Flashback : Dallas

A Miscellany: History, Ads, Pop Culture

Category: Churches

The Beginning of the End for Ross Avenue’s Downtown Mansions — 1925

construction_jan-1925Mansions across from First United Methodist Church, Jan. 1925

by Paula Bosse

The First Methodist Episcopal Church, South (now First United Methodist Church of Dallas) was built in 1924 and 1925 at Ross and North Harwood. It was a large undertaking, and its construction meant that three of the four very large houses in the 1900 block of Ross Avenue, between North St. Paul and North Harwood, had to be demolished, including the house built by Mrs. Miranda Morrill in 1886 at the southwest corner of Ross and Harwood.

morrill-house_lost-dallas_doty_dmn

For many years, large houses like this — owned by the city’s wealthiest bankers, industrialists, and real estate men — lined Ross Avenue, just to the north of the central business district. But by the 1920s, more and more non-residential development began to encroach into this part of town.

The photograph at the top is pretty amazing, because it shows some of those grand houses in their last days. The north side of the 1900 block of Ross (the block now occupied by the Dallas Museum of Art) contained four lots. In the 1925 construction photo above, there are three houses and a business.

ross-houses_1925

In the detail above, at the far left we see the home of land baron William Caruth (in the book Dallas Rediscovered, William L. McDonald called this little pied-à-terre his “townhouse”) — for decades it sat at the northeast corner of Ross and St. Paul (which had previously been named Masten). Next to it is something that looks like scaffolding or a tower (what is that? — is it a photographer’s perch to document the construction?). Next to it is another grand house, home of several wealthy occupants over the years. And then … a car dealership and garage. How this happened is a mystery, but this 1921 building — which replaced a beautiful house and which sticks out like a sore thumb — belonged to the Flippen Auto Co., complete with showroom on the ground floor and garage and repair facilities on the second floor — it may have had one of the first car elevators in town.

Next to the Flippen Auto Co. was the grandiose Conway House, with its columns and portico; it was built around 1900 at the northwest corner of Ross and Harwood and was the childhood home of pioneer female fashion illustrator Gordon Conway. In 1921 — after a few years as a music conservatory — it became the home of the Knights of Columbus.

conway-house_ross-harwood_ca1902_mcdonaldConway House, about 1902

And here’s a photo showing both the Flippen Auto Co. and part of the former Conway House.

flippen-auto_park-cities-photohistory_galloway

On the northeast corner of Ross and Harwood, we can see a large house facing Harwood. Forget the house — on that corner was a tiny little gas station. And glory be, I stumbled across a great photo of the Acme Oil & Supply Co. complete with Texaco pump — probably from around 1919 or 1920.

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But back to the construction of what is now the First United Methodist Church of Dallas — a lovely building which still stands and faces the Dallas Museum of Art. Here’s a photograph of the construction from May, 1925.

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And here is the postcard filled with an artist’s conception of people to-ing and fro-ing.

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And, finally, an aerial view taken above the church in the early 1980s, looking north, showing the same block once bookended by the Caruth and Conway mansions, now leveled to make way for the Dallas Museum of Art.

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I think I prefer the view from 75 years earlier.

ross-avenue_ca1910

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Sources & Notes

The two photos taken in 1925 during the construction of the church are from the book Church at the Crossroads, A History of First United Methodist Church, Dallas (Dallas: UMR Communications, 1997); the entire book has been scanned and may be viewed at Archive.org, here (all the photos are at the end).

The photo of the Morrill house is from Mark Doty’s book Lost Dallas (Charleston: Arcadia Publishing, 2012).

Photo of the Conway House is from Dallas Rediscovered by William L. McDonald (Dallas: Dallas Historical Society, 1978).

Photo showing the Flippen Auto Co. and the Conway house from Diane Galloway’s book The Park Cities, A Photohistory.

Photo of the Acme gas station is from Dallas: The Deciding Years by A. C. Greene (Austin: Encino Press, 1973).

The construction of the First Methodist Episcopal Church, South was announced in a Dallas Morning News article on Oct. 5, 1924.

methodist_dmn_100524

All that’s left of those grand homes is the Belo Mansion. It’s something!

Click pictures to see larger images.

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Copyright © 2015 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

Winter Scene: The Belo Mansion & The Cathedral of the Sacred Heart — ca. 1902

cathedral_snow_flickr-coltera(click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

A beautiful dusting of snow in one of the tonier areas of the city, captured by a postcard photographer in the early years of the 20th century — back when the snowy slush along Ross Avenue would have been caused by horses and the buggies they pulled behind them.

The date of this postcard is unknown, but at the end of 1902 (the same year the construction of the cathedral was completed) it snowed in Dallas — a “weather event” then (as now) so out of the ordinary that it resulted in these rapturous few paragraphs from the December 4, 1902 edition of The Dallas Morning News:

snow_dmn_120402DMN, Dec. 4, 1902

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Postcard from Flickr, here.

