Flashback : Dallas

A Miscellany: History, Ads, Pop Culture

Category: Clubs

Dallas in “The Western Architect,” 1914: Places of Leisure, Etc.

hippodrome-theater_western-architect_july-1914

by Paula Bosse

Continuing with the series of photos from the all-Dallas issue of The Western Architect, which featured photos of new buildings which had popped up all over the city between the years of about 1910 to 1914. Today, in an attempt to categorize the seven buildings in this post, I’ve decided on “places of leisure” — although one of the places is a high school, and a high school is hardly a place of leisure. Two of these buildings are still standing: one which you’ve no doubt heard of as being at death’s door for a few decades now, and the other… well,  you’ve probably never seen it or been aware of it (but it’s my favorite one in this group!). 

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1.  THE HIPPODROME THEATER (above), 1209 Elm Street, designed by architects Otto Lang & Frank Witchell. Built along Dallas’ burgeoning “theater row” in 1912-1913, the Hippodrome was one of the city’s grandest “moving picture playhouses.” Among its lavish appointments was this odd little tidbit: “Over the proscenium arch there is an allegorical painting representing Dallas as the commercial center of the Southwest,” painted by the theater’s decorator, R. A. Bennett. Below was a fire curtain emblazoned with a depiction of Ben Hur (a “hippodrome” was a stadium for horse and chariot races in ancient Greece). So that was a nice little weird culture clash. Though originally a theater which showed movies exclusively, it eventually became a theater featuring movies as well as live vaudeville acts. As the Hippodrome became less and less glamorous, it resorted to somewhat seedier burlesque acts (it was raided more than once,for employing female performers who were too scantily clad) and the occasional boxing or wrestling match. The building was sold several times and was known as the Joy Theater, the Wade, the Dallas, and, lastly, the Strand. I was shocked to learn this old-looking-when-it-was-new building stood for almost 50 years and wasn’t demolished until 1960 (that façade must have looked very different by then). (See it on a 1921 Sanborn map, here.) (All images are larger when clicked.)

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via Flickr

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2.  THE CAMPBELL HOUSE HOTEL, 2004 Elm Street (southeast corner of Elm & Harwood), designed by Lang & Witchell. A few blocks east on Elm from the Hippodrome was the Campbell Hotel, built in 1910-1911 by Archibald W. Campbell, a man who knew how to invest in Dallas real estate and left an estate worth more than a million dollars when he died in 1917 (a fortune equivalent to almost $20 million today). The Campbell Hotel lasted until 1951, when it  was sold and became the New Oxford Hotel. It was demolished sometime before 1970; the site is currently occupied by a parking garage. (See it on a 1921 Sanborn map, here.)

campbell-house_western-architect_july-1914

campbell-house_flickr_coltera_ca-1918

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3.  DALLAS AUTOMOBILE COUNTRY CLUB, at the time 6 miles north of Dallas (roughly at what is now Walnut Hill and Central Expressway), clubhouse designed by Lang & Witchell. Built in 1913/1914, this club for wealthy “automobilists” was located on what was originally 26 acres donated by W. W. Caruth — in order to get there, you had to drive, which was part of the relaxing experience this golf course-free country club counted as one of its benefits. The club grounds included a 6-acre lake and was a popular site for boating, fishing, and swimming (a top-notch golf course was eventually added). The name of the country club changed a couple of times over the years: it became the Glen Haven Country Club in 1922 and then the Glen Lakes Country Club in 1933. Glen Lakes had a long run, but northward-development of Dallas was inexorable, and the club and golf course were closed in 1977 when the land the country club had occupied for over 60 years was sold for development. (See it on a 1962 map here — straddling Central Expressway — and just try to imagine the value of that land today.)

dallas-automobile-club-house_glenlakes_western-architect_july-1914

glen-lakes-country-club_aerial-photo_1959

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4.  DALLAS COUNTRY CLUB, Preston Road & Beverly Drive, clubhouse designed by C. D. Hill. One of the reasons the Dallas Automobile Country Club had to change its name was because people kept confusing it with the granddaddy of Dallas’ country clubs, the Dallas Country Club, in Highland Park, built in 1911 and still the most exclusive of exclusive local clubs and golf courses. (See part of the club’s acreage on a 1921 Sanborn map, here.) (I don’t think any of the original clubhouse still stands, but I could be wrong on this.)

dallas-country-club_western-architect_july-1914

dallas-country-club_matchbook_cook-collection_degolyer_smuvia DeGolyer Library, SMU

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5.  LAKEWOOD COUNTRY CLUB, 6430 Gaston Avenue, clubhouse designed by C. D. Hill. This East Dallas country club and golf course was built in 1913-1914 on 110 acres of “rolling prairie and wooded glades, broken with ravines and set with stately trees that offer puzzling hazards” (it was estimated that there were over 1,000 pecan trees on the land). I don’t know anything about golf, but trying to play a round on this original ravine-ravaged course sounds … exhausting. This large structure (which seems too big to be called a “clubhouse”!) stood in Lakewood until it was demolished at the end of 1959 or beginning of 1960 when a new clubhouse was built. (See it on a 1922 Sanborn map — out in the middle of NOTHING — here. Note that many of the street names have changed over the years, including Abrams, which was once called Greenville Rd.)

