Flashback : Dallas

A Miscellany: History, Ads, Pop Culture

Category: Architecture/Significant Bldgs.

Neiman’s First Suburban Store: Preston Road — 1951-1965

neiman-marcus_preston-road_dallas-mag_feb-1949Original design by DeWitt & Swank, 1949 (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

In January, 1949, Neiman-Marcus announced they would soon begin construction of their very first “branch” store. It was to be built in the new “Varsity Village” shopping area on Preston Road, just south of Northwest Highway (on the east side of Preston, facing Preston Center). This store was referred to in early articles as their “town and country store.” The downtown store was running out of room (in fact the expansion and renovation of their downtown store was announced at the same time as this new “suburban” store) — and the new store was to provide 30,000 square feet of primo retail space.

The original idea for the store’s design is seen in the drawing above, which was accompanied by this caption in a Chamber of Commerce publication:

New suburban shop of Neiman-Marcus Company (pictured above in drawing by Roscoe DeWitt and Arch Swank, architects for the building) is scheduled for construction this year in Varsity Village on a plot 30,000 square feet facing Preston Road and extending from Wentwood to Villanova Drives. The store will conform to the general architectural plan of Varsity Village and will represent a total investment of about $1,500,000. (“Dallas” magazine, Feb. 1949)

I LOVE that drawing! Unfortunately, things changed between the time that DeWitt and Swank offered that initial drawing and the almost three years that passed before the store was actually completed. The store was expanded to two floors (with mezzanine and basement), and… I don’t know — it just lost all of its supercool sleekness. It went from mid-century-modern fabulousness to big boring blocks. I’m sure the interior was still fantastic (designed by Eleanor Le Maire), but that exterior is uncharacteristically (for Neiman’s) blah.

n-m_preston-center_1951_departmentstoremuseum1951, via thedepartmentstoremuseum.org

But back to the decor. This store was aimed at suburban families — the shoppers were primarily stylish mothers with kids, so there was a lot of thought put into making the store appealing to children. The basement — which was home to the toy and nursery department — sounds pretty great, complete with a Willy Wonka-esque attraction: at the entrance was an enchanted forest mural and a giant cage filled with toy animals, and “in the toy shop there is a magic tree — one with a built-in dispenser that pours out an endless supply of orangeade” (Dallas Morning News, Oct. 14, 1951).

The store was designed in a Southwestern color palette, featured a glass mosaic, lots of Kachina dolls, a glass-walled landscaped patio, a specially commissioned Alexander Calder mobile, and it was an immediate hit. The denizens of the Park Cities and Preston Hollow would still have to make the trek downtown if they wanted a gown for that do at the country club, but for casual clothing for mom and a large selection of clothing for children and teens, the “town and country store” was perfect. And nearby.

It lasted until NorthPark opened in 1965. Realizing the Preston Road store would be unable to expand, Neiman’s decided to close the 14-year-old store and move into Raymond Nasher’s striking new NorthPark Center.

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n-m_preston_dallas-history-guildvia Dallas History Guild Facebook page

Below, two night-time photos by Squire Haskins, taken on May 23, 1952:

n-m_preston_night_squire-haskins_UTA_1952_bvia UTA Libraries

n-m_preston_night_squire-haskins_UTA_1952_avia UTA Libraries

Instead of placing a “Grand Opening” announcement, Neiman’s teased the public with a “we’ll be opening soon-ish” announcement (in fact, the store opened exactly one week after the appearance of this ad). This ad describes that the new location will be more geared to families — to children (“from pram to prom”), adult casualwear, and gift items. With a restaurant and salon. The more typical Neiman’s couture lines and more expensive items would be available only “in town.” (Click ad to see a larger image.)

n-m_preston_100851_adOct. 8, 1951 ad

In the “Wales” column — a regular feature of N-M ads, with chatty text written by Warren Leslie (“Wa” from “Warren” and “les” from Leslie), a Neiman-Marcus executive and spokesperson and, later, author of the controversial book Dallas Public and Private) — the store’s opening is discussed, including the unexpected appearance of John Wayne (in town for the “Movietime in Texas, USA,” a promotional Hollywood caravan tour through Texas, packed with movie stars (watch cool footage here). Too bad about that orangeade, kids.

