Flashback : Dallas

A Miscellany: History, Ads, Pop Culture

Category: Old East Dallas

Let the McClure Electric Co. Solve Your “Current Problems” — 1952

mcclure-electric-company_flickr_colteraThe lightning bolt on the sign is a nice touch… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

This is one of those idealized postcards from the ’40s and ’50s in which everything looks more pristine and perfect than was ever possible in real life. I love the postcard-version of this building, located at 2633 Swiss Avenue. And, glory be, it’s still standing — it just doesn’t look anywhere near as nice as it does in this postcard. (Why must people paint brick buildings? It looked so much better in 1952 when it was brand new. Today it looks like this.)

The McClure Electric Co. — which started life as the Emerson-McClure Electric Co. in 1922 — moved into their swanky new digs at Swiss and Cantegral in early 1952 and remained in business there until at least 1966. In the early ’70s, the building was home to Jim Dandy Fast Foods/Jim Dandy Fried Chicken for several years. Later, it appears that it might have been split up into office space. Currently it seems to be a fruit and vegetable produce company.

And that poor building has lost all its character.

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mcclure-ad_dmn_0201521952 ad

swiss-cantegral_1952-mapsco
Swiss & Cantegral, 1952 Mapsco

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Sources & Notes

Postcard found on Flickr.

More on the McClure company’s grand opening at this Swiss Avenue location can be found in the Dallas Morning News article “McClure Electric Company At Home in Modern Plant” (DMN, Feb. 1, 1952).

All images are larger when clicked.

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Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

The Haskell Exchange — ca. 1910

telephone_haskell-exchange_postmarked-1910_ebayThe switchboard hub in Old East Dallas… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Above, the building that housed the Haskell Exchange of Southwestern Telegraph and Telephone (the company which later became Southwestern Bell Telephone and, eventually, part of AT&T), located at the southeast corner of Bryan and Haskell in Old East Dallas. It was so cute and quaint back in 1910 (the year this postcard was mailed). AT&T still has a building on this very same corner — over a century later. Unfortunately, the building stopped being quaint a long time ago. See the same location today, here. Some awnings might help….

Below is part of an article describing a tour of the Exchange taken by the Dallas Advertising League in 1911 (click for larger image):

haskell-exchange_dmn_021111
Dallas Morning News, Feb. 11, 1911

ad-southwestern-telephone-telegraph_1912Cattle Raisers’ Association of Texas, 1912

ad-southwestern-telephone-telegraph_dmn_050212
DMN, May 2, 1912

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Sources &  Notes

More about the operators of Southwestern Tel. & Tel. (with photos of their “rest room”) can be found in the Flashback Dallas post “Work and Play in Telephone Land,” here.

In this case “exchange” did not mean the same thing as telephone exchanges such as “Taylor,” “Emerson,” “Lakeside,” “Fleetwood,” “Riverside,” etc. Read more at Wikipedia here and here for the distinctions.

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Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

The 1957 Tornado, Seen From Old East Dallas

tornado_live-oak_040257_rusty-williams_dplThe view from Liberty & Live Oak… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Great shot of the historic Dallas tornado (which killed 10, injured at least 200, and left about 500 people homeless) as it was plowing through Oak Cliff and West Dallas on April 2, 1957, seen from the 2800 block of Live Oak.

Aside from the tornado, this is an interesting view looking toward downtown, the Medical Arts Building, and the Republic Bank Building (that rocket must have been Dallas’ tallest lightning rod at the time!). The building containing the strip of businesses at the right still stands (I love these buildings — there are a lot of them in the older parts of town) — a present-day view can be seen on Google, here. What stood out to me was a Burger House — I didn’t know of any other than the one on Hillcrest, but this one stood at 2811 Live Oak from 1950 or ’51 until about 1976.

Below, the businesses in the 2800  block of Live Oak — between Texas and Liberty — from the 1956 city directory (click for larger image):

live-oak_1956directory

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Sources & Notes

Top photo from the book Historic Photos of Dallas in the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s by Rusty Williams (Nashville: Turner Publishing Company, 2010); from the collection of the Dallas Public Library.