lakewood-country-club_western-architect_july-1914

lakewood-country-club_tea-room_western-architect_july-1914

lakewood-country-club_dmn_051813_drawingDallas Morning News, May 18, 1913

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6.  DALLAS HIGH SCHOOL, Bryan & Pearl streets, designed by Lang & Witchell. Located on the site of the previous Dallas High School, this new building was built in 1908. For years Dallas’ only (white) high school, the building expanded over the years and has been known by a variety of names (Dallas High School, Bryan Street High School, Crozier Tech, etc.). I like this description of the original “somewhat novel” color scheme of the classrooms: the ceilings were in cream, the “under wall” in warm green, then the blackboards, and beneath them, the walls, in RED. This building has valiantly managed to survive for 110 years — seemingly forever under threat of demolition — but it still stands and, recently renovated into office space, it appears to have a rosy future. (See the main school building on a 1921 Sanborn map here; the gymnasium is here.)

dallas-high-school_western-architect_july-1914

dallas-high-school_flickr_colteravia Flickr

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7.  SEARS, ROEBUCK & COMPANY OF TEXAS, EMPLOYEES’ CLUB HOUSE, S. Lamar & Belleview, designed by Lang & Witchell. I love this little building! When plans for the 1913 expansion of the massive Sears warehouse were drawn up, this modest building was to be a (three-story) clubhouse for employees. A description of the not-yet-built expansion included this:

This clubhouse will contain ample cafeteria, dining room and lunch room [space] to accommodate 600 employees at one time. The main cafeteria will be so arranged that it can be turned into an assembly room for the benefit of the employees, having a stage built at one end, and means will be afforded for all variety of social, musical and athletic activities as may be developed by the employees themselves. (Dallas Morning News, Feb. 5, 1913)

What a perk! But by 1918, Sears had basically outgrown the building (which had ultimately been built as only one story, with a half-basement), and the company offered the use of it to the Dallas YWCA who used it as an “industrial branch” lunchroom/cafeteria (and lounge) in which meals were served to both YWCA members as well as to the general public (including many who worked at Sears). Prices of these wholesome meals served by wholesome girls varied over the years from a nickel to 25 cents — 200-400 patrons were served daily. The building’s half-basement was used as the men’s dining room and as a gymnasium for the YWCA girls (I believe it was also made available to Sears-Roebuck employees). (Read an article about this little “industrial branch” of the YWCA in a Dallas Morning News article from Aug. 15, 1920, here). The YWCA used this Sears building from at least 1918 to 1922. I’m not sure what its use was after the YWCA closed their “Sears-Roebuck Branch,” but I’m delighted to see that it still stands as part of the South Side on Lamar complex. (See the employee club house on a 1921 Sanborn map, here — it appears to be connected to one of the main buildings by a tunnel).

sears-warehouse_western-architect_july-1914_clubhouse-det

sears-roebuck_postcard_ebay_det
Detail of this postcard

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Next: churches, firehouses, an art gallery, and a hospital (the last installment!).

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Sources & Notes

The Western Architect, A National Journal of Architecture and Allied Arts, Published Monthly, July, 1914. This issue, with text and critical analysis in addition to the large number of photographs, has been scanned in it entirety by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign as part of its Brittle Books Program — it can be accessed in a PDF, here (the Dallas issue begins on page 195 of the PDF). Thank you, UIUC!

In this 7- part series:

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Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Sam Ventura’s Italian Village, Oak Lawn

italian-village_photo-holder_PEB

by Paula Bosse

In amongst photos and belongings of my mother’s aunt, I recently came across this wonderful graphic of Oak Lawn’s Italian Village (3211 Oak Lawn, at Hall). It was on the cover of one of those cardboard photo holders which contained photos of diners and club-goers captured by photographers wanting to memorialize celebrants’ special occasions — they would take your photo and you would later purchase prints, which would be tucked inside the souvenir folder. (I don’t recognize any of the people in the photo which was  inside — the photo is here.)

The Italian Village complex (which contained all its various tangential enterprises over he years) was an Oak Lawn fixture for over 45 years — it was apparently still around during my lifetime, but I have no memory of ever seeing it. But by the time I would have been aware of it, things had begun to get a little weird and its profile had definitely dipped. (More on that later.)

Italian Village began its life in 1934 when Sam Ventura (1907-1997) bought a popular drive-in restaurant in Oak Lawn from a man named Levi F. “Speck” Harper. In Ventura’s obituary in The Dallas Morning News, his wife said: “He bought it from a man named Speck Harper who told him, ‘Give me $250 and my hat, and you’ll never see me again.’ Sam had to go and borrow the money.” (DMN, June 1, 1997) ($250 in today’s money would be about $4,700.)

speck-harper_july-1934July, 1934

Not only did $250 start Ventura on a very successful career as a restaurateur, it also assured him ownership of what would quickly become a primo piece of real estate. (Ventura dabbled in real estate and, in 1937, along with fellow restaurant man Sam Lobello, he purchased land at Preston Road and Northwest Highway which would one day become Preston Center.) (It might be worth noting here that Sam Ventura was not affiliated with the very popular Sammy’s restaurants, run by Dallas’ Messina family.)

italian-village_matchbook_front_ebay        italian-village_matchbook_back_ebay
Matchbook, via eBay

Italian Village — a restaurant which operated for many years as a private club in order to sell liquor — was originally co-owned by brothers-in-law Sam Ventura and Nick DeGeorge (DeGeorge was later married to Ventura’s sister Lucille). By the time the ad below appeared in 1939, the place had been newly remodeled and was on its ninth (!) expansion. There were lots of new “rooms”: the Can-Can Room, the Plaid Room, the Hunter’s Room, the Gazelle Room, and the Marionette Room, the latter of which featured entertainment in the form of a marionette show with puppets made in likenesses of the owners. (All images are larger when clicked.)