n-m_preston_102351_ad-det

One of the features of the new store was a specially commissioned mobile by artist Alexander Calder which hung above the stairway (a bit difficult to see in the photo below, but it’s there!). This was the first permanent installation of one of Calder’s kinetic sculptures in Dallas. (The three photos below are by Denny Hayes.) The staircase was used for fashion shows (watch Channel 5 news footage from a swimsuit fashion show from April 25, 1958 here, via the UNT’s Portal to Texas History site — according to the news script, the last suit was priced at a whopping $500, which in today’s money, would be about $4,500).

n-m_preston_DPL_1954_hayes-collection_calder1954, via the Dallas Public Library (PA76-1/5388.1)  

Those floor-to-ceiling windows and sheer draperies are wonderful.

n-m_preston_DPL_1951_hayes-collection1951, via the Dallas Public Library (PA76-1/5388.5)

n-m_preston_DPL_1954_hayes-collectionca. 1954, via the Dallas Public Library (PA76-1/5388.2)

The listing in the 1953 directory described the Preston store as “the New Preston Center Station Wagon Store.” That’s right, the “station-wagon store.”

n-m_preston_1953-dallas-directory1953 Dallas directory

In May, 1960 there was a relief drive throughout Dallas to send much-needed supplies to Chile, which had recently experienced almost simultaneous devastating earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tidal waves, and avalanches. Neiman’s coordinated with several agencies and the State Department to rush food and clothing to Chile. The view in the screenshot below shows Preston Road looking south (watch the 1-minute Channel 8 news footage, via SMU, here).

n-m_preston_SMU_053060_preston-road

After 14 years, the Preston location closed up shop in July, 1965. This coincided with the opening of the much larger Neiman’s store in NorthPark. Bye-bye, “suburbia”!

n-m_071565_preston-closingJuly 15, 1965 ad

The Preston Road building still stands, but it’s not very interesting-looking these days. I think I’d prefer the “blah” look from 1951.

n-m_preston_bldg_google-street-view_2017Google Street View, 2017

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Sources & Notes

Top image appeared in the Feb. 1949 issue of “Dallas,” a monthly magazine published by the Dallas Chamber of Commerce.

Photos by Squire Haskins are from the Squire Haskins Photography, Inc. Collection, University of Texas at Arlington Libraries, Special Collections.

Photos by Denny Hayes are from the Hayes Collection, Dallas Public Library.

Image of the 1960 Chilean American Red Cross relief drive is a screenshot from the WFAA Newsfilm Collection, G. William Jones Archive, Hamon Arts Library, Southern Methodist University.

neiman-marcus_preston-road_dallas-mag_feb-1949_sm

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Copyright © 2020 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

Texlite, Borich, Pegasus

texlite_feb-1949_ad_pegasus-det

by Paula Bosse

Texlite. If you’re a lover of all-things-Dallas, you should know that name. Texlite made many, many, many, many, MANY enamel, electric, and neon signs, including, most famously, the rotating Flying Red Horse — Pegasus — which arrived in Dallas in 1934 to sit atop the city’s tallest building, the Magnolia Petroleum Building, serving as a beacon, a landmark, and as a sort of city mascot.

Texlite’s  roots went back to 1879 when Italian immigrant Peter Samuel Borich (1849-1932) arrived in Dallas. His obituary noted that he was a graduate of the Royal Italian Naval School and that he served in the Italian Merchant Marine before he arrived in Dallas, where he established the Borich Sign Co. A very early site of his shop is said to have been either the current site of the Adolphus Hotel or the current site of the Magnolia Building (and Pegasus), on Sycamore Street (now Akard). He appears to have been the go-to sign-painter for decades and was a very successful businessman.

The Borich company eventually branched out (and eventually became Texlite, a separate entitity) to became a pioneer in electric and neon signs: in 1926 Texlite built and sold the first neon sign west of the Mississippi, in St. Louis (their first neon sign in Dallas was a sign for the Zinke shoe repair store (1809 Main) which depicted an animated hammer tapping on a shoe heel). 

The Borich sign company focused on painted or printed signs while Texlite handled the electric signs. P. S. Borich retired in the 1920s and moved to Los Angeles after the death of his wife. The last time the Borich company name appeared in the Dallas directory was 1930 (when it looks like it became United Advertising Corporation of Texas, owned by Harold H. Wineburgh, who was also a Texlite partner/owner). 

