Flashback : Dallas

A Miscellany: History, Ads, Pop Culture

Category: Downtown

Thanks-Giving Square — 1976

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by Paula Bosse

Happy Thanksgiving! It seems like a good day to look back at Thanks-Giving Square, the triangular one-acre park in downtown Dallas bounded by Pacific, Bryan, and Ervay. It was originally envisioned in 1961 by Dallas businessman Peter Stewart as a needed quiet refuge and chapel in the middle of a busy city — a calm space set aside for “spiritual gratitude.” It took several years before architect Philip Johnson was brought on to the project in 1971. After more than 15 years from its original conception, its official public dedication was on Nov. 28, 1976, three days after Thanksgiving.

Check out some of the progress reports on the project which appeared over the years on WFAA-Channel 8 News:

Architect Philip Johnson (whose other Dallas projects include the Kennedy Memorial, The Crescent, and the Cathedral of Hope, etc.) talks briefly about Thanks-Giving Square and its underground component, and also shows off a 3-D model (from July 1971):

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Business owners whose shops were in buildings on the land which was about to be leveled were forced to move out, and many were not happy (from April 1972):

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Construction is underway (November 1976):

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And, lastly, Channel 8 weatherman Troy Dungan checks out the progress as the dedication day approaches (November 1976):

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For a bit of street-level context, here’s a photo showing some of the buildings that were razed (at the right, directly across from the Republic Bank Building) in order to make way for Thanks-Giving Square:

kodachrome_bryan-n-ervay_1954_shorpyvia Shorpy.com

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Below is a detail from a newspaper ad for MetroBank which appeared in August, 1976, with a nice little stylized illustration of the triangular TGS and its swirly chapel (click for larger image).

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Speaking of the “swirly” design, in a 1982 article about TGS, Dallas Morning News architect deity David Dillon described this structure as “Philip Johnson’s Dairy Queen chapel,” which, presumably, might not have been met with amusement by internationally acclaimed architect Johnson, who probably wouldn’t have appreciated the comparison of his work to an ice cream cone. Interestingly, that description appeared in a 1982 article about Stewart’s dismay that the tall buildings which loomed over TGS (including Thanksgiving Tower) were, basically, blotting out the sun — little TGS was more often in shadow than in sunlight:

Stewart urged the city to pass a sun and shadow ordinance that would preserve the remaining downtown view corridors from high-rise development […] but the [preliminary] ordinance got such a cool reception from downtown developers that it was dropped quickly. (“Computer Study Sheds Light On Thanks-Giving Square Problem” by David Dillon, Dallas Morning News, July 4, 1982)

I bet it got a cool reception!

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Sources & Notes

Postcard found on eBay.

Videos from SMU’s WFAA News Film Collection, which can be found on the SMU Jones Film Collection YouTube channel.

Thanks to Noah Jeppson for passing along a link to the huge Thanks-Giving Foundation Collection of photos and documents, viewable on the University of North Texas’ Portal to Texas History, here.

Read about the history of Thanks-Giving Square (or as it’s often written, Thanksgiving Square) on Wikipedia, here.

Read the D Magazine article “The Park That Peter Built” (which seems to end abruptly) about the history of Thanks-Giving Square by Jane Sumner from Nov. 1, 1977 here.

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Copyright © 2022 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

East on Elm

elm-street_gentrys_city-of-dallas-websiteShouldn’t there be cars?

by Paula Bosse

There has been some heavy-duty editing to this post!

Here’s an interesting photo I stumbled across last night on the City of Dallas website. There wasn’t any information about it, but it appears to be a view to the east, taken from the 1400 block of Elm Street (where Exchange Place — originally Scollard Court — intersects). See what it looks like today on Google Street View here.

The main landmarks are what I call the Wilson Building Jr. (the tall dark building in the distance, located on Elm near Ervay), the Praetorian Building (the tall white building at the right, at Main and Stone), and L. W. Gentry’s photography studio in the middle of the photo at the right.

Gentry’s was upstairs at 1304 Elm from about 1904 until about 1911. In 1912, Gentry moved a block down the street to 1502 Elm, at Akard, where he took over the upstairs studio of photographer J. C. Deane. (I wrote about Deane and this building here.)

There is a sign reading “Empress” at the left. That was the Empress Theatre, which was at 1409 Elm from about 1912 to 1915. Directly across the street is a 3-story building with a sign for the Spirella Corset Parlors at 1410 Elm.

Back to the left, across the street, is the hard-to-read sign for Studebaker Bros. of Texas at 1405 Elm. Directly across the street is the new Kress Building (you can see part of the distinctive “K” from the company’s logo at the top right). Kress was at 1404-8 Elm — the building was erected in 1911 and opened that same year in November.

The “new Wilson Building” was also built in 1911, and Gentry’s took over the space above T. J. Britton’s store at Elm and Akard in 1912. And all these places appeared in the 1912 directory (except for the Empress, which was open in 1912 but might not have made the listing deadline). So I’m going to guess that this photo is from 1912 or 1913.

gentry_1912-directory_1502-ELM1912 Dallas directory, Elm Street

But this photo looks older than 1912. So many horses! The only vehicle not pulled by a horse in this photo is the streetcar. Where are the cars? In 1911, Dallas was pretty car-crazy — you’d expect to see at least ONE horseless carriage in there somewhere. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but in 1911, there were about one thousand automobiles registered in Dallas County, and the city was quickly becoming a major distribution hub for car companies (“Dallas Automobile Center of the Southwest,” Dallas Morning News, Dec. 31, 1911). (Check out this photo from 1911 taken a couple of blocks away. The only animals seen are actually riding IN an automobile!) Were cars banned from Elm Street? Seems unlikely. …I’m pretty sure I’m overthinking this.