1939_italian-village_feb-1939Feb., 1939

In June, 1940, Italy entered the War in Europe as a member of the Axis forces. As a result, Ventura and DeGeorge immediately asserted their patriotism and their American-ness (both were born in the United States to Italian immigrants) by changing the name of their restaurant: arrivederci, Italian Village, hello, Oak Lawn Village. The owners placed an ad in Dallas newspapers explaining their decision (see ad below) — this made news across the country, garnering both positive national publicity as well as fervent local support.

italian-village_ad_june-1940
June, 1940

Not only did the restaurant’s name change in 1940, so did its ownership. Nick DeGeorge and his wife (the sister of Sam Ventura) embarked on a very lengthy, very bitter divorce (newspapers reported that Nick and Lucille were each on their fourth marriages). The result of this marital split spilled over and also caused a business split: Ventura became the sole owner of Italian Oak Lawn Village, and DeGeorge left to start his own (very successful) restaurant career (DeGeorge’s, Town & Country, etc.). Sam announced that he was “sole owner” in a September, 1940 ad. (I hope Nick at least got custody of his mini-me marionette….)

1940_oak-lawn-village-ad_sept-1950Sept., 1940

oak-lawn-village_matchbook_flickr-coltera
Oak Lawn Village matchbook cover, via Flickr

In June, 1941 yet another remodeling/expansion was announced, with architectural design by longtime friend of Ventura and DeGeorge, Charles Dilbeck, and murals by Russ Ellis. In addition to the Gazelle Room (“for comfort”) and the Hunter’s Room (“for private parties”), there was now the San Juan Capistrano Room (“follow the swallows”), the 42nd & Broadway Room (“for luxury”), the South American Room (“for romance”), the Dude Ranch Room (“where the west begins”), the Rain Room (“for private parties”), the Banquet Room (“seating capacity 150 guests”), and an outdoor Italian Garden Terrace (“beneath the stars”).

1941_oak-lawn-village_dmn_june-41June, 1941

That $20,000 remodel (which would have been equivalent to about $350,000 in today’s money) went up in smoke — literally — in April, 1944, when the restaurant was “virtually destroyed” by fire. Ventura said he would rebuild when war-time government regulations would permit him to do so. At the end of the year he announced that he would build a new restaurant, of shell stone and marble construction, lit in front by decorative tower lights. The new place was built and in full swing — and back with its original name — in the summer of 1945.

1945_italian-village_aug-1945Aug., 1945

An ad for Dallas’ S. H. Lynch & Co.’s Seeburg Scientific Sound Distribution system appeared in the Aug. 10, 1946 issue of Billboard magazine, showing photos of Sam Ventura, the exterior of the new building, and an interior shot showing a Seeburg jukebox. (See full ad here.)

1946_italian-village_billboard_081046_ad-det-1Sam D. Ventura, 1946 (ad detail, Billboard magazine)

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1946_italian-village_billboard_081046_ad-det-3Italian Village exterior and interior, 1946 (ad detail, Billboard magazine)

In January, 1951 another remodeling (to the tune of $75,000!) introduced the 300-seat Flamingo Room, which meant the entire Italian Village now had a seating capacity of more than 700 (Ventura had said that the original post-Speck’s restaurant seated only 40 or 50 people). The “modernistic styling” was the work of architect J. N. McCammon.

1951_italian-village_flamingo-room_jan-1951Jan., 1951

italian-village_postcard_flamingo-room_ebay

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Front and back of 1955 menu, via eBay

Further changes came to 3211 Oak Lawn in the fall of 1954 with the arrival of the Village Club, which featured live entertainment (including a rotating piano) and shared a kitchen with Italian Village. It was also a “private locker club” with personal liquor lockers available to members to keep their bottles in at a time when it was not legal for restaurants in Dallas to sell liquor-by-the-drink — “set-ups” were sold and the demon alcohol was poured from the member’s stash (or, more likely, from the communal stash).

In 1961 there was yet another remodel, which enlarged the club — now called Club Village — and shrank the restaurant. The swanky new club was designed by Charles Dilbeck and had a sort of Olde English theme (and, for some reason, featured a waterfall, a glass cage behind the bar containing live monkeys, and two live flamingos named Lancelot and Guenevere).

1965_club-village_oct-1965Oct., 1965

Around this time the (apparently short-lived) Francisca Restaurant appeared.

francisca-restaurant_menu_1961_ebayvia eBay

club-village_francisca_new-years-eve_dec-1961New Year’s Eve, Dec., 1961

1961 also marked the club’s debut on national television, appearing in scenes of the hit show Route 66, which were filmed in November. Below is a screen-capture from the episode “A Long Piece of Mischief,” with the waterfall in the background. (The entire episode, shot around the Mesquite Rodeo, can be watched on YouTube here — the two Club Village scenes begin at the 26:42 and 38:15 marks.)

1961_club-village_route-66Route 66 (screen capture) — Nov., 1961

In late 1966, Dallas filmmaker Larry Buchanan shot his cult classic Mars Needs Women in various locations all over town. I’m pretty sure one of the very first scenes was shot inside the club, after yet another remodel. (Incidentally, see what the lively neon-ified corner of Oak Lawn and Lemmon, a couple of blocks away, looked like in Buchanan’s film, here.)

