It was illuminated at night with rotating colored lights. The view is to the northwest.

snider-plaza-fountain_1927_galloway_dpl_1200

And that was about it. A fountain, paved streets and sidewalks, and lots of streetlights. In the photo below you can see the fountain in the distance. And the office of Ralph Porter, the man who was the driving force behind Snider Plaza (see his photo in the ad above). There is still a Ralph Porter Co. real estate business — and, appropriately, it’s still located in Snider Plaza.

snider-plaza_galloway_dpl_1200

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The Varsity Theater wasn’t built until 1929, even though a movie theater was always in the plans. I’m not sure what happened, but in 1928 it was announced that a new theater was going to be built as part of a 7-story building. The theater and retail shops were to occupy the first floor, offices would occupy the second floor, and furnished apartments would fill the top five floors (there would also be a parking garage in the basement). That’s all so weird to imagine. First off, apartments?! Secondly, that would have been the tallest building in the Park Cities! Buildings weren’t that tall in most of “suburban” Dallas in the 1920s. Also, the architecture is pretty bland, and very unlike the rest of the shopping area.

snider-plaza_varsity-apartments_1928Architect’s conception, 1928

The stripped-down plans ended up doing away with the basement and everything but the ground floor for the theater and retail shops. And I’m so glad! I love the photo at the top, from 1929. What a beautiful, beautiful building! The architect of the building was Wyatt C. Hedrick of Fort Worth. The buildings of Snider Plaza were meant to be of uniform design. Like this. (If only they all still looked like that!) (Another photo I posted recently showing that uniform style is here.)

The Varsity opened on Oct. 3, 1929 with “In Old Arizona” (the first talkie to be filmed outdoors). It became the Fine Arts in January, 1957. A reader, Malcom Thomson — who was a very youthful theater manager during the early days of the FIne Arts (I think he was an SMU student at the time) — sent me the great photo below from February, 1960.

fine-arts-theater_snider-plaza_malcolm-thomson_feb-3-1960Feb. 3, 1960 (courtesy Malcolm Thomson)

At some point — it’s so incredibly hard to believe that it seems like an urban legend — the Fine Arts Theater became an “adult” theater. Yes, Virginia, X-rated movies were screened regularly in the Park Cities. Oh dear.

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The theater is long-gone, as is almost all of Snider Plaza’s original “look.” But it’s still a cool, quirky place, and it’s always interesting to explore (never quite as interesting as M. E. Moses was to me as a child, but so few places are). And as long as Kuby’s is still around to fulfill my Reuben and warm-potato-salad needs, I’m pretty happy.

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A couple of quirky tidbits about the very early years:

  • SMU students were responsible in large part for operating the theater, because, of course, it offered them the opportunity to “obtain practical experience in show business.”
  • Also, the streets of the plaza were cleaned by “an automatic street-washing machine.” I’m not sure what that would have entailed, but I would guess that SMU students were glad to be let off the street-cleaning life-experience hook on that one.

And, on a personal note, several decades later, my father owned the very short-lived Plaza Book Store, which was located in the retail space just to the right of the theater (where, just a few short years earlier, he had worked as an usher — i.e. “obtained practical experience in show business” — while attending SMU).

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Sources & Notes

The two photos of Snider Plaza from 1927 and the top photo of the Varsity Theater from 1929 were found in the absolutely fantastic book The Park Cities: A Photohistory by Diane Galloway. The first two are from the collection of the Dallas Public Library. Ms. Galloway’s credit for the photo of the theater reads, “Photo by Frank Rogers/Courtesy of Jerrry Washam/Ralph Porter Company.” I believe all three photos are by Frank Rogers.

1960 photo of the Fine Arts Theater is used courtesy of Malcolm J. Thomson (thanks, Malcolm!).

varsity-theater_1929_galloway_sm

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Copyright © 2021 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

The Majestic Theatre’s Centenary

majestic-theatre_tsha_1920sThe Majestic Theatre, 1925 Elm Street

by Paula Bosse

The Majestic Theatre opened on Elm Street 100 years ago this week. We’re lucky to still have such a beautiful building, one which we came close to losing in the late ’60s/early ’70s when so many other “old” buildings were being demolished in downtown Dallas.

The Majestic opened at 1925 Elm on April 11, 1921. The promotional blitz was pretty intense: for months the local papers were full of every little tidbit about the building and the grand opening. A pilot was even hired to drop leaflets and float balloons over 25 North Texas towns in order to reach those farther afield who might be outside the Big City theater loop. 

There was a lot of bragging that the showplace theater cost over $2 million, a huge amount of money at the time. That would be about $30 million in today’s money, and there is no way that beautiful, beautiful theater and its luxurious decor could be built today for a mere $30 million.

Like I said, we’re lucky to have it. Happy 100th, Majestic!