(Ironically enough, the full entry for Studebaker Bros. which appears in the 1912 directory reads: “Carriages, wagons, buggies, street sprinklers, harness.” Nary a mention of an automobile. That arrived the following year.)

It might just be that I’ve had a very stressful couple of weeks, and it was really late when I originally wrote this. But I’ve had a refreshing night’s sleep, and I’m still fixating on this car thing. (Shouldn’t there be cars on Elm Street in 1912?) So I’m just going to stop looking at this photo, assume that it was snapped when all cars in the area were just out of frame, and wrap this thing up.

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Here are a few zoomed-in details.

elm-street_gentrys_city-of-dallas-website_det1

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I love these decorative lamp posts (more examples can be seen in a post I really enjoyed writing, “The Grand Elm Street Illumination — 1911”).

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Sources & Notes

Photo found on the City of Dallas website, here (banner photo).

I have edited this after seeing the reader comment below. I realized that I was basing the original location on Lemuel W. Gentry’s first studio, which was a block or two west from the one seen in the photo. (I kept saying to myself, “That building looks so much like the one the Deane studio was in.” Because… it was the exact same building!) Thanks, NotBob.

Here’s a closer shot of Gentry’s studio around 1915 — on the southeast corner of Elm and Akard, right across the street from the new Queen Theatre. (This photo originally appeared in this post.)

queen_cinema-treasures

NOW we see cars!

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Copyright © 2022 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Elks-a-Plenty — 1908

dmn-bldg_decorated-for-elks-convention_1908_cook-collection_SMU_full

Begirt with ruffles and studded with elks…

by Paula Bosse

Conventions have always been important to Dallas. One of the most important conventions ever to descend upon the city was the annual convention of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks in July 1908. There were approximately 38,000 attendees, but when you added to that number spouses and various others with business, social, or just looky-loo interests, it was estimated that more than 100,00 out-of-towners clogged the streets of our fair burg during the time of the convention. Dallas was a sizeable city in 1908, but the sudden swarming into town of 100,000 people (twice the actual population of the city!) must have been… challenging. (And profitable!)

Dallas welcomed the Elks with enthusiasm and open arms. Everyone knew they were coming, and everywhere there were splashes of the Elk colors, purple and white. A special (and later notorious) semi-permanent arch was erected to span Main Street at Akard. And businesses competed with one another to see who could decorate their building with the most spectacular and festive bunting.

Above is a photo of the Dallas Morning News Building at the northwest corner of Commerce and Lamar, crammed full of flags, bunting, pennants, cowbells, lights, little statues of elks, medium-sized statues of elks, and large statues of elks. (There is an elk in every window.) It also had a large clock erected which was perpetually stuck at an Elk-y 11:00 and a parallelogram-shaped sign which lit up to flash the Elk greeting “Hello, Bill!” So… a lot. But what might seem like overkill — like The News was trying a little too hard to be noticed… the Elks loved it. LOVED IT. They loved it so much that they awarded the newspaper an award of $250 for the best decorated building in the city (that would be about $8,000 in today’s money!). Scroll down to read a breathless description of these decorations, with details of absolutely everything that was flapping, clanging, flashing, billowing, and throbbing at Commerce and Lamar in the summer of 1908. (I have to put this sentence from the article here because I love it so much: “To the bottom of each of these flags are attached small cowbells of different tones, so that with every strong whiff of wind there is a discordant but merry jingle.”)

So, those elk statues. I mean… they’re fantastic. Little elks in every window, illuminated by a single electric bulb positioned “between the forefeet” of each mini-elk. And then there are the larger ones appearing to step out of — or off of — the building. But back to those little elks — are you wondering what happened to them after the conventioneers headed back home? Wonder no more!

elks_news-bldg_belo-ad_071808

Dallas Morning News, July 18, 1908

That would have been a great souvenir!

The photo at the top of this post (by Frank B. Secrest of Hunt County) was issued that summer as a postcard. The News did not miss an opportunity to mention it:

elks_news-bldg_dmn_080708

DMN, Aug. 7, 1908

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And because I love to zoom in on these sorts of photos, here are a few magnified details:

dmn-bldg_decorated-for-elks-convention_1908_cook-collection_SMU_det-2

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Here is a lengthy description of the decorations, from The Dallas Morning News — direct from the horse’s mouth:

To decorate The News Building in celebration of the coming of the Elks has been the labor of two men for more than a month, and of a dozen for two days: for, though it was only three days ago that the first bit of color appeared on the outer walls, the preparations were begun in the seclusion of a workshop early in June. The draping of the building with bunting and flags was done under the direction of W. T. Senter of the National Decorating Company of St. Louis, and of Edward A. Gebhard, librarian of The News. In working out their scheme they have used 4,200 yards of bunting, purple, white and purple, and twenty-four immense flags, and disposed of it in such artistic fashion as to avoid a sense of crowding.