The Belo Mansion was built in about 1890; more info here.

Construction of the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart (now the Cathedral Santuario de Guadalupe) was completed in 1902. Except for the bell tower, which, though part of the architect Nicholas J. Clayton’s original design, was not completed until 2005. More on this “sympathetic addition” from Architexas, here.

While most of the buildings and houses that once stood along ritzy Ross Avenue are long gone, both the Cathedral and the Belo Mansion still stand as Ross Avenue landmarks.

Below, the same view today (sans snow), via Google Street View (click for larger image). I really wish that iron fence were still there.

belo-cathedral_google

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Copyright © 2015 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Highland Park Methodist Church — 1927

hp-methodist-church_1927-degolyerHighland Park Methodist Church, 1927 (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

The beautiful Highland Park Methodist Church (now Highland Park United Methodist Church) was designed by architects Mark Lemmon and Roscoe DeWitt (who also designed several of the buildings on the adjacent SMU campus, as well as Woodrow Wilson and Sunset high schools, to name only a few of their projects). According to the HPUMC website, the first church — a temporary building which was referred to as “The Little Brown Church” — was built at Mockingbird and Hillcrest in 1917. It wasn’t until 1927 that the beautiful French Gothic-inspired building we know today was built on that same site. (At one time, Highland Park Methodist Church was the largest Methodist church in the world.)

(Incidentally, Mark Lemmon built his lovely cottage-like home on Mockingbird, across the street from both the church and the SMU campus, where at any time of the day or night, he could look out his front window and gaze with satisfaction upon his beautiful church and the ever-growing university campus dotted with buildings he had designed.)

hp_methodist-church_post-card-series“The Little Brown Church” — built 1917

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hpmc_golden-prologue-backChurch and SMU campus, Hillcrest and Mockingbird, 1960s

Highland Park Methodist Church Dallas, TX

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Top photo by Joseph Neland Hester, taken in 1927. From the DeGolyer Library, Central University Libraries, Southern Methodist University; photo can be seen here. (UPDATE: I erroneously labeled the direction of this photo previously. It actually shows the back of the church, looking toward Mockingbird. It would have been taken from about where the Meadows Museum is now. If this is incorrect, please let me know!)

Photo of “The Little Brown Church” from the Park Cities Bank Heritage Series, used courtesy Lone Star Library Annex Facebook Group.

Aerial view from the back cover of Golden Prologue to the Future: A History of Highland Park Methodist Church by Doris Miller Johnson (Parthenon Press, 1966).

Other images from postcards.

For more on the history of Highland Park United Methodist Church check out the Wikipedia page here; check out the church’s history page here.

All photos larger when clicked.

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Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Oak Cliff Presbyterian Church, Organized 1890

oak-cliff-presbyterian_smOak Cliff Presbyterian Church, ca. 1897 (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

I came across this photograph of a church a couple of days ago and was mesmerized by its charming woodiness. According to its caption, it was the Oak Cliff Presbyterian Church, at the corner of Ninth Street and St. George (now Patton). Its first pastor was the Rev. W. L. Lowrance who had organized the church in 1890 with fewer than twenty members. Church membership grew steadily, and in 1923, having finally outgrown the small wood frame building, the congregation moved to their next location at Tenth and Madison (contributing to Tenth Street’s appearance in Ripley’s Believe It Or Not as the street having more churches per mile than any other street in the world). At some point this lovely church was razed.

I’ve found little else on its earliest history. but I came across this advertisement placed in The Dallas Morning News in 1891:

simpson_oak-cliff-land-donation_dmn_031491(DMN, March 14, 1891)

Col. James B. Simpson was something of a learned Renaissance-man around Dallas. He had been the editor of The Dallas Herald for many years and was a civic leader with real estate interests. I’m not sure if this ad has anything to do with the establishment of the Oak Cliff Presbyterian Church, but it’s interesting to note that construction of the new church was mentioned as being under construction one month after this ad’s appearance. Time was running out for those Oak Cliff sinners (even though one newspaper report stated that the building wasn’t occupied until 1893).

Rev. Lowrance, an apparently well-liked and respected pastor, retired at the end of 1903.

lowrance_dmn_122903-photo“Dr. W. L. Lowrance of Oak Cliff”

lowrance_dmn_dmn_122903(DMN, Dec. 29, 1903 — click for larger image)

The Oak Cliff Presbyterian Church lives on, now on S. Hampton. One can only assume that the building it occupies today is not quite as charming as the little woody one that was built 120 years ago.

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Top photo (by the Rogers Photo Studio, circa 1897) appeared in the Fall 2009 issue of Legacies magazine, here.

Though the first Oak Cliff Presbyterian Church was on Ninth St., the second one was on Tenth St., and that seems reason enough to direct attention to the article “Road to Glory: Tenth Street Becomes Church Street” by René Schmidt — it appeared in the same issue of Legacies as the church photo, and you can read it here.