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Here it is under construction in 1920:

majestic_under-constructioin_100120_cinema-treasuresvia Cinema Treasures

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Just read this (click to see a larger image):

majestic-theatre_dmn_040321_grand-openingDallas Morning News, April 3, 1921

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At night, just down from the Melba (originally the Hope):

majestic-theatre_night_cinema-treasuresvia Cinema Treasures

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And it still looks beautiful in the 21st century:

majestic-theatre_LOC_carol-highsmith_20142014, photo by Carol M. Highsmith, Library of Congress

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majestic-theatre_2009_wikipedia2009, via Wikipedia

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theater_majestic_052522_where-its-cool“Where it’s really cool” (1922)

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Sources & Notes

More about the history of the Majestic Theatre can be found at Cinema Treasures.

The official theater website is here — check out the upcoming shows!

majestic-theatre_tsha_1920s_sm

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Copyright © 2021 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Thompson’s, 1520 Main — 1916

thompsons_atlantic-terra-cotta-co-coll_UT_frank-rogers_XLOpen for business…

by Paula Bosse

Above, the newly constructed building at 1520-1522 Main Street, between Akard and Stone, home to Thompson’s, a national chain of restaurants owned by John R. Thompson of Chicago. It was built and opened in 1916.

thompsons_dmn_071615Dallas Morning News, July 16, 1915 (click for larger image)

The site had previously been the location of the Happy Hour Theater (which can be seen in this photo), the demolition of which was announced in January, 1916. 

1520-main_dmn_010416DMN, Jan. 4, 1916

And it was a beautiful building!

thompsons_atlantic-terra-cotta-co-coll_UT_frank-rogers

Thompson’s remained in this location until the 1930s. When Bond Clothes took over the space in 1938, news accounts rather ominously mentioned that the building would be completely remodeled, inside and out.

Workers are engaged in ripping out the front of the building. An all black glass front will be installed on most of the building and near the top of the second floor glass brick will be featured. Bronze trim will be used throughout. (DMN, Feb. 13, 1938).

All that beautiful glossy white terra cotta “ripped out”!

But things got worse. Much worse. It’s hard to believe, but this is the same building:

1520-main_selzer-assoc_facebook_crop_campisisPhoto from Selzer Associates Facebook page

In recent years, though, Selzer Associates Architects and Nedderman & Associates worked some absolutely stunning restoration magic. (Read the story of the restoration in Texas Architect magazine here, starting on p. 36.) I mean, look:

iron-cactus_google-street-view_feb-2020Google Street View, Feb. 2020

It’s beautiful again! Thank you, magic-workers!

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Sources & Notes

The circa-1916 photograph by Dallas photographer Frank Rogers is from the Alexander Architectural Archives, University of Texas Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin — more info on this photo can be found here.

See an interior shot of a Thompson’s restaurant in a 1927 photo here.

Read more about the Thompson’s restaurant chain in the following articles:

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Copyright © 2021 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Misc. Streetcars — ca. 1940s

municipal-bldg_streetcar-draughon_ebayStreetcar passing City Hall

by Paula Bosse

A bunch of photos of Dallas streetcars found currently (or recently) listed on eBay.

Above, Commerce and Harwood, looking toward the Municipal Building. Below, Commerce and Harwood, looking south toward First Presbyterian Church.

streetcar-harwood_draughon_ebay

“Main Street” car and “Highland Park-SMU” car, with Cokesbury Bookstore (at St. Paul) in the background:

streetcar_cokesbury_ebay

“Boundary-Union Station” car, heading west on Commerce, with the Baker Hotel in the background (back when it was still a two-way street). “Smash-Up” — the movie advertised on the side of the streetcar — was released in 1947.

streetcar_boundary-union-station_ebay

“Trinity Heights” car, heading west in the 1500 block of Elm:

streetcar_w-a-green_elm-st_ebay

 “Highland Park-SMU” car:

streetcar_hp_smu_ebay

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Sources and Notes

All photos from eBay seller “bksales” (current Dallas streetcar items available from this seller are here).

municipal-bldg_streetcar-draughon_ebay_sm

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Copyright © 2021 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Ursuline Academy — 1921

ursuline_1921-yrbk_1-year-highVelma Rich and her classmates…

by Paula Bosse

I never tire of looking through old high school yearbooks. Here are some photographs from the 1921 edition of The Ursulina, the yearbook of the Ursuline Academy, the all-girls school located in the block bounded by Live Oak, Haskell, Bryan, and St. Joseph in Old East Dallas.

Above, the “I Year High,” which I gather would be the equivalent of the freshman class.  (I am transfixed by the girl in the center of the front row — I think she is Velma Rich — I bet she was a handful.) (Caption for this photo listing the girls can be seen here.)