PURPLE, WHITE AND PURPLE RUFFLES

The building is thrice begirt with big ruffles of purple, white and purple. But, to begin at the topmost, three large flags, one the United States, another the Texas and the other The News’ flag, float high above the Lamar street side of the building. To the bottom of each of these flags are attached small cowbells of different tones, so that with every strong whiff of wind there is a discordant but merry jingle. From one to the other of the flagstaffs hundreds of small pennants in the colors of the Elks flutter gayly in the breeze. Festooned from the heavy cornice which crowns the building are heavy folds of purple, white and purple so arranged that with every vagrant breeze it swells and sinks like the surface of water. Once on the Lamar street side, over the entrance, again at the corner and once on the Commerce street side this bunting is gathered around an immense United States flag, fashioned fan-shape. Poised on the cornice of the building at the corner, as if surveying the land preparatory of a leap, is the graceful figure of an elk, five and a half feet high, made out of plaster of Paris, painted and enameled until he glistens.

The two lower ledges of the building are draped in similar fashion, except that the streamers at these places are narrower than those that festoon the cornice. Above the main entrance on the Lamar street side and extending from below the second story to the third-story ledge is the piece de resistance. Here set in an embrasure of the building, is a clock dial twelve feet in diameter. The gilt letters marking the divisions of the circle are two feet high. The hands point to the hour of 11. The pure white head and shoulders of an elk seven feet high are shown in the center one foot forward, as if he were about to emerge from the fluffy mass of purple and white bunting that forms the background dial. On each side an immense flag is gathered in a way to make it fan-shaped. Circling the clock dial are six large incandescent lights.

WHOLE HERD OF ELKS

From the third-story corner of the building, above which stands a five and one-half foot Elk, as if surveying the country from a precipice, are festooned two twelve-foot flags that fall almost to the second-story ledge of the building. One is gathered around on the Commerce and the other on the Lamar street side. And there yet remains to speak of the most distinctive feature of the whole scheme of decoration. The News, in preparation for this event, had made a whole herd of elks. There are forty-two of them, each thirty-two inches tall, and one, mounted on a pedestal, stands poised from the ledge of every window in the building. They are pure white, made of plaster Paris, painted twice and then enameled. Between the forefeet of every one is an electric bulb. The elks are from models designed by Mr. Gebhard and were cast in The News Building.

BRILLIANT ILLUMINATION

Of course the whole building is brilliantly lighted. In addition to the electricity used ordinarily, which lights the exterior of The News Building pretty well, bulbs have been studded profusely midst the decorations and over the Lamar street entrance is a parallelogram of electric lights which illuminate the sign, “Hello, Bill!”

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The article then launches into more self-promotion, with an, admittedly, interesting description of the layout of the News Building:

ATTRACTS GENERAL ATTENTION

The building of The News attracted general attention from the thousands of visiting Elks. Many expressed their surprise that a city the size of Dallas had such a complete, modern building and equipment, and the compliments concerning The News as a newspaper have been very pleasing.

The News Building has all the modern fireproof features. It occupies a space of 300×100, having three floors and a basement, the whole being used by the newspaper. Its business office is one of the handsomest in the State, and, as one visitor remarked, it looks more like a prosperous bank than the ordinary newspaper office.

The first floor is given up to the business and circulation departments, the press room and the mailing department. In the basement are the paper storage rooms and the power department. On the second floor are the editorial rooms, telegraph rooms and the general circulation department and the newspaper job department, besides the Employes’ Library and Recreation Room. On the third floor are the composing and the linotype rooms, the stereotype room and the engraving department.

INDIVIDUAL ELECTRIC MOTORS

Every piece of machinery in the house is operated by its own individual electric motor. Power is supplied from two immense engines and generators combined, the engine room being one of the show places in the building, having a metal ceiling and white glazed brick on the walls, with a cement floor. The press room contains two three-deck presses, one quadruple press and one sextuple press.

TWO DAILY NEWSPAPERS

The Dallas News is the offspring of The Galveston News, which was established in 1842. The two papers are under the same management. The publication offices of The News, Galveston and Dallas, 315 miles apart, are connected by special wires for interchange of news matter. The Galveston paper supplies the southern part of the State and the Louisiana border, while the other covers all North Texas and goes well into Arkansas, Oklahoma and New Mexico.

THREE SPECIAL TRAINS

For upward of a quarter of a century the two papers have operated at their own expense, every day in the year, three special newspaper trains, one running Galveston to Houston, one Dallas to Denison and the third Dallas to Fort Worth. The Dallas News covers hundreds of thriving towns throughout its territory, many of them before breakfast time, through its unrivaled facilities of distribution. Starting in 1885, The Dallas News has been a continuous success, and has achieved an enviable reputation wherever American newspapers are known. As an advertising medium it is in a class by itself so far as papers in this section of the country are concerned. Starting at 1885 with thirty-three classified ads in its Sunday issue, it now runs each Sunday about 2,000. It is a success because it is enterprising and because it is clean, both in its news columns and in its advertising columns; because it is fair-minded and because its efforts have always been uplifting from a moral and intellectual standpoint and fair to every interest.

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And then it launches into many, many testimonials from Elk visitors on how much they love the decorations. This is the first. You get the idea.