Film footage of the tornado can be found in several videos on YouTube, here.

One of the newspaper reports on the tornado which captures the terror felt by those in the twister’s path and is well worth reading in the Dallas Morning News archives is “‘Roar of Thousand Trains’ Precedes the Killer Funnel” by James Ewell (DMN, April 3, 1957). Of particular interest is the story of T. M. Davisson who hid with a customer in a large empty steel tank on his property.

A previous Flashback Dallas post — “Tornado As Learning Tool — 1957” — is here.

Photo and clippings are larger when clicked.

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Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

Thank You, Preservation Dallas!

wilson-house_FB-page_cover-photoThe historic Wilson House, home of Preservation Dallas (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

I was invited by the nice people of Preservation Dallas to be part of their Summer Sizzlers Series and to present my first-ever lecture/talk: on how I write the blog and what resources I use. Somehow I managed to stand in front of a packed roomful of people (one of my greatest fears) and talk for 90 minutes (!) — and, surprisingly, I think my presentation was mostly coherent. I have to admit, a lot of it’s a hazy blur, but I was happy to find that it was an enjoyable experience. I had a great time, and it was nice to talk to so many people who are as interested in Dallas history as I am.

Thank you Irene Allender, David Preziosi, and Donovan Westover for inviting me and for hosting such a nice event!

preservation-dallas_logo_2016

preservation-dallas_summer-sizzlers

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Photo at top shows the beautiful Wilson House, built in 1899 at the corner of Swiss and Oak and current home of Preservation Dallas. Read more about the house here; read about the Wilson Block Historic District here. Take a virtual Google Street View tour of the wonderful two blocks’ worth of historic houses here. (Photo from the Preservation Dallas Facebook page.)

After the lecture, I had several people ask about the PowerPoint 2016 presentation I’d made. This was the first time I’d ever used PowerPoint, and it worked really well for showing many (MANY!) photographs to the audience. For those of you who came up and asked me about it, the very, very well done YouTube tutorial I used to teach myself PowerPoint is here. It’s in 10 segments — about 3 hours in all — you might not need everything in it, but I found it very helpful.

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Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Dallas Fire Stations — 1901

fire-dept_engine-co-3_gaston-and-college_1901Fire horse in Old East Dallas relaxing between calls (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

A few turn-of-the-century photos of Dallas’ fire stations, from a 1901 photographic annual. These seven firehouses were built between 1882 and 1894. One of these buildings is, miraculously, still standing on McKinney Avenue, in the heart of Uptown.

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At the top, Engine Co. No. 3, at Gaston and College Avenues. In service: January, 1892. Equipment: an Ahrens Steamer, capacity 750 gallons per minute, and a Cooney Hose Carriage. See it on a 1905 Sanborn map here; see the present location (Gaston and Hall) here. (And since I just used it a few days ago, here’s a 1921 Sanborn map, showing Mill Creek running right through the property.)

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fire-dept_central-station_main-harwood_1901

Above, Central Fire Station, Main and Harwood Streets. In service: October, 1887. Equipment: a double-sixty-gallon Champion Chemical Engine and a City Hook and Ladder Truck. See it on a 1905 Sanborn map here; see the present location here (the site of the old City Hall/Municipal Building).

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fire-dept_mckinney-leonard_engine-co-1_1901

Engine Co. No. 1, McKinney Avenue and Leonard. Equipment: an Ahrens Steamer, 750 gallons per minute, and a Cooney Hose Carriage. In service: August, 1894. See it on a 1905 Sanborn map here; see the present location here. NOTE: This is the only one of these firehouses still standing. I wrote about it here.

UPDATE: Well, sort of. Thanks to a comment on Facebook, I researched this station a bit more and found that it was rebuilt and modernized at the end of 1909 — using materials from the original building seen above, built on the same plot of land. So instead of being 122 years old, the building on McKinney today is a mere 106 years old.

