Flashback : Dallas

A Miscellany: History, Ads, Pop Culture

Category: Dallas Skyline

“Triple Underpass” by Florence McClung — 1945

mcclung_triple-underpass_1945_david-dike-fine-art“Triple Underpass” by Florence McClung (photo: David Dike Fine Art)

by Paula Bosse

The word “iconic” is used way too much these days, but I suppose Dallas’ triple underpass is something that truly deserves to be described as “iconic.” Aside from the beauty, the engineering, and the usefulness of the underpass/railroad bridge, it is also, of course, known around the world for its cameo appearance in the Kennedy assassination.

Built in 1936, after years of back-and-forth planning and negotiating, the triple underpass was open in time for the Texas Centennial Exposition. It finally opened up a straight shot from Fort Worth to Dallas via Highway 1, and it and the concurrently-built Dealey Plaza served as Dallas’ welcoming “gateway” into the city for visitors approaching from the west.

The 1945 painting seen above — “Triple Underpass” by Dallas artist Florence McClung (1894-1992) — may be one of the first depictions of the structure in a fine art context. This painting goes up for sale this weekend, as the featured lot in the David Dike Fine Art Texas Art Auction. The estimate is $75,000-$175,000. Florence would be shocked by that, as her original price — which she wrote on a checklist for a show at the then-Dallas Museum of Fine Arts was $300 (which would, today, be about $4,000). (UPDATE 10/27/18: The painting sold for $252,000 — which, I assume, includes the buyer’s premium.)

mcclung_1945-dma-show_checklist-portal_cropped

As a fan of Texas art — and especially of the Dallas regionalist group, the Dallas Nine (with which McClung, though not a member, was closely associated) — I hope this wonderful piece of Dallas art (and you can’t get much more quintessentially Dallas than this!) goes for much more than the gallery estimate. (I wrote about McClung previously, here, with images showing a couple of other Dallas “cityscapes” done around the same time as “Triple Underpass.”)

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Below is a photo from 1945 showing an aerial view of the scene captured by McClung that same year. (A photo from a little later, with a view to the west, is here.)

triple-underpass-1945
Dallas, 1945 (click for larger image)

A few things are interesting to me:

  • McClung neglected to include the ever-present billboard atop what was then the Sexton Foods building (later the School Book Depository) — in the photo above, U. S. Royal tires are being advertised.
  • I love that little oval, landscaped island, which is also seen in McClung’s painting.
  • Those four obelisk-y pillars, seen in both the photo and the painting, two on either side of the roadway, west of the underpass — what are those?
  • Is that large white building in the lower middle of the photograph Pappy’s Showland? Maybe the Sky-Vu Supper Club (which I have meant to write about for years)? (No! It’s the Chicken Bar, at the northeast corner of Commerce and Industrial. A photo of it under construction in 1945 is here.)

See here for as close to the angle of McClung’s view as I could get, from a 2014 Google Street View. (The painting shows the Dallas County Courthouse as it was then, without its now-replaced tower.)

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Good luck to the bidders this weekend. It’s a great painting!

dike-gallery_catalog-cover_oct-2018

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Sources & Notes

Image of Florence McClung’s painting “Triple Underpass” is from the David Dike Fine Art catalog, which is illustrated with the works to be auctioned on Saturday, October 27, 2018; the catalog can be viewed in its entirety, here (this painting and its description are on p. 45). The website of David Dike Fine Art is here. The prices realized for this auction can be found here — McClung’s painting is Lot 163.

I am unsure of the source of the 1945 aerial photo — I saved it years ago and did not make note of the source, although I highly suspect it is from one of the many fine collections held by SMU.

See McClung’s application for the DMFA show where “Triple Underpass” was shown, here; her checklist of works to be shown is here (both documents are from the Dallas Museum of Art’s Exhibition Records, via UNT’s Portal to Texas History).

The earlier Flashback Dallas post “Dallas Scenes by Florence McClung — 1940s” (with two other paintings from the same period as “Triple Underpass”) is here.

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Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

Downtown Dallas Through the Clouds — 1923

birds-eye_fairchild_dallas-a-z_degolyer_SMU_1923Big D from above… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

This wonderful, dream-like, “through the clouds” photo shows a growing, booming (pre-Pegasus) downtown Dallas.

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Sources & Notes

Photo by the Fairchild Aerial Camera Corp., from the 1923 promotional brochure Dallas from A to Z (“Where Men Are Looking Forward”), published by the Dallas Chamber of Commerce (note the publication’s staple in the center of the photo). This brochure is in the collection of the DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University and can be viewed in its entirety here (click the “download” button to view or save the brochure).