J. T. McNulty of Baltimore, grand trustee of the Elks, prominent in National circles of the Knights of Columbus and a central figure in the Ancient Order of Hibernians of America, who has traveled largely and visited every State in the Union, being prominent in business and political circles said: “I have been to many conventions, my son, and have seen many decorations, but the one at The News plant, in my estimation ‘takes the cake,’ figuratively and literally speaking. It is the most unique, the most artistic and the most beautiful I have ever seen in all my attendance at conventions in this country, and I have attended many of them. I was agreeably surprised at the way Dallas has decorated, but nothing gave me such a shock of pleasurable surprise as the first sight I had of The News’ decorations.”

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And this is the dark and grainy photo that ran with the article:

dmn-bldg_elks_dmn_071508_photo

DMN, July 15, 1908

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I kinda want an elk statue now. Also, according to the article, I now know the Morning News has its own flag. Can someone point me to more info?

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Sources & Notes

Top photo — titled “[The News, First Prize for Decorations, Dallas, Texas]” — is from the George W. Cook Dallas/Texas Image Collection, DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University; more info on this photograph (postcard) can be found here.

Lengthy quote is from the article “Dallas News Building Decorated In Honor of the Elk’s Grand Lodge Which Is Now Holding Its Annual Session and Grand Jubilee in This City,” The Dallas Morning News, July 15, 1908.

More Elks-related Flashback Dallas posts:

And more photos of this beautiful Dallas News Building can be found in these posts:

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Copyright © 2022 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

The Fountain: “A Resort for Gentlemen” — ca. 1911

by Paula Bosse

This postcard (which has a 1911 postmark) shows The Fountain, a well-appointed drinking establishment (not lacking in ceiling fans). The caption reads:

Meet me at the Fountain, a Resort for Gentlemen, 1518 Main Street, Dallas, Texas.
John H. Senchal, Propr.
Don’t fail to see the Greatest Fair on Earth at Dallas, Texas.

This bar-with-food was located on the south side of Main, steps away from the present location of Neiman Marcus. It was in the block seen in the picture below (it is just out of frame at the bottom right, next door to the Colonial Theater):

Main Street looking east from Akard

Its address was originally 350 Main — after the city-wide address change in 1911, it became 1518 Main. It appears to have opened in 1907 and was in business until at least 1918 (after Dallas voted to go “dry,” the former saloon became The Fountain Cafe). Here are a few early ads for the “High-Class Stags’ Cafe” in its early go-go “gentlemen’s resort” days: 

Dallas Morning News, Oct. 1907

Dallas directory, 1909

Dallas Police annual, 1910

A few years later, the owner, John Henry Senchal, opened Senchal’s Buffet and Senchal’s Restaurant and Rathskeller at 1614-1618 Main.

Dallas directory, 1915

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Johnnie Senchal — born in Galveston in 1875 to a French father and American mother — appears to have been a popular, civic-minded man’s-man. He frequently traveled with Dallas businessmen to other cities and states to act as a booster for the city. He also indulged in sporty activities such as being a regular wrestling referee and sponsoring horse races at the State Fair of Texas (in 1914 a $2,000 “Fountain Purse” was offered — in today’s money, more than $56,000!). One 1915 newspaper report said he was “probably the best known saloon man in the city.” He was very successful and was not hurting for money.

He also seems to have had a cozy relationship with members of the Dallas police department — a situation which is probably commonplace between saloon-owners and cops. One news story described how he had leapt to the defense of a policeman who was waylaid by a large group of men while he was walking prisoners to jail — a huge brawl broke out, and Senchal and the cop emerged victorious. Also — in a story which wasn’t fully explained — Senchal and another man ponied up $5,000 in bond money ($140,000 in today’s money!) for a Dallas policeman who was charged in the fatal shooting of a 17-year-old, Those are some strong ties between a saloonkeeper and the local constabulary, man.

In 1912 there was another confusing story concerning a man who had been arrested and convicted for being the owner/lessee/tenant of an establishment which was “knowingly permitted to be used as a place in which prostitutes resorted and resided for the purpose of plying their vocation. […] The house was a ‘disorderly house.’ Prostitutes resorted there and displayed themselves in almost a nude condition.” The man who was charged was seen there on a number of occasions “dancing with the prostitutes.” The man appealed his conviction because he had been charged with being the owner/lessee/tenant of this “bawdy house” — but the lessee/tenant was none other than Johnnie Senchal and another man. As far as I can tell, Senchal was not charged with anything regarding this case. 

But a couple of years later, in 1914, he was charged with running a “disorderly house” (a term often meaning a bordello or gambling den, but also meaning a place which is frequently the site of disturbances and is generally considered to be a public nuisance). It seems Johnnie and other were offering “cabaret” entertainment which might gotten out of hand. From The Dallas Morning News:

Alleging that the cabarets are conducted as “disorderly houses,” [charges were filed] on behalf of the State of Texas against owners of three restaurants in the downtown section. Affidavits accompanying the petitions alleged that women were allowed to drink at the places and to act in an unbecoming manner. (DMN, March 12, 1915)

I’m not sure exactly what constituted “an unbecoming manner,” but Johnnie Senchal was one of the men charged. At the very same time he was fighting this violation of the cabaret ordinance, it was reported that “an involuntary petition in bankruptcy has been filed in the United States court here against John Senchal and J. O. Walker, partners in the saloon business on Main Street. The petition was filed by local brewery agents and whisky houses” (DMN, June 20, 1915). Bankrupt! Even though he was apparently rolling in dough for years, he was rather ironically pushed to bankruptcy because he couldn’t pay his own bar tab.