During World War II, Texlite, like many manufacturers, jumped into war-production work, making airplane and ship parts; during the Korean War they made bomber fuselages. 

I don’t know when Texlite went out of business (or was acquired and merged into another company). As successful as Texlite was (and it was incredibly successful), what more important achievement could it have had than to have been the maker of our iconic Pegasus? 

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Here are a few random images from the Borich/Texlite history. First, a great ad from 1949, when Pegasus was a fresh 15-year-old. “It’s Time For a Spring Sign Cleaning.” (Click to see a larger image.)

texlite_feb-1949-ad1949 ad

And another ad, this one with a wonderful photo, from 1954.

texlite_pegasus_ad_ca-1954_heather-david_flickr1954 ad, via Flickr

In 1949 Texlite built a huge new factory in an industrial area near Love Field, at 3305 Manor Way. Below is the architectural rendering. The caption: “New home of Texlite, Inc. is being completed at 3305 Manor Way at a total of $1,000,000. The new, two-story plant, providing 114,000 square feet of factory and office space, will provide facilities for trebling Texlite’s output. Grayson Gill is the architect, and O’Rourke Construction Company are the general contractors.” (Dallas magazine, Feb. 1949)

texlite-new-bldg_dallas-chamber-of-commerce-mag_feb-1949

Below, the previous factory, located at 2900 Factory Street, also near Love Field:

texlite-sign_1940

I assume this 1940 sign was made by Texlite. Below are a couple of details, showing playful hints of Pegasus.

texlite-sign_1940_det-1

texlite-sign_1940_det-2via Mecum Auctions

I wondered where Factory Street was — here it is on a 1952 map — it looks like it was absorbed into a growing Love Field.

texlite_factory-st_mapsco-19521952 Mapsco

One of Texlite’s many theater clients was the Palace Theatre for whom they designed and installed a new electric sign in January, 1929 (at which time, by the way, the theater’s name was “officially” changed — however briefly — to the Greater Palace; the theater was renovated and enlarged, with a new emphasis on the Elm Street entrance rather than the entrance on Pacific). 

texlite_palace_jan-1929Jan., 1929

Going back a couple of years, with the separate companies sharing ad space in the 1927 city directory:

borich-texlite_dallas-directory_19271927 Dallas directory

The first ad I found which had both the “Borich” and “Texlite” names together was this one from 1923 for the Cloud-George Co., a women’s clothing boutique (1705 Elm) run by the somewhat notorious Miss A. B. Cloud.

texlite_borich-sign_sept-1923Sept., 1923

The company occupied several locations over the years — the location in 1902 can be seen here, at the right, looking west on Pacific (from the Flashback Dallas post “Views from a Passing Train — 1902”).

edmunds_pacific-bryan_free-lib-phil_19021902, via Free Library of Philadelphia

borich_dallas-directory_1902Dallas directory, 1902

P. S. Borich’s sign-painting wasn’t restricted only to businesses — he was also regularly retained by the city to paint street signs.

borich_dmn_080686Dallas Herald, Aug. 6, 1886

And, below, the earliest ad I could find — from 1879, the year Borich arrived in Dallas. (Thanks to this ad, I can now add “calsomining” to my vocabulary.)

borich_nortons-union-intelligencer_110179Norton’s Union Intelligencer, Nov. 1, 1879

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Here’s an interesting little bonus: a Pegasus “mini-me” in Billings, Montana, created with help from the Pegasus experts in Dallas (click for larger image).

texlite_pegasus-in-montana_billings-MT-gazette_052255Billings Gazette, May 22, 1955

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Sources & Notes

Top image is a detail from a 1949 ad found in the Feb., 1949 issue of Dallas, the magazine published by the Dallas Chamber of Commerce.

Check out another Texlite sign which I wrote about in the Flashback Dallas post “Neon Refreshment: The Giant Dr Pepper Sign.”

I’m always excited to see places I write about show up in old film footage. Watch a short (20-second) silent clip of Texlite workers striking in June, 1951 at the 3305 Manor Way location in WBAP-Channel 5 footage here (the workers were on strike in a wage dispute — more info is in the news script here); film and script from the KXAS-NBC 5 News Collection, University of North Texas, via the Portal to Texas History.