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fire-dept_commerce-hawkins_engine-co-2_1901

Engine Co. No. 2, Commerce and Hawkins Streets. In service: January, 1882. Equipment: an Ahrens Steamer, capacity 750 gallons per minute, and a Cooney Hose Carriage. See it on a 1905 Sanborn map here; see a shot-in-the-dark guess at a present location here.

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fire-dept_ervay-kelly_hose-co-2_1901

Hose Co. No. 2 and Chemical Co. No. 2, Ervay Street and Kelly Avenue. In service: September, 1894. Equipment: a Cooney Hose Carriage and double-sixty-gallon Champion Chemical Engine. See it on a 1905 Sanborn map here; see the present location here (right behind where the word “Cedars”).

fire-dept_bryan-hawkins_hook-and-ladder-1_1901

Hose Co. No. 1 and Hook and Ladder Co. No. 1, Bryan and Hawkins Streets. In service: January, 1893. Equipment: Preston Aerial Truck with 75-foot extension ladder, and a Cooney Hose Carriage. See it on a 1905 Sanborn map here; see the approximate present location here.

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fire-dept_commerce-akard_engine-co-4_1901

Engine Co. No. 4, Commerce and Akard Streets, next door to the City Hall. In service: August, 1894. Equipment: an Ahrens Steamer, capacity 1,100 gallons per minute, and a Cooney Hose Carriage. See it on a 1905 Sanborn map here; see the present location here (just out of frame at the right was the City Hall; the block is now the site of the Adolphus Hotel).

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city-hall_1901_fire-dept-annual_portal

City Hall, Commerce and Akard Streets, now the location of the Adolphus Hotel. Half of the shorter building to the left housed the police department and Engine Co. No. 4.

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The “Historical” page from the book (click to read).

fire-dept-hist_dallas-fire-dept-annual_1901_portal

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Since there is no sign of the actual equipment in these photos, here’s what horse-drawn steam engines (Ahrens steamers) looked like at this time. (Photo from the Wisconsin Historical Society).

fire-steam-engine_wisconsin-hist-soc

UPDATE: I found this photo on Flickr, showing equipment from those early days being driven through the streets of Dallas during a fire prevention parade.

fire-department_pumper_flickr_coltera

UPDATE: Lo and behold, a photo from 1900 of Old Tige, the 600 gallons-per-minute steam pumper, built in 1884, which was in service with the Dallas Fire Department until 1921. (Old Tige can be seen in the Firefighters Museum across from Fair Park.) Found at the Portal to Texas History.

old-tige_1900_fire-dept-bk_1931_portal

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Sources & Notes

Photos by Clifton Church, from the Dallas Fire Department Annual, 1901, which can be viewed in its entirety on the Portal to Texas History, here.

A contemporary map of Dallas (ca. 1898) can be viewed on the Portal to Texas History site, here.

More Flashback Dallas posts on historic Dallas firehouses can be found here.

All photos larger when clicked.

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Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

Mrs. Hartgraves’ Cafe, and Bonnie & Clyde Earning Paychecks on Swiss Avenue

swiss-circle-front_070516The Swiss Circle building, 2016 (click for larger image) / Photo: Paula Bosse

by Paula Bosse

Bonne and Clyde were famous for being from West Dallas, but each actually spent a good amount of time in East Dallas. Working. Earning an honest living. Bonnie worked as a waitress, and Clyde worked in a mirror and glass company. Both worked in establishments on Swiss Avenue, though probably at different times. They hadn’t met yet, but it’s interesting to know they worked at businesses only a few blocks apart: Hartgraves Cafe was at 3308 Swiss, and United Mirror and Glass was at 2614 Swiss. Both buildings are still standing.

The Hartgraves Cafe (the name of which is always misspelled in historical accounts as Hargrave’s Cafe — even by Bonnie and Clyde enthusiasts) was in a curved building at the corner of Swiss and College (it is now at the corner of Swiss and Hall). 50-something-year-old Mrs. Alcie Hartgraves (her first name usually appeared in directories as “Elsie,” sometimes as “Alice”) opened the restaurant a few months after her husband, Ben, had died in 1923. It lasted until late 1930 or early 1931. (All clippings and photos are larger when clicked.)