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Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Stemmons Tower, Downtown Skyline — 1963

stemmons-tower_night_squire-haskins_041963_UTAPhoto by Squire Haskins, 1963 (UTA Libraries, Special Collections)

by Paula Bosse

Another fantastic photo from premier Dallas photographer, Squire Haskins: the new Stemmons Tower (East), with the Dallas skyline serving as a dramatic nighttime backdrop. (See this photo really big at the UTA website, here.)

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Sources & Notes

“Stemmons Tower with downtown Dallas, Texas in the background; photo taken at night,” by Squire Haskins, taken on April 19, 1963; from the Squire Haskins, Inc. Photography Collection, University of Texas at Arlington Libraries, Special Collections (more info on this photo can be found here).

The first of several “towers,” construction of Trammel Crow’s Stemmons Tower East began in the summer of 1961 and was open and leasing by December, 1962. This office complex was part of the grand vision of the Trinity Industrial District and the “Stemmons corridor” (click ad below to see a much larger image).

stemmons-tower_jan-1963Jan., 1963

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Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

A Bird’s-Eye View to the North

downtown_fairchild-aerial-survey_lgAs the crow flies… (click for much larger image)

by Paula Bosse

This is a great view, produced by the Fairchild Aerial Survey Co., taken sometime between 1925 (when the Ferris Plaza waiting station was built) and 1934 (when the land between the Trinity and the courthouse began to be cleared to begin construction of the “million-dollar project” which would eventually be known as Dealey Plaza and the Triple Underpass).

UPDATE: Brian Gunn posted this fantastic now-and-then overlay on the Dallas History Guild Facebook page. I love this. Thank you, Brian!

downtown-aerial_fairhchild-survey_brian-gunn-overlay

These images are huge. Click ’em!

UPDATE #2: Such participation from Flashback Dallas readers! Eric Hanson has now animated Brian Gunn’s overlay. Watch Dallas shoot up! Thank you, Eric! (Click GIF to see it slightly larger.)

eric-hanson_GIF-overlay

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Sources & Notes

Photo found on eBay.

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Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

Dallas Skyline, Looking West — 1970

skyline-looking-west_southland-center_1970_portalSouthland Life welcomes you to Big D… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

This is a view of the Dallas skyline that isn’t seen that often — a view across downtown toward the west. This 1970 Southland Center postcard has the heliport-topped Southland Life Building (one of the few downtown buildings designed to face to the east) and the Sheraton Hotel front and center. It’s really interesting  to zoom in on this photo and look around — for instance, the sight of the Hilton/White Plaza/Indigo hotel at the left, at Harwood and Main across from the Municipal Building, is a little disorienting (I think it’s the empty lot/parking lot at Elm and Harwood).

Have a little fun and zoom way in on this photo of 1970 downtown Dallas on the Portal to Texas History website, here.

skyline-looking-west_southland-center_1970_portal_info

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Sources & Notes

Postcard was provided to the Portal to Texas History by Dallas Heritage Village; more info on this can be found on the Portal, here.

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Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

KRLD News Crews, At the Ready

krld_news-crews_early-1960s_akdartThey mean business: they’re wearing suits and ties…

by Paula Bosse

Early-’60s-era KRLD radio and TV mobile news crews are seen above, showing off their fleet and ready for breaking news. Behind them, the Dallas skyline, seen from an unusual vantage point: the Trinity levees. See this photo really big here, and explore the skyline, from the Republic Bank Tower on the northern edge of downtown, to the Dallas Morning News building on the southern edge.

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Sources & Notes

Photo is from an interesting collection of “very old pictures from KRLD radio and TV,” presented on the website akdart.com.

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Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

La Reunion Tower

reunion-tower_skyline_091217Big D from inside the ball… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

On Tuesday night I gave a little talk on the history of the La Reunion colony as part of the Dallas Historical Society’s Pour Yourself Into History series. The event was held in the *very nice* Five Sixty by Wolfgang Puck restaurant high atop Reunion Tower — right in the ball. I was a bit of a last-minute fill-in presenter, and I hesitated to accept the invitation because I always feel awkward talking in front of more than, say, two or three people, but I really, really wanted to go up to the top of Reunion Tower.

I hadn’t been to Reunion Tower since a family outing back around 1980 or so. Back then I was most fascinated by the fact that the restaurant slowly revolved to give diners a leisurely 360-degree view of the city (I always imagined it spinning out-of-control, pinning diners — and their meals — against the walls with centrifugal force, like a fine-dining version of the Spindletop ride at Six Flags, or The Rotor ride at the State Fair of Texas); but now, decades later, as an adult, the image of the spinning restaurant was eclipsed by the real star: the VIEW.