The company made tons of signs and exteriors for movie theaters around the country, including the Lakewood Theater (whose sign was recently re-neonized!).

Thank you, Signor Borich!

texlite_feb-1949_ad_pegasus-det-sm

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Copyright © 2020 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

“Guys and Dolls” at the State Fair Music Hall — 1951

sfot_guys-and-dolls_music-hall_1951_john-dominis_life-mag
Wearing the *dress* boots… (photo: John Dominis, © Time, Inc.)

by Paula Bosse

This is the most Texans-going-to-the-theater photo I’ve ever seen.

And this is the most Texans-selling-minks ad I’ve ever seen:

neiman-marcus_ad_guys-and-dolls_oct-1951

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Sources and Notes

Photo by John Dominis, taken in October, 1951 on assignment for Life magazine, ©Time, Inc.; more info is here.

Neiman-Marcus ad is also from October, 1951.

“Take Back Your Mink” is a song from “Guys and Dolls” (hear it here), the musical that played during the 1951 State Fair of Texas, starring Pamela Britton, Allan Jones, Jeanne Ball, and Slapsie  Maxie Rosenbloom.

sfot_guys-and-dolls_music-hall_1951_john-dominis_life-mag_sm

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Copyright © 2020 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

The Southland Center: Mid-Century Cool — 1959

southland-ctr_john-rogers_1959-60_portal_interior-lobby_stairsWelcome.… (photo by John Rogers, via the Portal to Texas History)

by Paula Bosse

When it opened in 1959, the Southland Center (the Southland Life Building and the Sheraton Dallas hotel) boasted the tallest building west of the Mississippi. It was obviously a huge, multi-million-dollar construction project, but it was also a very costly decor project in which no expense was spared on the interior design of the buildings. An admirable amount of attention was paid to artistic elements such as site-specific commissioned artwork, and input from artists and designers was welcomed. It was an interior decorator’s dream job in which absolutely everything was NEW and modern. I love this period of design. Here are a few photos from the new Southland Center which I could look at all day.

I love all the glass and the sharp, crisp lines of the furniture. (All photos are by John Rogers — see the link below each photo to go to its Portal to Texas History page where you can zoom in and see details more clearly.)

southland-ctr_john-rogers_1959-60_portal_floor-lobbyvia Portal to Texas History

This is a fantastic shot  — you can see a couple of the commissioned artworks. At the left, extending from the ceiling of the second-floor lobby of the Sheraton to the ground floor is a “stamobile” kinetic sculpture titled “Totem” by Richard Filipowski. In the background at the top center of the photo, above the registration desk, is a Venetian-glass-and-broken-marble mural by Lumen Martin Winter.

southland-ctr_john-rogers_1959-60_portal_interior-with-stairsvia Portal to Texas History

Speaking of art, another commissioned work can be seen in this detail of a photo: at the back, barely seen, is “Texas Sunburst,” a glass-tile mosaic mural by Gyorgy Kepes with additional work by Robert Preusser, located on the second-floor lounge concourse. Kepes designed the vibrant tile mosaic on the St. Jude Chapel downtown (the recent restoration of which I wrote about here), and he was also a contributor another wonderful mid-century architectural landmark in Dallas, Temple Emanu-El. (I spotted a brief glimpse of a bit of this Sheraton mural in color in a WFAA clip from June, 1974 in a story about, of all things, an ESP convention.)

southland-ctr_john-rogers_1959-60_portal_stairs-escalators_kepes-detvia Portal to Texas History

Here’s a jewelry kiosk, which is sort of Deco-futuristic — like something you’d see in a 1930s movie set on a spaceship. (Is that the “rocket” of the Republic Bank Building seen outside the window at the right? It was practically right next door, as seen in this photo.)

southland-ctr_john-rogers_1959-60_portal_jewely-vendorvia Portal to Texas History

This shows a couple of ground-level retail shops, with more wonderful floor-to-ceiling glass “walls” (the glass-cleaning must have been an ongoing nightmare!). If you needed a stuffed tiger toy, a game of Risk, paint brushes, or stationery… this shop was made for you. (In the background is the entrance to the Minute Chef, an informal restaurant which also featured original artwork by Gyorgy Kepes.)

southland-ctr_john-rogers_1959-60_portal_ground-floor-stairs-shopvia Portal to Texas History

And, lastly, a shot of the neighboring Southland Center towers, high above everything else on the edge of downtown.

southland-ctr_john-rogers_1959-60_portal_southland-life-skyscraper-and-sheratonvia Portal to Texas History

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Sources & Notes

All photos are by John Rogers, from the John Rogers and Georgette de Bruchard Collection, provided to the Portal to Texas History by the UNT Libraries Special Collections, University of North Texas; see all 25 of Rogers’ photos of the Southland Center, taken in 1959/1960, here.