1928-directory_hartgraves1928 Dallas directory

1929-directorySwiss Avenue between College Avenue and Floride, 1928 directory

According to Bonnie and Clyde histories, Bonnie worked there as a teenaged waitress with an absent husband, from 1928 to early 1929. According to one woman who worked at the Yates Laundry, just across from the cafe’s back door, Bonnie was a very nice person. Here, in a 1972 oral history, Rose Myers — who worked at the Yates Laundry for 25 years — remembers Bonnie from those days at Mrs. Hartgraves’ cafe:

hartgraves-yates_reminiscences
From the book Reminiscences

The laundry is long gone, but here’s what the back side of the building Bonnie worked in looks like today.

swiss-circle_back_070516Photo: Paula Bosse

And here’s a Coca-Cola ghost sign, painted on the end of the building that faces Hall.

swiss-circle_coke-ghost-sign_070516Photo: Paula Bosse

The Bonnie Parker connection is about the only reason people know about this odd little building in Old East Dallas. From looking through Dallas street directories, it appears that this building was built in 1915 or 1916 as a retail strip which, until Mrs. Hartgraves left, usually contained three or four businesses. The question is: why was it shaped like that? Many people think it was a streetcar stop, the cars using the circle as a place to turn around, but old maps showing streetcar routes from this period don’t show cars going down this part of Swiss. Below, a detail from a 1919 map, with Swiss and College streets in red. Streetcar tracks on Swiss turn left at Texas and then right on Live Oak, completely bypassing the circle area. (Another handy map of old streetcar routes laid over a present-day Google map can be found here.)

swiss-circle_1919-map
1919 map detail, via UNT

There’s a great view of the area in the 1921 Sanborn map here (with a different angle here). It may just be that the building was built to take advantage of/conform to the odd jog that Swiss Avenue takes in front of it. Here’s an aerial view from the recent past.

swiss-circle_bing-birdseye
Bing Maps

Our own teensy and unspectacular Royal Crescent! (You know what they say — “Everything’s bigger in Bath….”)

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But what about Clyde? Clyde worked at a mirror and glass company four-tenths of a mile west. Here’s an ad from 1928 (the same year Bonnie was working at Hartgraves).

united-mirror-glass_1928-diectory-ad_texashideout
via Bonnie & Clyde’s Hideout

Charles “Chili” Blatney worked with Clyde at United Glass and Mirror. In the Dallas Morning News article “He Helps Dallas to See Itself” by David Hawkins (DMN, March 17, 1970), Hawkins wrote: “Blatney remembers him as the friend he was: The little guy who always wore a hat and who would jerk it off and beat the floor with it in merriment when a good joke was told. […] ‘I guess I was surprised to see him turn real bad,’ [said Blatney].”

The building still stands, almost unrecognizable.

So, yeah, East Dallas was the stomping grounds of Bonnie and Clyde, back when they were living paycheck-to-paycheck and before they had begun their short-lived life of crime.

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Sources & Notes

Photos of the Swiss Circle building taken by me when I stumbled across it yesterday. I knew what it was when I saw it, but I didn’t really know much about it, other than the Bonnie connection. The building is currently vacant, currently for lease, and currently a weird shade of green. It’s a great space and a cool building. The back side is FANTASTIC!

The surname of the property owner (or property manager) is rather unbelievably … Dunaway.

The passage quoting Rose Myers, who worked at the Yates Laundry, is from the book Reminiscences: A Glimpse of Old East Dallas.

A discussion of this building can be found on the Phorum discussion board, here.

Other Flashback Dallas  posts on Bonnie and Clyde can be found here.

Click everything. See bigger images!

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Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

“Reminiscences: A Glimpse of Old East Dallas”

swiss-ave_ca-1950_reminiscencesSwiss Avenue, about 1950… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

(This post has been edited, as the book is no longer available for purchase — all 100-plus copies have sold! Thanks to everyone who bought copies and helped raise money for the Lakewood Library!)

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I’m not sure I’ve ever used this blog to direct a potentially interested audience to something they might want to buy, but I think this is something that warrants mention.

