Flashback : Dallas

A Miscellany: History, Ads, Pop Culture

Category: Downtown

Downtown Dallas in Color — 1940s & 1950s

kodachrome_commerce-lamar_trolleydodger_twitterColorful Commerce St. (via trolleydodger.com)

by Paula Bosse

After seeing so many pictures of historic downtown Dallas in black and white, it’s pretty thrilling to see color photos — even better, super-saturated Kodachrome slides. Here are a few.

Above, a photo taken on July 31, 1950: a view of Commerce Street, taken from Lamar looking east. I LOVE this photo! Sadly, I really don’t love what this same block looks like today: brace yourselves — click here! (For reference, Padgitt Bros. was at 1018 Commerce.) 

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Below, a photo from 1954: the 300 block of N. Ervay, taken from Bryan looking southeast toward Pacific. The Republic Bank Building (at the left) is still there, but those buildings on the right? Gone, gone, gone. That space is now taken up with Thanksgiving Square. I may be in the minority, but I would rather have those buildings back. That crazy-looking building housing businesses such as Arcadia Liquor (309 N. Ervay)? I have been all-but-obsessed with that weird building for years. Personally, I prefer its bizarro architecture to that of Philip Johnson. See what this block looks like now, here.

kodachrome_bryan-n-ervay_1954_shorpyvia Shorpy.com

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Below, from 1950: Main Street, looking east toward St. Paul (and Titche’s). This is fantastic! The view now is here

kodachrome_main_1950_noah-jeppsonvia Noah Jeppson, Flickr

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Another great photo from the collection of Noah Jeppson (seriously, check out his Flickr stream here!), this is one I’ve posted before — everyone posts this because it’s such an amazing photo, from 1945 (!): Elm Street, looking east from the 1400 block. See it today, here

elm-street-color_1940s_jeppson-flickrvia Noah Jeppson

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And lastly, despite the watermark, a cool September, 1940 view of the gas station/service station which once held down the Preston Road entrance to Highland Park Village: looking northwesterly toward Mockingbird. The view today is here

kodachrome_highland-park-village_gas-stations_sept-1940_color-slide_ebay_watermarkvia eBay

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If you’ve got color photos/slides from this era, I’d love to see them!

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Sources & Notes

Links to all sources can be found beneath the photos.

Special shout-out to Michael T. Jackson (@memj83) for tagging me on Twitter to a post by @Kodakforever — a heart-stoppingly great collection of Kodachrome photos where I first saw a few of the photos posted above.

kodachrome_commerce-lamar_trolleydodger_twitter_sm

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Copyright © 2021 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Soldier Fishing from a Viaduct — 1948

soldier-fishing-viaduct_feb-28-1948_DPLHope this isn’t dinner…

by Paula Bosse

A soldier in uniform, sitting on the concrete railing of a viaduct, casting into the Trinity. 

When I posted this in a Dallas history group several years ago and asked which viaduct is shown, there was no consensus — Houston Street was mentioned most often, but just about all of them got several votes!

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Sources & Notes

I can’t remember where I came across this photo (which is dated Feb. 28, 1948), but it is from the collection of the Dallas Public Library.

soldier-fishing-viaduct_feb-28-1948_DPL_sm

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Copyright © 2021 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Eiffel Tower on Main Street — 1966

n-m_french-fortnight_1966_eiffel-tower_colt-collection_degolyer-library_SMUAlvin Colt Collection, DeGolyer Library, SMU

by Paula Bosse

In 1966, the Neiman-Marcus Fortnight honored France and all-things-French. And that included constructing an Eiffel Tower to grace the building’s exterior and an Arc de Triomphe built inside to welcome shoppers and gawkers. Bonjour, y’all!

n-m_french-fortnight_1966_arc-de-triomphe_colt-collection_degolyer-library_SMUAlvin Colt Collection, DeGolyer Library, SMU

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Sources & Notes

Both photos are from the fabulous Alvin Colt Design Drawings and Photographs for Neiman Marcus Fortnights collection, held by the DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University; more info on the Eiffel Tower photo here; more info on the Arc de Triomphe photo here. Read about designer Alvin Colt and his legendary contributions to the Neiman-Marcus fortnights here

More photos from the 1966 French Fortnight from the Alvin Colt Collection can be found here.