See a list of the permanent art as well as exhibited art at the Southland Life Building/Sheraton Dallas in the scanned 1959 catalog “Made in Texas by Texans.”

See photos of the Southland Center under construction in the Flashback Dallas post “On Top of the World: The Southland Center.”

southland-ctr_john-rogers_1959-60_portal_interior-lobby_stairs_sm

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Copyright © 2020 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Architectural Crossroads: Commerce and Akard

dallas-postcard_adolphus_magnolia_baker_ebay

by Paula Bosse

In Dallas’ early days, Commerce Street was once considered so far off the beaten path that major businesses did not build there. By 1925, though, the intersection of Commerce and Akard streets boasted three Dallas showplaces: the Adolphus Hotel (still standing), the Magnolia Building (still standing), and the Baker Hotel (not still standing). (Before that, it was the Adolphus, the Magnolia, and Busch’s other hotel, the swanky Oriental.)

Ever noticed that the corner “turret” of the Adolphus looks like a traditional German beer stein? An ode to the source of namesake Adolphus Busch’s wealth? I certainly hope so!

adolphus_terracotta-detail_western-architect_july-1914

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Sources & Notes

Top image is from a pack of postcards, found on eBay.

Detail of the Adolphus is from the Flashback Dallas post “Dallas in ‘The Western Architect,’ 1914: The Adolphus Hotel.”

dallas-postcard_adolphus_magnolia_baker_ebay_sm

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Copyright © 2020 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Magnolia Gas Station No. 110 — 1920

magnolia-gas-station_atlantic-terra-cotta-co-coll_UT_frank-rogersDallas’ finest filling station… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

The building seen above turns 100 this year. You know it — you’ve probably said, “I love that building!” at some point in your life. It was built by the Magnolia Petroleum Co. on the triangular piece of land where Commerce Street, Jackson Street, and Cesar Chavez Blvd. meet (Cesar Chavez was originally Preston Street). Before the building’s construction, this intersection was known as “Five Points” — after its construction, it was known as “Pershing Square” (notable for its inconveniently placed middle-of-the-street horse- and dog-watering fountain, which I will write about in the future).

This distinctive brick and terra cotta “semi-Gothic” building was built in 1920, with two stories and a basement; Magnolia service station #110 was on the ground level, and regional offices of the company were above (the massive Pegasus-topped Magnolia Building had not yet been built). Lang & Witchell, Dallas’ premier architects, designed the building.

magnolia-petroleum-station_dmn_091919Dallas Morning News, Sept. 19, 1919

magnolia-petroleum-station_dmn_113019DMN, Nov. 30, 1919

After the 10-pump service station opened, The Dallas Morning News noted that there were 64 gas stations in Dallas (18 were Magnolia stations) — this station was the largest and most expensive to build. Cost of the land and construction was estimated at $175,00 — the equivalent today of about $2.5 million dollars.

Businesses seen in the photo occupying the three-story building across the street at 2114-16 Jackson are Service Truck Co. of Texas, Tigert Printing Co., and Merchants Retail Credit Association. That building was sandwiched between residences (the house on the left is out of frame). All the way at the right of the photo is a glimpse of rooming houses. Across Commerce was an entire block of auto dealerships and auto supply houses (not seen in this photo). See the service station and environs on a 1921 Sanborn map here.