1966_club-village_mars-needs-women
Mars Needs Women (screen capture) — 1966

In August, 1964 a new club opened: Gringos (sometimes spelled Gringo’s). This public club, featuring mostly rock bands, was the brainchild of Sam Ventura, Jr. (who said in an interview that he had rather brazenly sprung the whole thing as a big surprise on his father, who had been out of town on a lengthy vacation — luckily, the club was a hit and Sam, Sr. was pleased). Club Village continued as a private club, but from newspaper accounts it seems that the new discotheque displaced the Italian Village and/or Francisca restaurant completely. So now on one side you had the long-running “sophisticated” private club, and on the other side, the “new concept in continuous entertainment,” with its Mexican-themed decor and Watusi-dancing waitresses (“Las Mata-Dollies…”), which catered to a younger set. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram described Gringos thusly:

Newest “port of call” for Dallas revelers on the bistro beat is the just-opened and lavishly-done Gringos Club on Oak Lawn Ave. near the Melrose Hotel and in the location formerly occupied by the Italian Village Restaurant and Village Club. Open to the public, this night time Camelot with Mexican decor features, among other flings, Jesse (brother of Trini) Lopez and his handful of musical consorts on the bandstand and a covey of revealing young handmaidens called “Las Matta-Dollies” [sic], sort of Spanish-type Playboy Bunnies who are worthy of your scrutiny. (Chris Hobson, FWST, Aug. 27, 1964)

1964_gringos_aug-1964Aug., 1964

In May, 1967, Sam Ventura, Jr. (“Sammy,” who had taken over the family business when Sam, Sr. retired in 1966) declared that Gringos was dead: “There will be absolutely no rock-and-roll in this room anymore. It’s dead. Our whole concept [now] is for sophistication, for adult entertainment” (DMN, May 24, 1967). So adios, Gringos, hello an even bigger Club Village. (In 1968 a club described as a “new” Gringos  opened a block away, at 3118 Oak Lawn — it’s unclear whether this was affiliated in any way with the Ventura family.)

In June, 1968, the never-ending improvements, remodelings, and reconfigurings of 3211 Oak Lawn continued with Sammy’s announcement of a new (public) restaurant, the Wood ‘N Rail. This steakhouse featured a revolving “ice bar” (the old revolving piano bar, repurposed), which contained a display of raw meat — from this, customers would choose whichever cut of beef called to them, and before the meat was escorted into the kitchen, the patron would sear his or her initials into it with a “red-hot branding iron.” The restaurant’s slogan was “Personalized Beef.” The unstoppable Club Village continued as a private club and restaurant in the adjoining complex.

1968_wood-n-rail_oct-1968Oct., 1968

1971 began with a fire. The (once) unstoppable Club Village was destroyed. The adjacent Wood ‘N Rail emerged unscathed. So, yes, more remodeling! By 1972, 3211 Oak Lawn boasted three (three!) restaurants at one address: the continuing Wood ‘N Rail (steakhouse), Fisherman’s Cove (seafood), and — hey! — the return of Italian Village. As the ads said: “3 RESTAURANTS UNDER ONE ROOF!”

1972_fishermans-cove_march-1972March, 1972

1972_three-restaurants_may-1972May, 1972

Also big news in 1971: it finally became legal to order liquor and mixed drinks in bars and restaurants — the whole “private club-membership” thing in order to get around liquor laws was mostly a thing of the past (unless you lived in a dry area of the city…).

Then, in 1974, things really changed. After a “profound religious conversion,” Sammy Ventura stopped all sales of alcohol and told the TABC he didn’t need or want that ol’ liquor license. This made news around the country.

1974_kings-village_panama-city-FL-news-herald_081274UPI wire story, Panama City [FL] News Herald, Aug, 1974

Unsurprisingly, business plummeted. Two of the three restaurants closed. Italian Village continued to limp along, even weathering the introduction of the King’s Village, “Dallas’ first Christian dinner theater.”

1976_kings-village_june-1976June, 1976

This change in direction of the the 40-plus-year-old family business caused a huge rift between Sammy and his father. Sam, Sr. put his foot down, and The King’s Village (“the nation’s first non-liquor, Christian nightclub”) closed in June, 1977.

1977_kings-village_pampa-daily-news_062177
AP wire story, Pampa Daily News, June 21, 1977

Oak Lawn’s decades-old Italian Village was no more (although Sammy appears to have opened his own Italian Village restaurant in Richardson’s Spanish Village for a while). The last mention I found of Italian Village was in Feb., 1979:

After 45 years, the Italian Village restaurant has changed to another venture, the Crazy Crab. Sam Ventura opened the Italian Village in 1934 and the last event before the changeover was a surprise birthday party honoring Sam. (DMN, Feb. 23, 1979)

It’s a shame Italian Village’s last incarnation was a mere shadow of its former go-go glory, but it’s almost unbelievable that a restaurant in Dallas was in business for 45 years. Sam Ventura’s $250 gamble in 1934 paid off very, very well.

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Sources & Notes

Top image is the front cover of a cardstock photo-holder (with linked photo by the Gilbert Studios, 4121 Gaston); collection of Paula Bosse.

All clippings and images are larger when clicked.

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Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

The Elks Lodge, Pocahontas & Park

elks-lodge_postcard1817 Pocahontas Street, 1914 (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

The postcard image above shows the lovely Dallas Elks Lodge No. 71 which once stood at 1817 Pocahontas, at the northwest corner of Pocahontas Street and Park Avenue in the Cedars area, just south of downtown — it had a spectacular view of City Park, which it faced.  Designed by architect H. A. Overbeck (the man behind the still-standing Dallas County Jail and Criminal Courts Building and the long-gone St. Paul’s Sanitarium), the lodge was built in 1914; the land and the construction of the lodge cost $45,000. Surprisingly, this lodge served the Elks for only six years — they returned downtown, where they took over and renovated the old YWCA building on Commerce Street.