I encourage interested parties to track down a copy of the wonderful  book Reminiscences: A Glimpse of Old East Dallas, edited by Gerald D. Saxon and published in 1983 by the Dallas Public Library.

reminiscences_saxon_front-cover

It contains over 150 historic photos of East Dallas and environs (most of which I’d never seen before) and more than 20 oral histories of the area from older folks who grew up or lived in Lakewood, Munger Place, Junius Heights, and other Old East Dallas neighborhoods (the oral histories are from the Lakewood Community Library Oral History Collection, which one may listen to at the downtown library or at the Lakewood Branch).

reminiscences-book_open

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The photo of Swiss Avenue at the top (with a closer-than-I-always-think downtown in the distance) is one of the great photos in the book. Another is the one below, the caption of which reads: “The 7100 block of Lakewood Boulevard in 1932 looking east to White Rock Lake. (Courtesy of Dines and Kraft, Builders-Developers.)” It’s weird seeing the lake at the end of the street. To see what it looks like today, click here

lakewood-blvd_1932_reminiscences

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And this photo — taken around 1938 — is one of my favorites. It shows the Lakewood Shopping Center, with the old Lakewood Library just right of center. The Junius streetcar tracks are at the right. The empty space at the left is where the Lakewood Theater will be built.

lakewood-shopping-ctr_streetcar-tracks_ca1938_reminiscences

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Sources & Notes

All black and white photos are from the book; top photo is from the collection of the Dallas Public Library (“Bird’s-eye-view of Swiss Avenue,” DPL Call Number PA81-00043). The color has been adjusted. I love this book, but my only complaint is that the text and photos are printed in sepia-colored ink.

All photos are larger when clicked.

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Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

The Gateway to Junius Heights

junius-streetcar_junius-gates_DPL_sm
Welcome to Junius Heights! (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

If you’ve driven along Abrams Road, between, say, Beacon and the Lakewood Country Club, you’ve probably passed two tall stone pillars which stand across Abrams from one another, and you’ve probably asked yourself, “What are those things?”

These things:

junius-heights-pillars_google-street-viewGoogle Street View here

They were built as gateway markers to the Junius Heights neighborhood in about 1909 — they’re just not in their original location anymore. They were originally on either side of Tremont Street, half a block east of Ridgeway. They’ve been moved, but they’re only a stone’s throw from their original site.

In 1973, when the city was in the midst of widening and connecting Abrams with Columbia, the 30-foot pillars were situated on a roadway which was going to be demolished. The pillars would have been destroyed were it not for the efforts of a small group of preservation-minded neighborhood residents who managed to raise enough money to have the historic East Dallas structures dismantled and moved. It took a while for the money to be fully raised, but the pillars were placed on their new sites in 1975.

The thing that is most interesting about the saving of these columns is that this took place at a time when this part of East Dallas — Swiss Avenue included — was on something of a downslide. Many of the houses were in disrepair and many residents had moved out, seeking newer homes and better (i.e. newer) neighborhoods. Thankfully, in the early 1970s people began to focus on historic preservation, and the area began to make a slow comeback. Thanks to the preservation efforts of these people, their persistence in gaining “historic district” status for Junius Heights and Munger Place, and their successful fights on zoning issues, the areas surrounding these stone pillars are once again highly desirable neighborhoods, full of homeowners who are good caretakers and thoughtful preservationists.

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When researching this post, it was very difficult to determine when the pillars had been built. For some reason 1917 seemed to be a popular guess, and it was repeated in several articles I came across. But it was actually earlier. The earliest photo I’ve found (and I was pretty excited to have stumbled across it!) was one that first appeared in a November, 25, 1909 ad for a new development called “Top o’ Junius Heights.” (All photos and clippings are larger when clicked.)