Let’s zoom in on this great Frank Rogers photo to see some of the details. First, a better look at that three-story office building on Jackson. (All photos are larger when clicked.)

magnolia-gas-station_atlantic-terra-cotta-co-coll_UT_frank-rogers_det-1

Pulling back a bit, you can see the rooming houses through the arches. You can also see details of the gas station as well as decorative elements of the exterior of the building, including sculptural depictions of magnolias. (I love this cropped detail. Taken out of context, you’d never guess you were looking at Dallas.)

magnolia-gas-station_atlantic-terra-cotta-co-coll_UT_frank-rogers_det-5

Moving up, you can see the word “Magnolene,” the Magnolia Petroleum Co.’s brand of motor oil; you can also see the words “Commerce Street” (“Jackson Street” is carved into the Jackson side of the building — see here).

magnolia-gas-station_atlantic-terra-cotta-co-coll_UT_frank-rogers_det-2

Here’s a closer look — “Magnolene” is, I think, long gone (as are those cool windows), but “Commerce Street” and “Jackson Street” live on today. Also, check out that very appealing street light. 

magnolia-gas-station_atlantic-terra-cotta-co-coll_UT_frank-rogers_det-3

And another, closer look at the gasoline pumps and customers. There is so much incredible detail in the design of this building — when was the last time you saw such an aesthetically appealing gas station?

magnolia-gas-station_atlantic-terra-cotta-co-coll_UT_frank-rogers_det-6

Here’s a photo from a 1922 ad for Atlanta Terra Cotta Co., which supplied several Magnolia stations in Texas with building materials — this was taken from the Jackson Street side (see the full ad here).

magnolia-petroleum-station_manufacturers-record_121422_ad-det

Here’s the building a couple of decades later:

magnolia-petroleum-station_KLIF-bldg_dallas-public-library_crop

And here it is as many Dallasites remember it, as the studios of KLIF radio, “The Mighty 1190,” where the DJ’s booth was at the “point” and passersby could watch from the street. Later it was the home of the Dallas Observer for many years. (I’m not sure of the original source of this photo, but if anyone knows or has a better quality image, let me know!)

KLIF_color

This shows the building a little earlier — it’s a cropped photo that appeared on the album cover “KLIF — KLIFF Klassics,” from about 1969 — you can see the DJ’s booth lit up.

klif_kliff-klassics_vol-iv_album-cover_ca-1969_flickr
via Flickr

Today the building is part of an “adaptive reuse” development called “East Quarter” — I read that the building was slated to house a restaurant (or two), but I don’t know what the current status of that project is.

It’s nice to know that a favorite building from my childhood is still around. Happy 100th!

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Sources & Notes

Top photo is titled “Magnolia Filling Station, Pershing (Dallas, Tex.): exterior view of front entrance, corner perspective” by Dallas photographer Frank Rogers; it 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.

The same photo appeared uncredited accompanying the Dallas Morning News article “Filling Stations of Dallas Are Finest” (DMN, April 10, 1921). 

The photo taken from the Jackson Street side is from an ad for the Atlanta Terra Cotta Co. which appeared in Manufacturers Record (Dec. 14, 1922). (The Atlanta Terra Cotta Co. of Georgia and the Atlantic Terra Cotta Co. of New York were separate companies but were under the same management.)

The photo from the 1940s/1950s is “[Pershing Square in downtown Dallas, Texas]” — I have cropped it; from the Ford Motor Company Building Collection, Dallas Public Library (call number: PA85-39/16).

Here is another photo from the same collection as the main photo in this post — this shows another Magnolia filling station in Dallas, this one a smaller, more traditional station (more info here).

magnolia-filling-station_atlantic-terra-cotta-co-coll_UT

magnolia-gas-station_atlantic-terra-cotta-co-coll_UT_frank-rogers_sm

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Copyright © 2020 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

The Murphy House — Maple Avenue

murphy-house_ca-1910_dallas-rediscovered-DHS154 Maple Avenue (2516 Maple Avenue), circa 1910

by Paula Bosse

I posted a screenshot of a “mystery house” (here) to see if anyone could figure out where it was — and a few people identified it! The screenshot was from a June, 1960 WFAA Channel 8 news piece on an embezzlement case against the owner of the insurance business that was then occupying the old house — it was the home of the State National Life Insurance Company at 2516 Maple Avenue. And I don’t know what happened with its “remodeling” along the way, but… yikes. Someone did an unbelievably bad job!