Browse the larger Colt Collection — which contains photos, sketches, and ads from other Fortnights — at the DeGolyer Library/SMU site here.

Read about the first N-M Fortnight celebration honoring France in 1957 in these Flashback Dallas posts:

n-m_french-fortnight_1966_eiffel-tower_colt-collection_degolyer-library_SMU_sm

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Copyright © 2021 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Dallas Book Scene — 1940s

cokesbury_legaciesBrowsing at Cokesbury’s

by Paula Bosse

Today is the birthday of my late father, and as a little tribute to his profession, I usually try to post something bookstore-related on his birthday.

A few weeks ago historian Rusty Williams (check out his books) sent me a great article from 1947 by publisher and bon vivant Bennett Cerf who wrote giddily about the Dallas book scene (and about Dallas in general). It’s a little over-the-top, enthusiasm-wise (Cerf was a master publicist and promoter), but he writes with genuine affection about notable bookstores and book people, including Cokesbury and its legendary manager Bliss Albright, McMurray’s Book Store and its legendary owner Elizabeth Ann McMurray, and big-time book collectors Everette Lee DeGolyer and Stanley Marcus. The article was published in the April 26, 1947 issue of Saturday Review, and it can be read here.

Cokesbury was described as being the largest bookstore in the world at one time. After a sizable expansion, it covered six floors and had 18,000 square feet of room for books. The building, designed by Mark Lemmon, was at 1910 Main Street, at St. Paul, with entrances on both Main and Commerce. (And those rounded bookcases are cool.)

cokesbury_int

cokesbury_ext_postcard_ebay

cokesbury_1966

cokesbury_bliss-albright_1953_detManager J. F. “Bliss” Albright, 1953

The other bookstore mentioned in the article is McMurray’s, a bookstore which is generally written about with impassioned reverence and awe — it may well be Dallas’ most highly regarded bookstore ever. Wish I could have seen it. Where Cokesbury was a massively large bookstore carrying a wide variety of new books, McMurray’s was definitely more of a “curated” small shop, which, from what I gather, served almost as much of a place for literary elites to gather for informal salons as it did as a retail bookstore. If you were a writer of any heft visiting Dallas, you made the pilgrimage to Commerce Street to check out McMurray’s.

mcmurray-elizabeth-ann_1951Owner Elizabeth Ann McMurray, 1951

mcmurrays_dobie_et-al_1949Texas literary titans J. Frank Dobie & Tom Lea (in hats), McMurray’s, 1949

mcmurrays_logo

Read about the history of both Cokesbury and McMurray’s (and other Dallas bookstores) (except, oddly, the Aldredge Book Store, the store my father was associated with for decades!) in the article “The Personal Touch: Bookselling in Dallas, 1920-1955” by David Farmer, which appeared in the Fall 1993 issue of Legacies. There are some great photos.

Another informative article (with even more great photos!) is “Cokesbury Book Store: The Premiere Book Store in the Southwest” by Jane Lenz Elder, which appeared in the Fall 2012 issue of Legacies.

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Sources & Notes

Top photo is from the Jane Lenz Elder Legacies article.

The Cokesbury postcards were found randomly on the internet.

The photos are from David Farmer’s book Stanley Marcus: A Life with Books (TCU Press).

Thanks again to Rusty Williams for sharing the Bennett Cerf article. Rusty’s newest book, Deadly Dallas: A History of Unfortunate Incidents and Grisly Fatalities, will be published in June, 2021.

More on Dallas bookstores can be found in a bunch of Flashback Dallas posts here.

cokesbury_legacies_sm

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Copyright © 2021 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Showtime on Elm Street

theater-row_night_majestic-melba-tower-palace_portalLit up like Broadway… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Who doesn’t love nighttime photos of Dallas’ Theater Row, generating enough electricity to be seen from space. The Majestic, the Melba, the Palace. And a buck a night at the Majestic Hotel across the street, the window shades of which could not possibly have been enough to block out the blinding, strobing neon. This is a similar view to the fabulous photo from 1942 by Arthur Rothstein seen here. This is absolutely the period of Dallas’ history I wish I could have experienced first-hand.