ad-junius-heights_dmn_112509-det

Here’s the full ad:

junius-heights_dmn_112509Dallas Morning News, Nov. 25, 1909

Note how similar this entrance looks to the entrance to Fair Park from the same time:

fair-park-entrance_1910_flickr_coltera

The same photo was used in another ad a few months later. If you live in Junius Heights, perhaps you can find your house in the diagram:

ad-junius-heights_dmn_050810DMN, May 8, 1910

The pillars were actually built as a gateway — the columns connected at the top, spanning Tremont. Lots in Junius Heights first began to be sold in 1906; in 1909, the second addition — called “Top o’ Junius Heights” — began to be offered for sale. The opening of the second addition appears to be when the gateway might have been built. Not only did this gate serve as an entrance to Junius Heights, it actually separated the two additions (see clippings below). It was also a handy landmark, and for many years it stood at the end of the Junius Heights streetcar line (which ended at Tremont and Ridgeway).

Below, part of an ad for Top o’ Junius Heights that appeared in The Dallas Morning News on Nov. 28, 1909, in which the “big stone gate entrance” is mentioned:

junius-heights-ad_dmn_112809_det

Part of another ad for Top o’ Junius Heights:

junius-heights-gates_dmn_050110_ad-det
DMN, May 1, 1910

And part of an ad for just plain ol’ Junius Heights, mentioning that the gate can be seen as a boundary:

junius-heights-gates_dmn_090410_ad-detDMN, Sept. 4, 1910

Here’s a detail from a 1922 Sanborn map which might make the location of the gate a little easier to visualize (and, again, these streets no longer look like this): the blue line represents the streetcar line (which ran all the way to Oak Cliff — the photo at the top of this post shows the Hampton streetcar), and the red circles are about where the pillars were originally planted. (The full map is here.)

junius-heights-gate_1922-sanborn_sheet-394

It was pretty exciting finding that photograph from 1909, but it was also pretty exciting seeing a photograph posted in the Dallas History Facebook group by Jerry Guyer which shows a dreamy-looking view of the gate as seen from the yard of the home owned by his great-uncle, A. P. Davis, who lived at 5831 Tremont between 1911/12 and 1921/22 (see what the house looked like back then, here).  The house was on the northwest corner lot of Tremont and Ridgeway (it is still standing), only half a block away from the gate. This detail of that photo is fantastic!

junius-gates_ca-1920s_guyer_dallas-history-fb

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Another very early photo of the pillars/columns/gateway can be seen in this photo. (I’m afraid it’s a little odd-looking as I took a photo of it on the wall of The Heights restaurant in Lakewood and lights are reflecting off the picture. Please check this large photo out in person. Not only are there other great historical photos on the walls, but the coffee is great.)

junius-heights-gateway_the-heights-restaurant

Here is the same photo as the one at the top. Note that this “gateway” has actual iron gates and that there are smaller secondary pillars on the opposite side of the sidewalks. Also note that the pillar on the right actually extends into the narrow street.

junius-streetcar_junius-gates_DPL

And here’s another view I just came across (I’ve added so much since I originally wrote this post!), from a DVD called Dallas Railway & Terminal — this from 1951 or 1952, showing the Junius streetcar coming through the “gates” (sorry for the low-res):

junius-gates__early-1950s_streetcar-video

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Sources & Notes

Top photo is from the Texas/Dallas History & Archives Division, Dallas Public Library (with special thanks to M C Toyer); DPL’s call number for this photograph is PA87-1/19-59-193.

Photo of the view of the gate from the home of Andrew P. Davis is from the collection of Jerry Guyer, used with permission.

More info on Junius Heights and the saving of the pillars can be found on the Preservation Dallas site, here.

A few Dallas Morning News articles on the fight to save the pillars:

  • “Residents Try Saving Pillars From the Past” by Lyke Thompson (DMN, May 30, 1973, with photo of pillar)
  • “Columns Come Down” (DMN, June 2, 1973, with photo)
  • “Cash Raised for Pillars” (DMN, June 7, 1973)
  • “Cornerstone Placed In East Dallas Area” by Michael Fresques (DMN, July 29, 1973, no photo, but description of pillars lying in pieces, awaiting funds to reconstruct them)
  • “Junius Dedicates Columns” by Doug Domeier (DMN, June 16, 1975, pillars finally relocated, with photo of preservationist Dorothy Savage standing beneath one of the pillars)

East Dallas and Old East Dallas are fiercely proud of their history and fight for preservation issues.