According to a 1947 Dallas Morning News article (see “Sources & Notes” at bottom of page), the house was built in 1897. The address then was 154 Maple Avenue, back when Maple Avenue was lined with very nice homes, occupied by well-to-do families who would later move to Highland Park. You can see the house at the corner of Maple and Mahon (which for a while was called Martin) on the 1899 Sanborn map here, the 1905 map here, and the 1921 map here

I’m not sure who built it, but in 1901 it was occupied by banker Roderick Oliver who sold it to Capt. John P. Murphy in 1906 for $18,000 — or $500,000 in today’s money. Murphy was the legendary pioneer real estate man of Dallas. He started his real estate company in 1874 and was joined by partner Charles F. Bolanz in 1884 — Murphy & Bolanz was the premier real estate company in the city for decades. 

murphy-house_dmn_051806Dallas Morning News, May 18, 1906

The house stayed in the Murphy family for many years. In 1947 the house was elaborately restored by three women (two of whom were Murphy’s daughters) who opened it as The Laurels, an elegant location for weddings and receptions. The house had been slated for sale and demolition, but the women thought that the old house would serve brides well, as “the highlight of any young girl’s life is her marriage, and few places in Dallas offer a suitable environment for such an occasion,” said one of the women (DMN, Oct. 5, 1947). The Laurels appears to have been in business only through the end of 1948 — about a year; a classified ad shows that it had become a boarding house “for young working people” soon after.

It seems to have been sold in the 1950s when it became home to various businesses. After the embezzlement interlude, it was, among other things, a theme club called The Haunted House in the 1960s, community radio station KCHU in the ’70s, and an antique shop in the ’80s.

Below is how it looked in June of 1960 as it was passing into receivership. A news story described it thusly: “…a big house that is a study in contradictions. Outside, flat green paint peels and cracks, gentility sliding headlong toward an ‘arty’ disrespectability” (“Old House on Maple Services Insurance Empire,” Dallas Morning News, June 9, 1960). It looked pretty sad.

mystery-house-1960G. William Jones Collection, WFAA Newsfilm collection, SMU

It was spiffed up a bit in the early ’80s for the antique shop, Booth Galleries, but it still looked weird, like someone had sheared off the sides of the house, removing any and all character.

murphy-house_2515-maple_historic-dallas-mag_fall-1980_portal_photo1980, Historic Dallas, via Portal to Texas History

Then — saints preserve us! — the gods smiled down and Claire Heymann bought the decrepit old house (which was waiting for its all-but-inevitable date with the wrecking ball) and worked absolute miracles to transform the house into the stunningly beautiful Hotel St. Germain, located across from the Crescent. This is one instance where a restoration/renovation actually improves on the original! I’ve loved this redone building — Dallas’ first bed and breakfast inn — since it first appeared in 1991. Long may it stand. Thank you, Claire!

hotel-st-germain_google_20172018, Google Street View

hotel-st-germain_google-street-view_20192019, Google Street View

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Sources & Notes

Top photo showing the home of John P. Murphy, circa 1910, is from Dallas Rediscovered by William McDonald, with photo credited to the Dallas Historical Society.

The Dallas Morning News article “Early Dallas Home Restored for Weddings” (DMN, Oct. 5, 1947) states that the house was built in 1897. “The Laurels” was opened by Murphy’s daughters Mrs. Louise Boyce Sanford and Mrs. Eugene P. Locke in partnership with Mrs. Dorothy Doran Walker.

murphy-house_ca-1910_dallas-rediscovered-DHS_sm

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

Mystery House

mystery-house-1960

by Paula Bosse

I’m doing some work on the G. William Jones Collection’s WFAA-Ch. 8 News archive at SMU. Yesterday this image of an old house popped up in a news story, and I had to look it up, because I thought I should know what it was — or at least where it was. Turns out I was pretty familiar with the building, but I would not have guessed it from this screenshot. Click to see a larger image.

I’ve never done a quiz before, but why not? Sadly there are no prizes, it’s just for fun.

Can anyone identify this building?

Clue #1: The image above shows it in 1960.

Clue #2: It is still standing.

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Sources & Info

Screenshot from the WFAA Newsfilm collection in the G. William Jones archive at SMU’s Hamon Library. Old WFAA clips are being uploaded constantly (and I mean CONSTANTLY!) on the Jones Film YouTube channel here. (The clip including this image has not been uploaded yet.)

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Urban Landscape with Biplane

magnolia-building_airplane_postcard_ebay
Scraping the sky… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

When the Magnolia Petroleum Building was built in 1924, it was Dallas’ tallest building. It was so tall, in fact, that it appears to be encroaching into biplane-airspace in this romanticized postcard. If you squint, it looks as if the Dallas citizenry is fleeing from an air-attack as a plane buzzes the Magnolia Building. …Perhaps a Texan King Kong is swatting at it from the other side.