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Below, the East View of the Academy. The caption reads: “A Famous Battlefield (the study hall) and the Porch of Dreams, where school girls congregate to discuss the latest bulletin board news while enjoying some toothsome dainty.” (All photos larger when clicked.)

ursuline_1921-yrbk_east-view

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The auditorium. “And this is where we treat our friends to music, play and dance.”

ursuline_1921-yrbk_auditorium

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The chapel. “‘Tis just the place to go for help when things are ‘up and down.'”

ursuline_1921-yrbk_chapel

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The dining hall. “You may live without learning/You may live without books/But show me the man/Who can live without cooks.”

ursuline_1921-yrbk_dining-hall

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The hall and stairways. “If these old stairs had power of speech, what girlish secrets they could tell!”

ursuline_1921-yrbk_hall-and-stairways

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The music room. “A spot where many young ladies are kept very busy, ‘Untwisting all the chains that tie the hidden soul of harmony.'”

ursuline_1921-yrbk_music-room

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The recreation room. “Just the spot where, nine months out of the year, you can always find ‘Jest and youthful jollity/Quips and cranks and wanton wiles/Nods and becks and wreathed smiles.'”

ursuline_1921-yrbk_recreation-room

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The campus. “What you and me/Were wont to ‘saw and see.'”

ursuline_1921-yrbk_campus_b

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The campus. “This is a gay spot at all times. It is kept alive in summer by games of roller skating, croquet and tennis; in winter, by ‘hikes,’ basket ball, races and, on rare occasions, old fashioned snowballing.”

ursuline_1921-yrbk_campus

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The grotto. “Somehow, all life seems much more sweet/When I take my old brown beads and kneel at Mary’s feet.”

ursuline_1921-yrbk_grotto

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The pecan grove. “Where nuts grow, and school girls go to while away the time.”

ursuline_1921-yrbk_pecan-grove

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“II Year High” (sophomore class).

ursuline_1921-yrbk_2-year-high

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“III Year High” (junior class).

ursuline_1921-yrbk_3-year-high

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The provincialate and novitiate. “Sweet secluded retreat where young Ursuline teachers are trained in the spirit of the Order to continue the work begun by St. Angela de Merici over three hundred years ago.” (Another, slightly more gothic image is here.)

ursuline_1921-yrbk_ext

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And because I love her attitude, another look at 15-year-old Velma Rich.

rich-velma_ursuline_1921-yrbk

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Sources & Notes

All photos from the 1921 edition of The Ursulina, the yearbook of the Ursuline Academy. Many (if not all) of the photos are by Dallas photographer Frank Rogers.

Other Flashback Dallas posts on Ursuline can be found below:

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Copyright © 2021 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Holiday Greetings from Jefferson Tower — 1937

xmas_jefferson-tower_oak-cliff_portal_1937_bChristmastime in Oak Cliff…

by Paula Bosse

Jefferson Tower, on West Jefferson Boulevard between S. Bishop and S. Madison, looked pretty great in 1937 all decorated for Christmas. It was (and is) the tallest building on West Jefferson. This must have made quite the statement!

xmas_jefferson-tower_oak-cliff_portal_1937

Here’s a zoomed-in detail (all images are larger when clicked):

xmas_jefferson-tower_oak-cliff_portal_1937_det

And here’s the building a few years later — no Christmas-tree decoration and in the daytime, but still fantastic.

jefferson-tower_mccoy-collaborativevia McCoy Collaborative

And, I mean, look at how commanding this building is, even now:

jefferson-tower_google-maps

I’d like to see a 21st-century return of a Christmas tree to the exterior of this building — it would still be impressive!

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Sources & Notes

Christmas photos of Jefferson Tower are from the Private Collection of Mary Newton Maxwell, via the Portal to Texas History — more info may be found here and here.

Photo of Jefferson Tower in the daylight is from the McCoy Collaborative website — more on their work in rehabilitating this historic building may be found here.

See the building on Google Street View here.

More Christmas posts from Flashback Dallas may be found here.

xmas_jefferson-tower_oak-cliff_portal_1937_b_small

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Copyright © 2020 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Kennedy Memorial and the County Courthouses — Early 1970s

kennedy-memorial_courthouses_postcard

by Paula Bosse

A view of the new John F. Kennedy Memorial, the not-new Old Red Courthouse, and the not-old-but-not-really-new “new” County Courthouse, in a postcard photo by Bob Glander.

The text on the back of the postcard reads:

The old and the  new County Courthouses with the Kennedy Memorial. The new Courthouse was dedicated Feb. 4, 1966 and the Kennedy Memorial June 24, 1970, Dallas, Texas. Photo by Bob Glander.”

See the same view — from Main and Market — today, via Google Street View, here.

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Sources & Notes

Postcard found somewhere online.

Previous Flashback Dallas posts with images to compare imagined and actual views of the “Courthouse Complex”:

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Copyright © 2020 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

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