The building on Pocahontas became another clubhouse when it was purchased in 1920 by a group of Jewish businessmen who opened the exclusive Progress Club/Parkview Club (read about the building’s acquisition in a May 14, 1920 article in The Jewish Monitor, here); in 1922 the 65 members of the Parkview Club presented the clubhouse to the Young Men’s Hebrew Association (YMHA). In 1927, use of the building had expanded, and it became the Dallas Jewish Community Center and the headquarters of the Jewish Welfare Federation — in fact, this was the home for these organizations for more than thirty years, until 1958 when the move was made to the new Julius Schepps Community Center in North Dallas. The building ultimately fell victim to the construction of R. L. Thornton Freeway and was demolished in the early 1960s.

But back to the Elks. The Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks was a social club/fraternal order founded in New York in 1868. Dallas Lodge No. 71 was chartered on January 28, 1888 — it was the first Elks Lodge in Texas and one of the oldest clubs in Dallas. And, after 130 years, it’s still around, now located in Lake Highlands. There aren’t a lot of things that have lasted that long in this city!

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Below, the Overbeck rendering of the Elks’ new home (click for larger image)

elks_dmn_120213_new-lodgeDallas Morning News, Dec. 2, 1913

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A week before its official dedication on Sept. 7, 1914:

elks-lodge_dmn_083014DMN, Aug. 30, 1914

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Colorized and made into an attractive postcard:

elks-club_new_postcard

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In the 1930s, when it was the Jewish Community Center:

jewish-community-center_1817-pocahontas_1930s

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Where it was:

elks-lodge_ca-1912-map_portal1912-ish map detail

Also, see it on the 1921 Sanborn map (as “B.P.O.E. Home”) here.

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The announcement of plans for the construction of the Pocahontas Street lodge:

elks_dmn_112313_new-lodgeDMN, Nov. 23, 1913

And its dedication, on Sept. 7, 1914:

elks_dmn_090814_new-homeDMN, Sept. 8, 1914

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Sources & Notes

Source of postcards unknown. Other images and clippings as noted.

The 1888 report of the first meeting of the Dallas Elks Lodge No. 71 can be read in the Dallas Morning News article “Order of Elks in Dallas; A Lodge Instituted Here Yesterday” (DMN, Jan. 29, 1888), here.

A history of the various Elks’ locations in Dallas between the 1880s and the 1920s can be found in the article “Elks Plan To Have Modern Club Home” (DMN, July 30, 1922), here.

elks_dmn_012903DMN, Jan. 29, 1903

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Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Merry Christmas from the Priscilla Art Club — 1968

xmas_priscilla-art-club_123168_uta“Say ‘fondue’!” … (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

These women look like they’ve stepped out of a catalog — perfectly dressed, perfectly coiffed, perfectly posed. They are members of the Priscilla Art Club, the oldest African-American women’s club in Dallas. The club was formed in 1911, and I think it may still be active — the most recent news I could find of the club was from 2012, when the “centennial legacy quilt,” made by members to celebrate the club’s 100th anniversary, was displayed at the African American Museum. Below, a little history of the club from the press release announcing the exhibit in February, 2012.

THE PRISCILLA ART CLUB CELEBRATES BLACK HISTORY MONTH

In honor of Black History Month, the Priscilla Art Club, the oldest African American women’s organization in Dallas County, will host a display of its centennial legacy quilt made by its members […] at the African American Museum of Life and Culture, Dallas Fair Park.

“The idea of a custom designed legacy quilt started out as a novel idea from our Systems Committee in recognition of our 100th anniversary. The twenty-two club members quickly became engaged in seeing it to fruition and we are happy to honor the beauty, the inspiration and the legacy of our Club” said Shirley Porter Ware, Club President.

The Priscilla Art Club, organized in 1911 as a club for young matrons, was organized under the encouragement and direction of Mrs. Mattie Mansfield Chalmers. The organization’s purposes were to establish and maintain the aesthetic, promote congenial companionship and foster all social and community interests that pertain to the general uplift. The Club was named for Priscilla, a New Testament woman of extraordinary culture and the wife of Aquila, a Jewish tentmaker.

Since its auspicious beginning, the Club has invited into its membership many of Dallas’ most distinguished homemakers. These members have exhibited an interest or are talented in arts and crafts.

Besides being homemakers and mothers, the members have been and some still are principals, school administrators, teachers, business owners, social workers, church leaders and servant volunteers in the local community.

Throughout the century of service and sisterhood, recorded in The Priscilla’s prolific history include mention of service rendered in support of the World War I efforts by rolling bandages that were sent overseas to the field hospitals in France. For several years, the Priscillas decorated the shotgun house, located in Old City Park, in observance of the holiday season. In more recent years, the members have decorated t-shirts and jackets made from sweat shirts to give to men and women in local assisted living facilities. Club members have made crocheted skull caps in a variety of vivid colors and patterns and donated to cancer patients actively engaged in treatment regimens.

Regardless of change, the Priscilla Art Club’s concern for its artistic endeavors and for civic and social uplift will continue with deepening interest and commitment as the tradition of the founders’ legacy is carried forward.

I hope the club is still around. This year marks its 105th anniversary.

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Sources & Notes

Photo was taken on December 31, 1968; from the Culmer Family Papers, UTA Libraries, Special Collections, accessible here.

The 2012 press release was posted on the Facebook page of the Dallas Fort Worth Association of Black Journalists, here.