As you can imagine, the view is unbelievably spectacular — especially at night when Dallas is at its most glamorous. The ticket price is fairly steep to get up to the observation deck, and a meal and/or cocktails at the restaurant will set you back a goodly amount, but it is, without question, the most fabulous view of the city you’ll ever see. And you see all of it. When I started my talk about the history of the La Reunion colony of the 1850s (which was located about 5 miles due west of Reunion Tower, in West Dallas) the view was pretty much the one seen in the photo above; by the time I finished, we were, serendipitously, looking out over where the plucky colonists of “French Town” had toiled unsuccessfully 160 years ago. (Estimates on the boundary of La Reunion’s 2,000-acre land is the area now bounded by Westmoreland on the west, Hampton on the east, Davis on the south, and the Trinity River on the north — the southwest corner is marked here on Google Maps.)

It was a little noisy at the event Tuesday night, so if you were one of the very nice people who turned out, you might not have been able to hear anything I said! If you’d like to hear more about the history of La Reunion (and about Reunion Tower — and how, if a marketing agency had had its way, it might have been named “Esplanade” Tower), I enthusiastically recommend this very entertaining radio piece from Julia Barton (the La Reunion segment begins at about the 5:15 mark).

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I took photos, but they don’t do justice to the view. The really breathtaking vistas are at night, and, sadly, none of those photos came out. Seriously, if you’ve never been up Reunion Tower — or if you haven’t been since it was opened in 1978 — you should definitely go now. Better still, go at sunset and enjoy the best view in Dallas as you sip delicious cocktails.

The view stretches for miles. Here’s a cropped view of Dealey Plaza (click to see it really big).

reunion-tower_dealey-plaza_triple-underpass_091217a

And, at sunset, the jail has never looked lovelier.

reunion-tower_sunset_jail_091217

Back down on terra firma, looking up and saying “goodbye” to the ball.

reunion-tower_the-ball_091217

Thank you, Dallas Historical Society, for inviting me to be part of your event! And thanks to everyone who came out … and up!

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Sources & Notes*

Photos by Paula Bosse. Click ’em to see ’em bigger.

For more information of the La Reunion colony, see other Flashback Dallas posts here.

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Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

A Bird’s-Eye View of the Central Business District

skyline_aerial_flickr_colteraThe Statler Hilton and the Merc at dusk… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

I’ve recently experienced a long, long involuntary separation from my beloved laptop (the welling anxiety! the withdrawal pangs!), but now it’s back home from the shop, resting comfortably and ready to go back to work.

Here is a “welcome back” shot of the Dallas skyline, with a view to the southwest: the neon begins to come on in the CBD as “magic hour” arrives.

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Postcard image posted on Flickr by the ever-reliable Christian Spencer Anderson (aka Coltera), here.

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Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

A Century of Growth: From Log Cabin to Skyscrapers

cityscape_cabin_so-this-is-dallas_ca-1943Ol’ JNB wouldn’t recognize the place… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

To think it all began with John Neely Bryan’s little log cabin on the banks of the Trinity…. 

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Photo from the booklet So This Is Dallas (Dallas: The Welcome Wagon, circa 1943); courtesy of the Lone Star Library Annex Facebook page.

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Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

“Dallas Skyline: Late Afternoon From Stemmons Freeway” by Ed Bearden — 1959

bearden_dallas-skyline-late-afternoon-from-stemmons-freeway_litho_1959Skyline and power plant… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

I think the 1950s Dallas skyline is my favorite Dallas skyline. This lithograph by Dallas artist Ed Bearden shows all the usual superstars — the Southland Life Building, the Medical Arts Building, the Republic Bank Building, the Mercantile, the Magnolia — but it also shows a building that doesn’t often find its way into artistic renderings of the city’s skyline: the Dallas Power & Light plant (which was demolished several years ago and is now the site of the American Airlines Center). It looks really great here, with its familiar twin steamstacks and its oasis-like “spray pond” shimmering in the foreground. In fact, the presence of the DP&L plant is my favorite element of this artwork. The beauty of that workhorse industrial plant gives those fancy skyscrapers a run for their money!

This same view from the Stemmons of today looks like — brace yourself — this.

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Sources & Notes

Lithograph by Ed Bearden; image from an auction listing on the Live Auctioneers site, here. (Thanks, “Not Bob,” for alerting me to this great artwork!)

See another Bearden skyline seen from a similar vantage point, here.

More on the cool-looking DP&L plant and its twin smokestacks can be found in these Flashback Dallas posts:

  • “DP&L’s Twin Smokestacks,” here
  • “A New Turbine Power Station for Big D — 1907,” here

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Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved

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