And so Johnnie put the barkeeper’s life behind him. And I mean he REALLY put it behind him: he became a fervent speaker at Anti-Saloon League events, saying that having been forced out of the saloon game was actually a godsend — he was quoted as saying that his profits increased 75-80% when he stopped selling alcohol and became a full-time restaurateur. That seems unlikely, but that’s where he was in 1918, an improbable evangelist for Prohibition. 

Soon after, he and his family moved to Houston, where he opened a small cafe. On Oct. 9, 1929, after closing-time, Johnnie Senchal died in his cafe from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He was 54 years old.

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Sources & Notes

Postcard of The Fountain found on eBay.

Postcard of Main Street found on Flickr.

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Copyright © 2022 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

S. Mayer’s Summer Garden, Est. 1881

mayers-garden_DPL_1885Roll out the barrel… (collection Dallas Public Library)

by Paula Bosse

Today is the 4th of July. I had these two articles stuffed into bulging digital files:

4th-july_mayers_dallas-herald_070482
Dallas Herald, July 4, 1882

4th-of-july_dallas-herald_070384_mayer-gardensDallas Herald, July 3, 1884

I had seen the photo of Mayer’s beer garden posted above, but I didn’t really know anything about it.

Simon Mayer (1843-1924) was born in Germany/Prussia and came to the United States in 1866, first settling in Milwaukee. He came to Texas in 1869 where, as his obituary in The Dallas Morning News says, “he owned and operated the first brewery established in Fort Worth.” He moved to Dallas in 1871 and entered into business with pioneer Dallas brewer Charles Meisterhans. 

In December, 1881 he opened what would become one of Dallas’ foremost gathering places, Mayer’s Summer Garden. He built a 3-story-plus-basement building (at what would later be 1601-1603 Elm Street) and added a charming outdoor beer garden. It stood on the north side of Elm and looked directly down Stone Street (now Stone Plaza) toward Main. You can see it on an 1885 Sanborn map here.

A 3-story building in Dallas in 1881 was nothing to sneeze at. He was putting a lot of money into it, and people were interested in its progress. The opening was touted in the paper for several months (click articles to see larger images):

mayers_dallas-herald_090181_constructionDallas Herald, Sept. 1, 1881

From the above article: “Mr. Mayer proposes to have a garden where gentlemen can take ladies and enjoy a glass of beer or wine in a quiet way, without coming into contact with the rough class that frequent beer gardens. No improper characters will be tolerated. There will be music but no dancing.”

mayers_dallas-herald_120981_to-openDallas Herald, Dec. 1, 1881

Finally. the opening was about to happen: “the grandest blow-out ever witnessed in Dallas” was promised (who knew “blow-out” was a term used in 1881?):

mayers_dallas-herald_121081_to-open_blow-outDallas Herald, Dec. 10, 1881

Over a thousand curious and thirsty Dallasites turned out.

mayers_dallas-herald_121181_grand-openingDallas Herald, Dec. 11, 1881

mayer_dallas-herald_121381_adDallas Herald, Dec. 13, 1881

(Don’t know what “drummers” are? Check it out.)

You might have noticed mention of zoological specimens. Yes, not only did this establishment offer a beer garden, a meeting hall, a hotel, a restaurant, a saloon, a performance space, and a lecture hall, it also had lots of animals in (and out of) cages — Dallas’ first zoo. He had alligators, birds, lions, eagles, prairie dogs, a Gila monster, a bear, and a pet crow. And a lot more. The bear escaped at least once — it wandered down the street and bit a guy who was making a commotion about a bear wandering down the street. But the bear was fairly easily recaptured and was waltzed back home along Elm Street without further incident. (Apparently, Mayer was a taxidermist by trade. One wonders how many of these creatures ended up stuffed and mounted and displayed in Herr Mayer’s home.)

People flocked to the Summer Garden. They loved the outdoor beer garden with its trees and fountains and performing bands. …And alligators. Below is a, sadly, washed-out circa-1885 image of Mayer’s garden. It actually seems fairly cosmopolitan for a Texas city in the 19th century. (Although, on the other side of the trees at the right was a livery stable and a wagon yard, so I would assume the jovial tippling, socializing, and oom-pah music was accompanied by unpleasant smells that were hard to ignore.)

mayers-summer-garden_1885_degolyer-library_SMUMayer’s Garden, circa 1885 (via DeGolyer Library, SMU)

Mayer’s was one of the first businesses in Dallas (or, according to lore, THE first) to have electric lights — lights were switched on to great fanfare in August of 1882. Before that, Mayer utilized an interesting lighting technique I had never heard about: “Mr. Mayer had the latest thing in kerosene lamps. An attachment to the lamp sprayed kerosene on the blaze, making it much brighter” (Dallas Morning News, Sept. 14, 1924). (Perhaps the bear had escaped in fear for his life!)

Mayer eventually closed his very popular business sometime in the 1890s after being unable to fight the “Sunday-closing” laws which forced him to close on his most profitable day of the week. By 1901, he placed the ad below and was selling the building.

mayers_dmn_112401_property-for-saleNov. 24, 1901

I’m not sure when the building was demolished — probably in the ’20s or ’30s. I just found a photo of the building as it looked about the time Mayer sold it (it was the Clifton Hotel for a while).