More on the history of the club can be found in the Dallas Morning News article “Reception to Honor Art Club’s 65th Year” by Julia Scott Reed (DMN, April 2, 1976).

The most in-depth history of the club that I could find online can be found in the guide to the Culmer Family Papers at UTA, here (scroll down to the paragraph that begins “The Priscilla Art Club was one of the most prestigious, if not elitist clubs for African American women in Dallas….”

Photo and newspaper article are larger when clicked.

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Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

Empire Central and Its Fabulous Empire Club

empire-central_1958_ebay_det“Northwest Dallas” in 1959 — how quaint… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

“Empire Central.”

I have to admit that I’d never heard of anyplace in Dallas called Empire Central, but because I wanted to post the picture above (which I love) (and which is  from a 1959 ad), I felt I should at least look into finding out what and where it was and broaden my horizons a bit. So I did. It was (is?) an “office community” built in 1958 on 90 acres of land (later expanded), located in the “V” between Hwy. 77 (soon to be Stemmons Freeway) and Hwy. 183 (aka Empire Freeway, soon to be John W. Carpenter Freeway), with W. Mockingbird on the south and Dividend Drive on the north(-ish). It was developed as an office park as part of the already existing 1,200-acre Brook Hollow Industrial District (which, when its development began in 1953, was beyond the city limits) — both areas were developed by Windsor Properties. Empire Central was announced in 1957.

Unsurprisingly, almost every early newspaper story about plans for the new district mentioned what was considered to be its sexiest, most novel attraction: the Empire Club, an on-site dining and recreation club for employees — executives and underlings alike — who worked in the “community’s” office buildings. It was a round, 45,000-square-foot structure that sat on 9 acres and featured a distinctive roof which utilized 24 tamarack logs “more than 100 feet long, imported here especially for the club from the virgin forests of Washington” (DMN, Nov. 24, 1957). Its amenities included a sunken garden, a terraced dining room, lounge, swimming pool, putting green, and shuffleboard court, all nestled in a “garden-like atmosphere.” What a great perk!

The club was important in the conceptualization of the office park, as the developers insisted that a happy employee was a productive employee, as can be seen in the text from a 1959 advertisement which ran the week the club opened:

Two fundamental concepts were taken into consideration by Windsor Properties, Inc., in designing Empire Central.

First was the realization that the company able to attract the most capable employees at a given wage would be most successful. Second, the urbanization of our population has created the need for a measure of community life.

The Empire Club, as the heart of Empire Central, is designed to accomplish both objectives for management.

And that club looked cool. It was a cutting-edge design from the always impressive George Dahl, one of Dallas’ top architects. (Dahl worked on several other projects with W. C. Windsor — Sr. and Jr. — including a prison (?!) and several other buildings in the Empire Central District.) Dahl’s previous big round building — Memorial Auditorium/Dallas Convention Center — had opened in 1957, just months before construction began on this unusual and sophisticated clubhouse, something one would certainly not expect to find plonked down in the middle of such prosaic surroundings.

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empire-central_dmn_101859_empire-club_pool_det

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Below, the full ad, which appeared the week the new Empire Club opened in October, 1959 (click to see larger image):

empire-central_dmn_101859_empire-club
Oct., 1959

At some point (or maybe always) the club began to be used by outside groups. In the ’60s, it was the site of a lot of Junior League and debutante activities and dances. In 1966 the Empire Club became The Round House restaurant (in which could be found the Fatted Calf club). The last listing I could find of a restaurant or club at that address (which was, originally, 100 Empire Central Drive and, later, 1100 Empire Central Place) was in 1971. Sadly, that cool-looking building was torn down somewhere along the way. What a shame! I just discover a George Dahl-designed building I’d never seen — in a part of town I’d never heard of — and *poof*! … it’s gone. …At least I didn’t have time to get too attached.

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Here’s a great photo from 1960 (click it — it’s really big) looking southeast toward downtown from about Regal Row (bridge in foreground), with the new and improved Carpenter Freeway/Hwy. 183 in the center, and Stemmons — coming in from the left — meeting it in the distance; the Mockingbird bridge is just beyond it, just above the point. The Empire Central district — in between Stemmons and Carpenter — looks kind of puny here. You  might have to squint, but you can see the brown, round Empire Club building in the center of the triangle. If you listen closely, you might be able to hear a Southwestern Drug Company secretary splashing happily in the heated pool.

empire-central_183-construction_1960_dallas-freeways-site

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empire-central_1958_ebay
1958 ad

empire-central_dmn_011958_ad
Jan., 1958

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Google Maps

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Sources & Notes

Top image is from a full-page magazine ad from 1958, found on eBay.

The 1960 photo appeared on the cover of Dallas magazine (October, 1960); I found it on the unbelievably thorough Dallas-Fort Worth Freeways site (main page is here, this photo is linked from here).

This area — what is it called? The consensus seems to be “Brook Hollow.” Or maybe “Stemmons Corridor” (the Wikipedia entry for the latter is here).

The Flashback Dallas post on the area’s 1920s-era namesake golf club — “Brook Hollow Country Club — 1940s” — is here.

(Thank you, Dallas History Facebook group for the helpful tidbits!)

Think it should be bigger? Click it!