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Sources & Notes

Photo titled “[Businesses on theatre row at night]” is from the Spotlight on North Texas Collection, UNT Media Library, UNT Libraries — more information can be found on the Portal to Texas History site here.

theater-row_night_majestic-melba-tower-palace_portal_sm

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Copyright © 2021 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Ross Graves’ Cafe: 1800 Jackson — 1947

graves-cafe_marion-butts_dpl_1947_cashierGraves Cafe… (photo by Marion Butts/Dallas Public Library)

by Paula Bosse

Ross Graves (1903-1973) seems to have been something of a successful bon vivant who dipped his toe into a variety of businesses catering to Dallas’ African-American community: he was the proprietor of, variously (and often simultaneously), a night club, a liquor store, a gas station, a barber shop, and, most successfully, a restaurant, which was in business for almost 20 years (sometimes referred to as Ross Cafe or Graves Place). Below is a photo from 1947 showing the Ross Graves Cafe at 1800 Jackson Street (at Prather) in downtown Dallas (we see the south side of Jackson, with the view to the west).

graves-cafe_1800-jackson_negro-directory_1947

This photo accompanied an ad with the following text:

graves-cafe_negro-directory_1947-48-text

He opened the cafe around 1937 and kept it going until 1955 when he “retired” (he also dipped his toe into hosting dice games at the cafe and was busted in 1954 on gaming charges — he was given a 2-year probated sentence the next year). (Also, the building was part of a large donation to the city in 1955 — more about that below.)

The photo at the top shows, I’m guessing, Mr. Graves standing at the cafe’s cash register with an employee in 1947. He’s also seen in the photo below.

graves-cafe_marion-butts_dpl_1947(photo by Marion Butts/Dallas Public Library)

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I was originally intrigued by the photo of the exterior of the cafe — I couldn’t picture where it had been. But in trying to find out more about the building, I learned about the life of Ross Graves and came across some interesting little tidbits which paint a a picture of a fun-loving man with an active social life, lots of friends, and a healthy bank account. Below are a few clippings from the Pittsburgh Courier, a newspaper published in Pennsylvania which served as something of a national newspaper for Black America, with political, sports, and entertainment news from around the country. There was always news from Dallas in it — in fact, they had a local office here (3306 Roseland). There was even a Dallas-based society/gossip columnist named Mrs. O. J. Cansler (whose column had the rather unfortunate name of “Kolumn Komments”). She was quite frothy and wrote with the breathless excitement one expects in a society columnist. (I highly encourage anyone with a subscription to Newspapers.com to check out her “kolumn” — it’s a breath of fresh air to read about Dallas’ Black community presented in such a lively and fun manner (or in ANY manner, really — you weren’t going to find any of what she was writing about in the Dallas Morning News or the Dallas Times Herald). Especially interesting are mentions of long-forgotten clubs and nightspots where bands and performers from Dallas’ vibrant musical scene played. Here are a few appearances of Ross (and his wife, Ruby) from the pages of the Pittsburgh Courier.

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1939_graves_pittsburgh-PA-courier_111139_kolumn-komments_o-j-cansler
Pittsburgh Courier, Nov. 13, 1939

Graves was 36 years old at the time.

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1942_graves_pittsburgh-PA-courier_080842_toppin-the-town_columnPittsburgh Courier, Aug. 8, 1942

The Regal Ballroom (listed as the Regal Nite Club in city directories) was at 3216 Thomas, at Hall. It didn’t last very long, but while it did, it was, apparently, “swellegant”! Here’s a mention of it as the location of a swing band contest in 1940 (won by Don Percell):

graves_regal-club_pittsburgh-courier_060840Pittsburgh Courier, June 8, 1940

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1942_graves_pittsburgh-PA-courier_101742_kolumn-komments_mrs-o-j-canslerPittsburgh Courier, Oct. 17, 1942

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Graves’ second wife, Ruby Graves, was known for her “smart toggery.”

1944_graves_pittsburgh-PA-courier_101444_ruby-gravesPittsburgh Courier, Oct. 14, 1944

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Ross and Ruby were quite the hosts:

1945_graves_pittsburgh-PA-courier_040745_kolumn-komments_mrs-o-j-canslerPittsburgh Courier, Apr. 7, 1945

I love this. This is the sort of thing you would never have read in the Morning News or the Times Herald. I want to know more about Claudia’s — “that night spot just out of the city limits that has everybody talking.”

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graves-cafe_ad_pittsburgh-courier-051245Pittsburgh Courier, May 12, 1945

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1946_graves_pittsburgh-PA-courier_062246_kolumn-komments_mrs-o-j-cansler
Pittsburgh Courier, June 22, 1946

Just popping up to NYC in their new Fleetwood to take in a boxing match. As one does.