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No more garden, ca. 1900 (via DeGolyer Library, SMU)

The beer-garden era had ended. There were several in Dallas in the 1880s and 1890s, but Simon Mayer’s was perhaps the creme-de-la-creme. I mean, he had an eagle!

mayers-garden_icollector-comvia iCollector

mayers-garden_token_ebayvia eBay

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Sources & Notes

Top photo — “[Mayer’s Beer Garden, Dallas, Texas”] — is from the Dallas Public Library (Call Number PA87-1/19-27-1).

The photo of the “garden” is titled “Mayer’s Summer Garden on Elm and Stone, 1885,” and it is from the Collection of Dallas Morning News negatives and copy photographs, DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University — more info can be found here. (There is another photo of the garden in this collection — it’s really hard to make out clearly, but I swear I see an alligator int he foreground. And maybe some other zoological specimens out of their cages. …Or not. It’s here.)

The photo showing Mayer’s building in about 1900 has been cropped from “[Elm Street between Stone and Ervay Streets].” which is from the George W. Cook Dallas/Texas Image Collection, DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University — see the full photo here.

All articles and ads are from The Dallas Herald, editions of which are scanned in their entirety and can be found at the Portal to Texas History, here — thank you, University of North Texas!

A lot of colorful info can be found in Mayer’s obituary in the Dallas Morning News archives: “Simon Mayer, Early Dallas Entertainer — Death of Pioneer Brewer Recalls Pleasure Garden He Founded” (DMN, Sept. 14, 1924).

mayers-garden_DPL_1885_sm

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Copyright © 2022 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Autos, Autos Everywhere, and Not a Place to Park — 1971

cabell-fed-bldg_flickr_wayne-hsieh
Earle Cabell Federal Bldg. / Wayne Hsieh, Flickr

by Paula Bosse

The other day I was looking for some information on the 1971 opening of the new 16-story Federal Center at 1100 Commerce Street (the name was changed to the Earle Cabell Federal Building in late 1973 to honor the former Dallas mayor and U.S. congressman). I came across the Dallas Morning News article “Center Augments Parking Woes” by Earl Golz (DMN, Jan. 12, 1971) which had a couple of surprising tidbits. The new federal building — which was expected to be occupied by more than 5,000 workers — had a grand total of 59 underground parking spaces. …Fifty-nine. FIVE-NINE. Let that sink in. This was a brand-new building. It’s not like they squeezed those pitifully few parking spaces under an existing building. This was in the plans. That’s a lot of car-pooling.

Three years earlier, in 1968, One Main Place opened at 1201 Main — it was more than twice as big as the Federal Building. When it opened, it was noted that there were 800 underground spaces (with a planned-but-never-realized massive underground parking garage for 4,000 cars, to go along with the never-realized Two Main Place and Three Main Place complex). But, somehow, by 1971, One Main Place’s parking had decreased to a mere 400 spaces, all of which were completely filled daily. I have images of panicky office workers constantly circling blocks in search of a place to park. Stories were rampant that parking-lot attendants were reserving weekly and monthly spaces in pay lots for exorbitant under-the-table cash transactions. 

How did this happen? Who would design such large modern buildings with such woefully inadequate parking? Were “interested parties” strong-arming architects or city planners to skimp on the parking? Is there such a thing as a big “parking-lot lobby”? (What am I saying? I’m sure there is.) Ever wonder why Dallas kept tearing buildings down in the early ’70s and replacing them with pay parking lots? I’m sure there were many reasons, but I saw more than one newspaper mention that parking lots (not garages, mind you — just lots) could be more profitable than aging buildings. It’s always seemed odd to me that there were (are) so many surface parking lots downtown, rather than multi-story garages. Imagine how much more money parking lot operators would be making with garages. Not that multi-story garages are in any way more desirable, aesthetically, but why didn’t land developers build garages which could accommodate so many more paying customers than these puny little lots? Some lot operators insisted that it benefitted everyone to have these lots — insisting that the buildings which once stood on the land were old and ugly eyesores which needed to be torn down, and that these lots were basically just placeholders until a fat-cat developer forked over multi-millions to build something tall and beautiful on it.

Was the lack of underground spaces in these two new buildings intentional? This would have been a weird way to force people to use public transportation. It might even have been a bit of strain on public transportation — the Dallas Transit System was already losing the fight against car-culture and downtown workers who lived in suburbia.

In the early ’70s, Dallas and Fort Worth were both experiencing a severe lack of downtown parking. In 1970 there had been a major excavation to build underground parking below the Old Red Courthouse — it was probably helpful, but it was just a band-aid on a much bigger problem.

A few of the proposals to deal with these parking woes:

  • Dissuade people from bringing their cars downtown by significantly raising fees for parking lots and parking meters and to cut the time limit for parking (quickly approved by the City Council)
  • Build satellite lots outside the Central Business District where people could park and then bus into town (“Park and Ride” stations began, shakily, in 1973)
  • Imagine the use of “people-movers” in varying degrees of sci-fi futurism

As far as “people-movers,” there were several automated transportation systems on drawing boards around the country at the time, a couple of which were being developed in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. There was the electrically powered monorail-like AirTrans — a joint project of Vought Aeronautics of Dallas and Varo Inc. of Garland — and there was the similar but less well-known Sky-Kar of Fort Worth. AirTrans was very successful and was first adopted by DFW Airport, but Sky-Kar seems to have fizzled out after the death of the company’s president in the early ’70s. 