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Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

The Dallas Chapter of “The Women of the Ku Klux Klan” — 1920s

kkk-women_1920s_cook-degolyer

by Paula Bosse

I’ve managed to avoid mention of the Ku Klux Klan since starting this blog a couple of years ago, which is saying something, because the KKK pretty much ruled this city for a good chunk of the 1920s. The Dallas chapter — Klan No. 66 — had more than 13,000 men as members; it was one of the largest chapters in the nation (by some accounts, THE largest chapter). Members included politicians, judges, and law enforcement officials. But what of the Klan-leaning ladies who were not allowed to be join? Before I plunge into that, let’s look at what’s going on in this weird, be-robed group shot, a photo taken around 1924 in Ferris Plaza with poor Union Station as a backdrop. (Click these for much larger images.)

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In the early 1920s, women — who had led the temperance movement and whom had recently been given the right to vote — began to form groups that tackled social issues. Some of these groups espoused the same general rhetoric as the KKK. One of these groups was formed in Dallas in 1922 — the “American Women” group was the brainchild of three women, including Alma B. Cloud, who appears to have been only 21 years old. One of the other founders was her partner in a short-lived ladies’ clothing boutique. Cloud immediately hit the lecture circuit, giving free lectures on “Americanism” to (white Protestant) women around Texas.

cloud_taylor-tx-daily-press-08222Taylor Daily Press, Aug. 22, 1922

By the following summer, the male leadership of the Klan allowed a “Women of the Ku Klux Klan” to be created; its national headquarters was in Little Rock.

wkkk_letterhead_olemiss

They were not officially part of the KKK but were, in theory, a separate entity. While not, perhaps, as outwardly extreme as their male counterparts, they were certainly as virulently racist and intolerant. They might not have been lynching people and threatening violence, but they were busy pushing their exclusionary, white supremacy agenda. And both the men and the women liked to dress up in white robes and hoods. Here’s what the women looked like when they added masks to the ensemble (not Dallas — location of photo unknown).

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Several of the independent women’s groups founded previously were happily absorbed by the WKKK — including Miss A. B. Cloud’s group. In fact, Miss Cloud became the leader of the Dallas chapter. The “Klaliff.” The headquarters for this group — which campaigned for “progressive morality”– was in a little space on North Harwood.

WKKK_1924-directory1924 Dallas directory

1924 seems to have been the big year for both the KKK and the WKKK. The women found themselves at lots of parades with burning crosses and other … “functions” — so why not form a drum corps? A few clippings. (Click for larger images.)

kkk-women_amarillo-globe-times_031624Amarillo Globe-Times, March 16, 1924

klan-women_dmn_073124Dallas News, July 31, 1924

kkk-women_mckinney-courier-gazette_111224McKinney Courier-Gazette, Nov. 12,1924

By 1926, the KKK was starting to lose its power, and the fear and intimidation they had instilled in much of the pubic began to wane. The (men’s) KKK had had to downsize and move into the women’s headquarters, and their candidates began losing elections. Even worse, you know things were getting bad if someone was suing the KKK for delinquent robe-payment!

KU KLUX KLAN WOMEN SUED FOR ROBES BILL: Suit for $4,463.80 was filed in the Forty-Fourth District Court on Friday afternoon by John F. Pruitt against the Women of the Ku Klux Klan, Inc. The petition alleges that the plaintiff sold the defendant, a corporation, 6,000 robes at $2.50 each during the two years preceding the filing of the suit, for which the defendant agreed to pay $15,000 to the plaintiff. It is alleged that $4,463.80 remains unpaid. (DMN, Nov. 28, 1925)

The power once exerted by the Ku Klux Klan had diminished greatly by the end of the 1920s, and while the Klan has never disappeared completely, it will never again reach the heights it had attained in the 1920s.

Whatever happened to Miss A. B. Cloud? After having been ousted from her “imperial” position (for reasons I don’t really care enough about to investigate), she had a few sales jobs and eventually began to present motivational sales talks. There was an Alma B. Cloud in California who was mentioned in several news stories from the 1930s — she presented motivational lectures to students on how best to plan their future adult lives. Um, yes. I’m not 100% sure this was the same A. B. Cloud who was the former WKKK gal from Big D, but it seems likely. I wonder what those students would have thought had they known of her pointy-hooded past?

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Sources & Notes

Links-a-plenty.

Top photo is titled “Ku Klux Klan Women’s Drum Corps Dallas in Front of Union Station,” taken by Frank Rogers; it is from the George W. Cook Dallas/Texas Image Collection, DeGolyer Library, Central University Libraries, Southern Methodist University — it can be accessed here. I have manipulated the color.

Women of the Ku Klux Klan letterhead comes from the Women of the Ku Klux Klan Collection, Archives and Special Collections, University of Mississippi Libraries; the collection can be accessed here.

The photo of the masked WKKK women is all over the internet — I don’t know its original source or any details behind it, but it’s creepy.

“Women of the Ku Klux Klan” on Wikipedia, is here.

“Women of the Klan: Racism and Gender in the 1920s” by Kathleen M. Blee, is here.

“Charity by Day, Punishment by Night: The Ku Klux Klan in Fort Worth” — from the great FW history blog Hometown by Handlebar — is here.

And, probably best of all, the Dallas Morning News article “At Its Peak, Ku Klux Klan Gripped Dallas,” by the wonderful and much-missed Bryan Woolley, can be read here. This article contains facts and figures, describes the sort of “madness of crowds” atmosphere in the city at the time, and details some of the horrible atrocities committed by the KKK in Dallas. Woolley cites historian Darwin Payne’s assertion that if one considered every adult man in Dallas who would have been eligible to have joined the Klan (this excludes, of course, those of African-American, Hispanic, Asian, Catholic, or Jewish descent), one in three of them was a member of the Dallas chapter of the Ku Klux Klan. ONE IN THREE.