Read more about this “Street of Churches” and its staggering fourteen churches (!) in the May 1, 1950 edition of The Dallas Morning News.

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Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

The Lighthouse Church That Warned of Sin’s Penalty with a Beam of Blue Mercury Vapor Shot Into the Skies Above Oak Cliff — 1941

gospel-lighthouse-churchStill standing in Oak Cliff… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Sometimes an image just grips you. That’s what happened when I saw this postcard featuring The Gospel Lighthouse Church. The building was so odd-looking and cool. Who designed it? Where had it been? And what was that thing on top of it? I did a bit of research on the church and found out that it was organized in Dallas in 1940 by Pentecostal preacher J.C. Hibbard and his wife Nell, who was also a preacher. The two had been preaching at the Oak Cliff Assembly of God Church until J.C.’s divorce from his first wife (and subsequent second marriage to Nell) became such a point of controversy that the two felt compelled to leave (or were asked to leave) the Assemblies of God, and they formed their own church.

And that was the Gospel Lighthouse Church, located in the 1900 block of S. Ewing (at Georgia) in Oak Cliff. While their first church was being built, they held services in a large circus tent in the parking lot. The congregation helped with the physical labor of the construction, and progress on the building continued non-stop, 24 hours a day. In January of 1941, the church was completed, and an article appeared in The Dallas Morning News soon after with the grabber of a headline, “Lighthouse Church Warns Oak Cliff of Sin’s Penalty.” Sadly, the article has no byline, which is a shame, because I’d love to know who wrote the piece, because he or she pulled out all the purple-prose stops. The introduction is fantastically over-the-top:

“A towering forty-foot lighthouse 300 miles from the sea was blinking out its warning signals across the dry land of South Ewing Sunday. At the front of a neat new white stone church house at 1914 South Ewing, near Louisiana, the white stone lighthouse reared far above the other buildings. Eventually, its big circular light tower will shoot a bluish mercury-vapor beam through the night to guide shaken mariners adrift on the sea of sin. Its semi-fog horns will broadcast a soft carillon of sacred music. This is the Gospel Lighthouse, built by a preacher with a new idea of church architecture and a dream of a denomination all his own.” (DMN, Feb. 10, 1949)

gospel-lighthouse_first

Wow. A “bluish mercury-vapor beam” shooting through the Oak Cliff skies! (The full article is linked below.)

By 1948, J.C. Hibbard had become so popular (largely as a result of his daily radio sermons) that ground was broken on a larger church, designed by J.C. himself. It was right next to the first church. And it was pretty elaborate.

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Yeah, the lighthouse part of it looks a little cheesy, but with a name like “Gospel Lighthouse Church” you kind of have to have it.

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gospel-lighthouse-church_interior

The auditorium and its mezzanine.

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gospel-lighthouse-nursery

The nursery, with elaborate murals.

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gospel-lighthouse-lounge

The lounge. Like the first church, this one had a nursery with a lounge — a “crying room” for mothers to tend to crying children without having to miss a single moment of the service. The crying was contained behind sound-proof glass while the sermon was piped in through speakers. The church had a lot of other amenities, but these were the only ones I’ve found deemed worthy enough to put on postcards.

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I wondered if the church still stood, so I drove over to Oak Cliff yesterday and, amazingly, both churches are still there, and they are beautiful! (The original caretaker’s house is still there, too.) I’m not sure what religious group has possession of the buildings at the moment, but they are to be commended for maintaining the structures and the grounds — the 1900 block of S. Ewing really stands out from its fairly ragged surrounding neighborhood. Below are photos I took on April 19, 2014. (Click pictures for larger images.)

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Above, the first church — “a modern concrete and steel building, overlaid with white Austin stone” — which was built with help from the congregation in 1941. The beam of “bluish mercury-vapor” emanated (somehow) from the squat lighthouse above the foyer.

And, below, the later church, next door. I think the “mercury-vapor” was replaced by neon. But I could be wrong. Does either beacon light up anymore?

gospel-lighthouse_041914_sm

Aside from the “lighthouse,” the most distinctive feature of this building is those rounded walls. So beautiful!

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The  building is actually pretty impressive to see up close. Next time you’re in the neighborhood, check it out!

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Postcards from the Boston Public Library Tichnor Brothers Postcard Collection on Flickr, here.

Period black-and-white photos are from a page detailing the history of the Gospel Lighthouse Church, here. A biography of Rev. Hibbard from the same site can be found here.

Wander around the block on Google Street View, here.

Stumbled across this ad in the 1957 Dallas directory:

gospel-lighthouse_1957-directory

And I found this ad in, of all places, the 1967 Carter High School yearbook:

gospel-lighthouse_carter-high-school_1967-yrbk

Click pictures for larger images.

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Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

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