One of Sky-Kar’s salesmen was Paul Groody (he can be seen being interviewed in one of the kars in a WFAA clip from October 1970 here, with additional kar-footage here). Groody (who, in this interview, is a couple of months from full Asimov muttonchops) gained some national notoriety as the funeral director who had been given the task of driving from Fort Worth to Dallas to pick up the body of Lee Harvey Oswald and “prepare” him for burial — because there were no pallbearers, he had to scrounge for volunteers among the reporters covering the interment. Because I may have no other opportunity to post this, below is the cute and compact Sky-Kar Transivator prototype from 1970. …Sky-Kar, we hardly knew ye.

sky-kar_wfaa_SMU_oct-1970WFAA Collection, Jones Collection, SMU

Below, Paul Groody, Sky-Kar rep (1970), and Paul Groody, funeral director for Lee Harvey Oswald’s burial (1963) (he is seen partially obscured, all the way at the back right, wearing glasses).

sky-kar_paul-groody_wfaa_SMU_oct-1970WFAA Collection, Jones Collection, SMU

oswald-funeral_FWST_1963
Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Equal time: see the Vought/Varo AirTrans prototype running on its test track in Garland in December 1970 here, along with interviews from company reps here.

airtrans-prototype_garland_wfaa_SMU_dec-1970WFAA Collection, Jones Collection, SMU

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So, anyway. Forget the flying cars. I’m waiting for my monorail. And it’s probably still best to leave your automobile at home if you’re heading downtown.

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Sources & Notes

Top photo, “Earle Cabell Federal Building and Courthouse” (2019) by Wayne Hsieh — found on Flickr, here. (I have cropped it.)

Screenshots from Channel 8 news film posted on YouTube, from the WFAA Collection, G. William Jones Film and Video Collection, Hamon Arts Library, Southern Methodist University.

cabell-fed-bldg_flickr_wayne-hsieh_sm

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Copyright © 2022 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Elm & Ervay — Early ’60s

elm-and-ervay_looking-north_squire-haskins_DPLAn impressive collection of architectural styles

by Paula Bosse

Three shots of N. Ervay. Above, looking north from Elm (Charade is playing at The Palace, dating this photo to late 1963 or early 1964).

A little closer in on the Mayflower Coffee Shop:

elm-and-ervay_looking-north_mayflower-coffee-shop_squire-haskins_1960_DPL

More Mayflower:

elm-ervay-live-oak_looking-north_mayflower-coffee-shop_squire-haskins_1960_DPL

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Sources & Notes

All photos from the Dallas Public Library Dallas History and Archives Division.

First photo is “[View of Downtown Dallas looking north on North Ervay Street]” by Squire Haskins — Call Number PA2000-3/1404. Second photo is “[View of Downtown Dallas looking north]” by Squire Haskins — Call Number PA2000-3/1401. Third photo is “[View of Downtown Dallas looking north on Ervay Street]” — Call Number PA2000-3/115.

elm-and-ervay_looking-north_squire-haskins_DPL_sm

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Copyright © 2022 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Union Station Interiors — 1916

union-station_interior_atlantic-terra-cotta-co-coll_UT_frank-rogersA beautiful place to wait…

by Paula Bosse

Above, a photo of the new “Union Depot,” completed in 1916 and, thankfully, still standing more than a century later. Below, a couple of details of the Lunch Room and the Women’s Waiting Room.

union-station_interior_atlantic-terra-cotta-co-coll_UT_frank-rogers_lunch-rm

union-station_interior_atlantic-terra-cotta-co-coll_UT_frank-rogers_womens-wtg-rm

The same view as the top photo, but from 1922:

union-station-interior_1922

Back to 1916, in what I gather is a sort of interior/exterior shot showing another place to pass the time. What better, quaint way to wait for a train and take in a great, slightly elevated view, than in a rocking chair.

union-station_rocking-chairs_atlantic-terra-cotta-co-coll_UT_frank-rogers

And a slight zoom-in:

union-station_rocking-chairs_atlantic-terra-cotta-co-coll_UT_frank-rogers_det-1

Imagine those rocking chairs up there in those archways, between the columns.

union-station_dallas-city-of-the-hour_ca-1916_SMU

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Sources & Notes

The two photos from 1916 (by Frank Rogers) are from the Atlantic Terra Cotta Company Architectural records and photographs, 1914-1941, Architectural Terra Cotta, Alexander Architectural Archives, University of Texas Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin — more info on these photos is here and here

A couple of other images of the new Union Station can be seen in these Flashback Dallas posts:

union-station_interior_atlantic-terra-cotta-co-coll_UT_frank-rogers_sm

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Copyright © 2022 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

19th-Century Sign-Painting and Real-Estating

smithson-and-harris-signs_mcafee_degolyer_SMU_ca-1890Need signs and/or land?

by Paula Bosse

Above, a photo of Smithson & Harris, makers and painters of signs in the 1890s. The business — owned by Harry M. Smithson and W. H. Harris — was apparently at 209 S. Akard, which has been described as having been on the northeast corner of Akard and Commerce, later the site of the Magnolia Building. That address does not comport with 209 S. Akard as we know it today — that would be in the southwest block of S. Akard — south of Commerce and on the other side of the street. This is a sentence from Smithson’s obituary: 

Mr. Smithson operated a sign-painting and furniture repair shop in a one-story frame building where the Magnolia Building now stands at the northeast corner of Akard and Commerce. — Dallas Morning News, May 1, 1936

Another source repeats the same info. Below is an excerpt from the small booklet Dallas’ First Hundred Years, 1856-1956 by George H. Santerre. I’m guessing Santerre got his info from the very same obit (and perhaps embellished the importance of the two businesses pictured).