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July, 1975

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It’s a bit difficult for me to visualize where these pillars were originally. Here’s a 1952 map showing Tremont with the approximate location of the columns before they were moved.

junius-heights-columns_1952-mapsco
1952 Mapsco

And here’s a present-day map, showing the post-Abrams extension. I’m not sure exactly where those pillars originally stood, but it was near the intersection of Tremont and Slaughter seems to have been between Ridgeway and Glasgow (location edited, thanks to Terri Raith’s helpful comments below) — this location is circled in red on the map below; the locations of the pillars today are in blue.

junius-heights-columns_google

All images are larger when clicked.

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Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

The Union Depot Hotel Building, Deep Ellum — 1898-1968

union-depot-hotel_1909_uta-detThe old Union Depot Hotel, about 1909 (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Above, we see the hotel known originally as the Union Depot Hotel, built in 1898 across from the very busy old Union Depot, at the intersection of two major rail lines: the Houston & Texas Central (the H&TC, which ran north-south) and the Texas & Pacific (the T&P, which ran east-west). The tracks crossed at the intersection of Central and Pacific — streets named after the two railroads — in the area east of downtown we now call Deep Ellum. The hotel was on the southwest corner of that intersection.

The large, two-story hotel (which also housed a popular cafe and bar) was built by William S. Skelton — more commonly known as Wiley Skelton — to cash in on the large number of travelers coming to Dallas via the bustling passenger depot right across the street. When it opened, it was charging a hefty two bucks a day (the equivalent of about $60.00 in today’s money) — a large-ish sum in 1899, but … location, location, location. This two-dollar-a-day rate to stay at Skelton’s hotel was the same as the base rate of Dallas’ ritziest, priciest hotels, The Windsor and The Oriental. How could Skelton’s “wrong side of the tracks” hotel charge similar rates as the city’s most elegant hotels? Convenience, convenience, convenience. The Union Depot Hotel could not have been more convenient to weary travelers unless it had been located inside the depot.

union-depot-hotel_houston-post_012599Houston Post, Jan. 25, 1899

Skelton was a popular and successful businessman (and noted saloon pugilist) who was known far and wide for his substantial physical bulk. He was a founding member of the city’s “fat men’s club” and was reported to be the heaviest man in the city. When he died suddenly at the age of 45 (probably not a huge surprise, as his obituary mentioned that his weight had, at one time, reached 438 pounds), his new hotel had been open only weeks (perhaps only days).

skelton_dmn_011699Dallas Morning News, Jan. 16, 1899

His unexpected death threw the running of the hotel into confusion. His brother (another famed “fighting fat man”) took over the business side of its operations and occasionally placed ads in the paper seeking a hard-to-find buyer.

union-depot-hotel_1901_portal1901 ad

union-depot-hotel_dmn_111602DMN, Nov. 16, 1902

Eventually the hotel was sold, and it went through several owners and name changes over the years. Then, in 1916, a major catastrophe struck: brand new Union Station, which was waaaay on the other side of town, opened, consolidating passenger rail service to one depot, resulting in the shuttering of most of the city’s smaller depots. Location, location, location wasn’t such a great thing for the old Skelton hotel after this.

The hotel went through many changes over the years, but after the closing (and later razing) of the old Union Depot, it was on a general, inevitable, slide downward. By the time it was demolished in 1968 — when large swaths along Central Avenue were leveled to facilitate highway construction — the building was in disrepair and, apparently, long-vacant. It stood for 70 years.

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Below is a photo taken from Elm Street in 1908 or 1909, when the hotel (seen at the top left) was owned by Charles S. Conerty and named the Conerty Hotel (you can see the name on two signs, but you have to really zoom in to make them out). Conerty, an Irishman who had previously run bars, owned the hotel very briefly. By May of 1909, plagued with legal troubles stemming from his being charged with selling liquor on a Sunday, Conerty sold the hotel (which he seems to have been running as a boarding house), stating in his classified ad that he was “leaving city.” (He did not leave the city.) In 1910, with a new owner, the hotel was once again known as the Union Depot Hotel.