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Sources & Notes

Postcard from eBay. The view is to the northeast, from Commerce and Akard, with the Adolphus Hotel partially visible on the far left and the old Oriental Hotel partially visible on the far right.

See a fantastic photo of these buildings from around the same time in the Flashback Dallas post “The Adolphus, The Oriental, The Magnolia.”

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

The Wilson Building and the *New* Wilson Building — 1911

wilson-bldg_titches_postcard
Elm and Ervay… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

This beautiful postcard shows the original eight-story Wilson Building, built by J B. Wilson in 1902-1904, and its twelve-story companion, which was known as both the “New Wilson Building” and the “Titche-Goettinger Annex” when it was built in 1911. Remarkably, both buildings are still standing at Main-Ervay-Elm. (The view above is looking southwest, with Ervay at the left, and Elm at the right. See this view today on Google Street View here.)

The original building — surely one of Dallas’ most beautiful landmarks — was the home of the Titche-Goettinger department store (which occupied the first two floors and the basement) as well as an important downtown office building. Until seeing this postcard, I had no idea there was a porte-cochère facing Ervay (it can be seen above at the left, under the parasol-like canopy).

By 1910 Titche’s was so successful that it needed to expand, and it was decided that a new “skyscraper” would be built right next door — the department store would continue to occupy its space in the “old” Wilson Building but would also take over the new building (occupying all twelve floors!). According to The Dallas Morning News, the new building would be “the tallest structure in the South occupied exclusively by a mercantile establishment. There are only four store buildings in the United States higher than four stories” (DMN, Nov. 13, 1910).

Below are a couple of details from a “coming soon” ad from Titche-Goettinger in September, 1903, showing a drawing of the building (still under construction) from the Fort Worth architectural firm Sanguinet & Staats. (All images are larger when clicked.)

wilson-bldg_titches_092703_coming-soon_ad-det_1DMN, Sept. 27, 1903

wilson-bldg_titches_092703_coming-soon_ad-det_2DMN, Sept. 27, 1903

titche-goettinger_wilson-bldg_postcard_postmarked-1912

The two photos and article below ran in The Dallas Morning News on March 13, 1904 under the headline “Completion of the Great Eight-Story Wilson Building in Dallas.” The caption of the photo immediately below read “This view was taken from the postoffice, and is the first to show the entire Ervay street front.”

wilson-bldg_dmn_031304_newly-completed_clogenson

Although the quality of the image below isn’t great, it’s interesting to see this “grand marble stairway,” a feature which was removed in 1911 while the new “annex” was under construction, in order to give Titche’s even more room. The grand staircase was replaced by elevators. (The “rest rooms” referred to in the caption were more “lounge” than bathroom — a place where ladies could sit, relax, and even jot off a few letters as they recovered from their bout of intense shopping.)

wilson-bldg_dmn_031304_grand-stairway_clogenson

The accompanying article (click to read):

wilson-bldg_dmn_031304_completed_textDMN, March 13, 1904

Jump forward six years to the announcement of the “new” Wilson Building:

wilson-bldg_expansion_dmn_111310DMN, Nov. 13, 1910

Here it is under construction:

wilson-bldg_expansion_dmn_032811_clogensonDMN, March 28, 1911

They rushed to be ready to open in time to dazzle State Fair of Texas visitors — and they made it:

wilson-bldg_titche-annex_101411DMN, Oct. 14, 1911

And, below, the completed building, in a photo looking east on Elm (this photo shows one of the brand new street lights written about in the post “The Grand Elm Street Illumination — 1911”). (See this view today on Google Street View, here.)

wilson-bldg_expansion_dmn_121611_clogensonDMN, Dec. 16, 1911

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wilson-bldg_titches_postcard_sm

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Sources & Notes

See photos of the original building under construction in the Flashback Dallas post “The Wilson Building Under Construction — 1902.”

I love looking at Sanborn maps. See what was going on at Main-Ervay-Elm in 1899 (before any Wilson buildings), in 1905 (one year after the arrival of the first one), and in 1921 (ten years after the annex went up).

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

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