In 1895 Dallas’ merchants obtained their large store signs from Smithson & Harris, whose one-story frame establishment […] facing on Akard was located on the northeast corner of Commerce and Akard streets, the present site of Dallas’ Magnolia Building. The real estate offices of Palmer & McKay, through which many of Dallas’ real estate transfers were handled, adjoined the sign-painters location.

As far as that last little nod to Palmer & McKay (John R. Palmer and James C. McKay), I could find their real estate partnership in only one Dallas directory — 1891, when their office was located at 296 Main. I have no 1890 directory to check, but Palmer left a previous place of employment in 1889. “Palmer & McKay” had disappeared from Dallas directories by 1892, so my guess is that the photo is from about 1890.

As far as the address being 209 S. Akard — Dallas has renumbered and renamed so many streets over the years that it’s hard to keep track of everything. 

Dallas’ most prosperous and well-known sign-maker of this period was P. S. Borich. His shop was at 209 Sycamore (the street was later renamed N. Akard). But around 1890, “209 Sycamore” became, weirdly, 108 South Akard — right where the Magnolia Building was built. Borich was at 209 Sycamore/108 S. Akard until about 1900, when most of the individuals mentioned above had moved on to other professions. (You can see the confusing address numbering in the 1885 and 1892 Sanborn maps.)

borich_1889-dallas-directory1889 Dallas directory

So I’m not sure what’s going on in this photo of a building with the address “209.” 19th-century sublet?

(Incidentally, the Borich company eventually morphed into Texlite, the company that made Pegasus, the city’s symbol who lives atop, yes, the Magnolia Building. I wrote about Borich and Texlite in the post “Texlite, Borich, Pegasus.”

“Smithson & Harris” and “Palmer & McKay” were both very short-lived partnerships, lasting only a year or two. Wherever these businesses were located, it’s a cool photo.

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Sources & Notes

Photo from the George A. McAfee photographs collection, DeGolyer Library, SMU Libraries, Southern Methodist University — more information is here (note: there is incorrect info in the description).

I first saw the (cropped) photo in the 1931 Rotunda, the yearbook of SMU, from the collection at the DeGolyer Library, SMU Libraries, Southern Methodist University, here.

smithson-and-harris-signs_mcafee_degolyer_SMU_ca. 1890_sm

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Copyright © 2022 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Eula Wolcott’s Baker Hotel Book Shop & Rental Library, 1926-1942

baker-hotel-book-shop_1934Eula Wolcott: bookseller, librarian (Publishers Weekly, 1934)

by Paula Bosse

Today is the birthday of my late father, Dick Bosse, owner of the Aldredge Book Store. I always try to post something bookstore-related on his birthday. This year: Miss Eula Wolcott’s Baker Hotel Book Shop & Rental Library, located inside the Baker Hotel.

Eula Wolcott (1881-1962) was born in Waxahachie and had moved to Dallas by 1910. She appears to have had theatrical ambitions and studied voice and expression (she was billed as an “Experienced Concert Reader and Story Teller”). She opened a little book store and library in the early 1920s — the Booklovers Shop and Library was first on West Jefferson and later on Swiss Avenue. In 1926, she opened a similar shop inside the glamorous Baker Hotel, an enterprise she ran successfully until at least 1942 when another owner took over (she also apparently had a book shop inside the Baker Hotel in Mineral Wells). In 1931 she opened the rather confusingly-named “Baker Hotel Book Shop and Rental Library” in Highland Park — in the new “Spanish Village” (the original name for Highland Park Village). Below is a very enthusiastic profile from Publishers Weekly (click to see a larger image).

baker-hotel-book-shop_publishers-weekly_032434_eula-wolcott_textPublishers Weekly, March 24, 1934

I wish the photo at the top had been better, because I’d love to get a good look at the decor. And Eula. I managed to find a photo of her.

wolcott-eula_ancestryEula Wolcott, via Ancestry.com

Here are a few ads:

booklovers_0420241924

baker-hotel_book-shop_DMN_oct-24-1926Two shops, one owner — 1926

baker-hotel_book-shop_1009271927

baker-hotel-book-shop_19371937

baker-hotel_book-shop_DMN_oct-25-19401940

She was active as a bookseller for many years and was also a familiar voice to radio listeners who tuned in to hear her book reviews on WFAA. 

One interesting piece of trivia about Eula’s hotel bookshop, shared with me by a former bookstore client of mine: the Baker Hotel Book Shop was the very first American bookstore that British author H. G. Wells ever visited. A lecture tour brought him to Dallas in 1940 — like many of the celebs of the day, he stayed at the Baker. I’m sure Eula was very happy to have Mr. Wells, a literary powerhouse, in her shop. Let’s hope he exhibited proper bookstore etiquette and purchased something!

baker-hotel_mural-room_dallas-directory_1942Baker Hotel, circa 1940

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Sources & Notes

Top photo and article from the trade magazine Publishers Weekly, March 24, 1934.

Read more Flashback Dallas articles on the Dallas bookstore scene here.

baker-hotel-book-shop_1934_sm

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Copyright © 2022 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

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