A few short mentions of the Dallas WKKK have been compiled here.

UPDATE: For a look at racism in modern Dallas, watch the half-hour film “Hate Mail,” made in 1992 by Mark Birnbaum and Bart Weiss, here. It includes interviews with several prominent Dallasites, as well as interviews with a couple of Klan leaders.

Click pictures and clippings to see larger images.

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Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

HR Meeting at the Carousel Club

ruby-girls_carousel-club“Where do you see yourself in five years?”

by Paula Bosse

Jack and the girls. …Before.

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I think this is the Carousel Club. It might not be. The source of this photo is a bad, bad, bad, spammy site with loud commercials. They get no credit from me. “No soup for you!”

Click picture for larger image.

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Copyright © 2015 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

The Idle Wild Social Club: Life Magazine Presents Black Debutantes — 1937

debs_life_120637-detThree of 1937’s debs (click for larger image and caption)

by Paula Bosse

In December of 1937, something appeared in a national mainstream magazine that had probably never appeared before: photographs of a society ball celebrating African-American debutantes. In the December 6, 1937 issue of Life magazine — in the recurring “Life Goes To a Party” pictorial feature — four pages were devoted to coverage of the annual Idle Wild Social Club ball (later Idlewild Social Club, and later Cotillion Idlewild Club — none of which is to be confused with Dallas’ 130-plus-year-old super-exclusive, white Idlewild Club). The letters this unusual pictorial elicited were either congratulatory or, dismayingly, shocked and irate. Although today these photos are nothing unusual, in 1937, to see African-Americans depicted in a magazine such as Life as just normal, everyday Americans, was exceedingly uncommon. To see photos of black high-society must have made people’s heads explode. So kudos to Life for running the only slightly patronizing story and for publishing some wonderful photographs.

life_debs_120637_aLife magazine, Dec. 6, 1937

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The Idle Wild Social Club was started in Dallas around 1918 by a group of socially well-placed black men — perhaps as a response to the white Idlewild Club. By the early 1920s they, like the white club, were presenting the cream of the crop of their young women to society in debutante balls. The ball covered by Life took place on November 18, 1937. The women making their debuts were:

  • Eddy Mae Johnson
  • Glodine Marion Smith
  • Lorene Marjorie Brown
  • Gladys Lee Carr
  • Gladys Lewis Powell
  • Hattie Ruth Green

life_debs_120637The debs and their escorts (Life, Dec. 6, 1927)

life_debs_120637-club-membersClub members (Life, Dec. 6, 1927)

life_debs_120637-crowd“Social chitchatterers” (Life, Dec. 6, 1927)

life_debs_120637-couple(Life, Dec. 6, 1927)

Read the article and see additional photos featured in this pictorial here.

There was an outcry in response to the article, and some of it was shockingly ugly — read the letters to the editor about the “Negro Ball” that Life published in the next issue, here (use the magnification tool at the top of the page to increase the size of the text).

Here is the more progressive response, from the Jan. 1938 issue of the NAACP’s magazine, The Crisis:

the-crisis-mag_jan-1938

Progress moves at a snail’s pace, but if coverage of a debutante ball can help to move things forward even a step or two … great!

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All photos from Life magazine, Dec. 6, 1937; the scanned article (and, in fact, the entire scanned issue) is here.

The January, 1938 issue of The Crisis is available online; the page featuring the editorial is here. (This issue also has an interesting article, “Free Negroes In Old Texas” by J. H. Harmon, Jr., here.) The Crisis Wikipedia page is here.

To read coverage of earlier Idle Wild Social Club balls — published in the black-owned Dallas Express — see this from 1922, and this from 1923.

The African-American debutante ball has been called Cotillion Idlewild for many years now; information on their 2014 ball is here. (Again, this is not to be confused with the (white) Idlewild Club, which has been throwing heart-stoppingly elaborate balls in Dallas since the 1880s.)

Apparently there is a history of the club out there — Idle Wild Social Club History (1940) — and, according to WorldCat, appears to be available at nearby libraries.

Personally, I don’t really “get” debutante balls, but growing up in Dallas, I know that they’ve always been big, big, BIG deals. A. C. Greene’s snarky article “Social Climber’s Handbook” (D Magazine, October, 1976), is both amusing and informative; read it here.

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Copyright © 2015 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

Brook Hollow Country Club — 1940s

brook-hollow-country-club_1940sA modest clubhouse… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

A photo of Brook Hollow Country Club from a 1940s guide for newcomers. This photo is from a page of the area’s country clubs. This looks positively quaint.

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From an early edition of “So This Is Dallas,” a guide for new residents of Dallas — this edition is from the early ’40s. Thanks to the Lone Star Library Annex Facebook group for loan of the image.

For an early history of the Brook Hollow Country Club (including a photo of the overgrown thicket before it became a golf course), see here.

The Brook Hollow Golf Club is a bit swankier these days. The official site is here.

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Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

The Century Room’s Retractable Dance Floor

ad-adolphus-hotel_century-room_sm(click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

If you’re getting all dressed up for a night on the town, you want to make sure you get your money’s worth, entertainment-wise. That’s why you head to the tony Century Room at the swank Hotel Adolphus. Not only is there dining and dancing, there’s also an ice show. Yep, an ice show. When “Texas’ Only Complete Floor Show on Ice” has wrapped up, a dance floor magically covers the ice, and you and your honey can trip the light fantastic to the fabulous strains of Herman Waldman & His Orchestra. Skates optional.

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An entertaining page with facts and photos of the Century Room’s many looks and themes over the years can be found here.

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Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

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