Back to the photo. Across Central Avenue from the hotel is the old Union Depot, where there was always a lot going on. Let’s look at the photo a little more closely. (Click photos to see larger images.)

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Just seven or eight years after this photo was taken, all that human traffic was gone.

In the fall of 1968, having been vacant for years and counting down its final hours, Dallas Morning News writer Doug Domeier wrote about the old run-down hotel which had long outlived the passenger depot it had been built to serve (see the article “Demolition Leveling Once-Noisy Deep Elm,” DMN, Oct. 19, 1968). Domeier’s entertaining article about those early days includes memories of Lizzie Mae Bass, who once worked in the hotel’s cafe as a waitress and remembers when “horses back[ed] away in fright when a locomotive pulled in at the lively intersection linking the Houston and Texas Central with the Texas & Pacific.”

And today? You’d never EVER suspect that that patch of empty land at the edge of Deep Ellum was ever occupied by one of the city’s busiest train depots.

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So where was it? Get a good visual idea of how things were laid out in the Sanborn map from 1905, here. Below is a street map that shows where the hotel was (red star) and where the train depot was (blue star). These days? Depressing. See it here (the view is looking north from Elm — the hotel would have been under the overpass, the train station straight ahead).

union-depot-hotel_1952-mapsco1952 Mapsco

It’s interesting to note that during the heyday of the Union Depot, the west side of the block of Central Ave. which ran between Elm and Pacific was the only block in this area not filled with black-owned businesses or residences. When the depot shut down and white-owned businesses moved out, the block began to fill with popular African-American establishments. It’s also interesting (to me, anyway!) to realize that the Gypsy Tea Room of the 1930s was just a few steps to the left of the hotel in the top photo. It took me forever to try to figure out where the Gypsy Tea Room had been — I wrote about it here.

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Sources & Notes

Top photo is a detail of a larger photo, from the Squire Haskins Photography, Inc. Collection, University of Texas at Arlington Libraries; it is accessible here. The same photograph is shown in full farther down the post — this copy is from the DeGolyer Library, Central University Libraries, Southern Methodist University, and it is accessible here. The quality of both photos makes it difficult to zoom in on them with much clarity, but both sites offer very large images to view.

As mentioned above, an entertaining Dallas Morning News article full of historical info about the area around the depot is highly recommended: “Demolition Leveling Once-Noisy Deep Elm” by Doug Domeier (DMN, Oct. 19, 1968). (I’m not sure why the hotel is referred to as the “Grand Central Station Hotel” throughout — just substitute “Union Depot Hotel” whenever you come across that incorrect name.) The article also has a few paragraphs about the Harlem Theater which was also about to be torn down as part of what Domeier described as the “brutal change” then affecting Deep Ellum.

See a great early-’20s photo of the hotel building (the Tip-Top Tailors moved in around 1922) in the book Deep Ellum: The Other Side of Dallas by Alan Govenar and Jay Brakefield, here (the view is from Pacific to the southwest).

A related Flashback Dallas post — “The Old Union Depot in East Dallas: 1897-1935” — can be read here.

All images larger when clicked.

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Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

On the Grounds of the Ursuline Academy and Convent

ursuline-convent_cook-colln_degolyer_smuBetween classes… (click for much larger image)

by Paula Bosse

I love this photo of Ursuline girls at the fantastically ornate school and convent in Old East Dallas. See more photos of the school, convent, and grounds in my post “Nicholas J. Clayton’s Neo-Gothic Ursuline Academy,” here.

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Sources & Notes

Photo by Clogenson, from a postcard in the George W. Cook Dallas/Texas Image Collection, DeGolyer Library, Central University Libraries, Southern Methodist University; it is accessible here. I have un-colorized it.

See the scale of the Ursuline property on a 1922 Sanborn map, here. It is now mostly a parking lot, across from the Dallas Theological Seminary; a sad 21st-century view of what the former campus property looks like is here.

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Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

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