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Ross and Ruby eventually ended up living in a house on “swellegant” South Boulevard (2500 South Blvd.). At least one of their daughters was an Idlewild debutante, who made her debut in 1967 (read about the world of Black debutantes in 1937 Dallas here). Milam County native Ross Graves died on Dec. 4, 1973 at the age of 70. He had lived in Dallas for 50 years. And I bet he had a good time.

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The location of Ross Graves’ Cafe was at 1800 Jackson Street, between Ervay and St. Paul, in a weird stretch of Jackson where two blocks were connected without a  break, in a row of buildings without an intersecting street. (The buildings are long gone, but the location can be seen on Google Maps here.) An interesting detail about these two blocks — the 1700 and 1800 blocks of Jackson Street — is that this property was owned by Dr. John W. Anderson, a prominent Black physician. After his death, his widow, Pearl C. Anderson, deeded the land to the Dallas Community Chest, the proceeds of which would be used to help needy Dallasites. (The donation was conservatively estimated at $200,000 at the time — about $2 million in today’s money). She donated the property in 1955, the same year Graves retired.

graves-cafe_dallas-directory-1947Jackson Street, 1947 Dallas city directory

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Sources & Notes

Photos of the interior of Ross Graves’ Cafe are from the Marion Butts Collection, Dallas Public Library. Call Number for the top photo is PA2005-4/380.1; Call Number for the second is PA2005-4/380.2 (both are incorrectly identified as being in Deep Ellum).

The photo of the exterior of the cafe is from the Dallas, Texas Negro City Directory, 1947-1948 (many thanks to Pat Lawrence).

graves-cafe_marion-butts_dpl_1947_cashier_sm

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Copyright © 2021 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

The Majestic Theatre’s Centenary

majestic-theatre_tsha_1920sThe Majestic Theatre, 1925 Elm Street

by Paula Bosse

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

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

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

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

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Here it is under construction in 1920:

majestic_under-constructioin_100120_cinema-treasuresvia Cinema Treasures

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

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

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

majestic-theatre_night_cinema-treasuresvia Cinema Treasures

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And it still looks beautiful in the 21st century:

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

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majestic-theatre_2009_wikipedia2009, via Wikipedia

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

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Sources & Notes

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

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

majestic-theatre_tsha_1920s_sm

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Copyright © 2021 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Bird’s-Eye View Down Main Street — 1954

dallas_birdseye_1954_color_ebayMain Street, 1954

by Paula Bosse

A nice color photo showing Main Street, looking west from about Field. For reference, Hotel Southland was in the 1200 block of Main, at Murphy, and Turner’s Clothiers, across the street, was at 1113 Main.

There’s a lot to look at (click to see a larger image). It’s always nice to see a viaduct (top right).

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Sources & Notes

Photo found on eBay.

dallas_birdseye_1954_color_ebay_sm

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Copyright © 2021 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Thompson’s, 1520 Main — 1916

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

by Paula Bosse

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

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

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

1520-main_dmn_010416DMN, Jan. 4, 1916

And it was a beautiful building!

thompsons_atlantic-terra-cotta-co-coll_UT_frank-rogers

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

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

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

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

1520-main_selzer-assoc_facebook_crop_campisisPhoto from Selzer Associates Facebook page

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

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

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

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Sources & Notes

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

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

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

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Copyright © 2021 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Aerial View: Movie Row from the Rear

aerial_south-from-pacific_color

by Paula Bosse

This is a cool aerial shot of downtown, looking toward the south, with a nice look at the back side of the waning Movie Row, with the Pacific Avenue rear entrances of the Majestic and Capri theaters visible.  I’m not sure of the date, but the Melba Theater was renamed the Capri on Dec. 25, 1959 and was ultimately demolished in 1980 or 1981, and the Medical Arts Building (seen in the middle at the far right) was demolished in 1977. I’m guessing the ’70s, if only because of the vast expanse of parking lots.

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Sources & Notes

Another instance of muddled/incomplete notes on my end. This is a screenshot from… something. I don’t remember if the image seen here is a photo or is from moving footage shot over Dallas.

majestic from behind aerial screenshot_sm

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Copyright © 2021 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

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