Flashback : Dallas

A Miscellany: History, Ads, Pop Culture

Category: Old East Dallas

The Buell Planing Mill — 1901

buell-planing-mill_dallas-fire-dept-annual_1901_portalPews a specialty… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

The Buell Planing Mill — originally the Buell & Connelly Planing Mill — was established in 1886 by F. T. Buell, a Canadian who came to Dallas as a teenager in 1877. The factory (seen above in an ad from 1901) was built in 1890 just west of the H&TC Railway tracks, at the southwest corner of Hawkins and Montezuma (a street which no longer exists but which ran between Bryan and Live Oak). The mill can also be seen in this ad from 1896:

buell_dallas-directory_18961896 Dallas city directory

The wood frame building burned down in a massive fire in November, 1910, and a larger (concrete) factory was built on the same site (an approximate view of the mill’s location as seen today — just to the east of and slightly behind Crozier Tech — can be seen here). The company later became the Buell Lumber & Manufacturing Company in 1918, moved a few times (it left its Hawkins and Montezuma location for Hawkins and Swiss in the late 1940s), eventually became Buell & Co., and was still in business at least into the 1980s.

Franklin Thomas Buell (1859-1938)


Sources & Notes

Ad from the Dallas Fire Department Annual, 1901, from the collection of the Dallas Firefighters Museum; it can be viewed on UNT’s Portal to Texas History site here.

To get an idea of what the surrounding neighborhood looked around the time that photo was taken, see the 1899 Sanborn map here; the 1921 Sanborn map shows the larger post-fire operation, here. Note the neighboring “Central High School”/Bryan Street High School (known more familiarly as Crozier Tech High School); over the years, thousands of high school students walked past (or might even have lived across from) this mill and lumber yard.

Read about the massive fire of Nov. 30, 1910 that destroyed many of the businesses and houses that surrounded the Buell mill in the Dallas Morning News account “East Dallas Fire Damage $75,000; Near Conflagration at Live Oak and Central Destroys Parts of Four Blocks” (DMN, Dec. 1, 1910) here. The Buell mill was deemed a “total loss” with damages amounting to more than $20,000 (equivalent to over half a million dollars in today’s money). Ads from several of the businesses affected were placed on the page this story appeared on. Below, the Buell ad.


All images are larger when clicked.


Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.


Even Lower Than Lowest Greenville

greenville-ave_lindell_bryan-pkwy_sears-parking-lot_squire-haskins_UTAWhere Greenville begins to peter out… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

The photo above shows the lowest part of Greenville Avenue, between Lindell and Bryan Parkway, almost down to where Greenville turns into Munger. It was taken from the parking lot of the Sears store at Ross and Henderson (a shopping center now anchored by a Fiesta grocery store), a place where I spent many hours as a child. I have vivid memories of that store, especially the intense smell of popcorn that hit you like a buttery thunderclap as you entered from the parking lot.

I love that fact that a couple of the buildings seen in this photo (including the Munger Place Church, seen partially at the far right) are still standing.

That cool Fina station seen in the top photo — at the corner of Greenville and Bryan Parkway — has been “modified” somewhat under the thatched hut roof of the Palapas Seafood Bar, but it’s definitely still recognizable. And Fina’s next-door neighbor, the Minute Service Garage, is still alive, too, looking a little less garage-y these days, but still looking pretty good.

greenville_google-street-view_feb-2017Google Street View, Feb. 2017

Then and now:


Keep on keeping on, Greenville Avenue!


Top photo by Squire Haskins from the Squire Haskins Photography, Inc. collection, University of Texas at Arlington Libraries, Special Collections; more info on the photo is here — click the thumbnail on that page to see a very large image.

More Squire Haskins photographs taken around the perimeter of this Sears store (which opened in September, 1947) are here, here, here, and here.

Click pictures to see larger images.


Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

1710 Hall: The Rose Room/The Empire Room/The Ascot Room — 1942-1975

rose-ballroom_aug-1942_cook-collection_degolyer_smuThe Rose Ballroom, 1942 (click to see larger image)

by Paula Bosse

The photo above was taken at the Rose Ballroom at 1710 Hall Street (a few steps off Ross Avenue) in August, 1942. 1710 Hall was the home to a string of very popular black nightclubs: the Rose Ballroom (1942-1943), the Rose Room (1943-1951), the Empire Room (1951-1969) (not to be confused with the nightclub of the same name in the Statler Hilton), and the Ascot Room (1969-1975). There seems to have been some overlap of owners and/or managers and/or booking agents, but they all appear to have been very popular “joints” (as described by Freddie King’s daughter), where both big-name touring musicians as well as popular local acts played. Icons T-Bone Walker and Ray Charles were regulars (there are stories of Ray Charles sleeping on the Empire Room’s stage during the time he was living in Dallas in the ’50s). Everybody seems to have played there. Below, a quote from Wanda King, talking about her father, blues legend Freddie King — from the book Texas Blues: The Rise of a Contemporary Sound by Alan Govenar (all clippings and photos are larger when clicked):


Some of the acts scheduled to appear in early 1946 at the Rose Room were Erskine Hawkins, Louis Armstrong, Lionel Hampton, Buddy Johnson, and Andy Kirk. …Wow.

In the days of segregation, when Dallas police threatened to shut the club down if the owner allowed white patrons to mix with black patrons, the club scheduled “white only” nights where Caucasian audiences could see their favorite non-Caucasian performers. (Before these special club nights, which seem to have started in 1945, a revue would be taken “on the road” — over to the Majestic Theatre on Elm Street — to perform live onstage.)



The photo up there at the top showed the audience — here’s the stage (1946 photo of the E F Band by Marion Butts, from the Marion Butts Collection, Dallas Pubic Library):


And here’s what the stage looked like when the club became the Empire Room (onstage is Joe Johnson in a 1954 photo by R. C. Hickman, taken from a great article about Hickman in Texas Highways, here):


One thing that probably helped set the Rose Room/Empire Room apart from a lot of the other clubs in town at this time was the man who booked the shows — and who booked acts all over the area: John Henry Branch. The guy knew everyone. Here he is in an ad from 1947:


Aside from booking acts and musicians for black clubs, he also booked acts for white clubs — including Jack Ruby’s Carousel and Vegas clubs. In fact, Branch chatted with Ruby at the Empire Room the night before Ruby shot Oswald — Ruby had come in to check on a piano player Branch was booking for a gig at the Vegas Club in Oak Lawn. Branch supplied testimony to the Warren Report, and while it’s not all that riveting (because there wasn’t that much to tell), it’s still interesting to hear how Branch describes his own club and Ruby’s personality (“You can’t never tell about him — he’s a weird person.”) — you can read his testimony here.

I have to admit, I’d never heard of the Rose Room or the Empire Room before I saw the photo at the top of this post. I really missed out. So much fantastic music! And I missed it. It’s just another reminder that Dallas has an incredible music history.

rose-room_texas-blues_govenar-brakefieldfrom the Texas African American Photography Archive

1700 block of Hall Street, 1944-45 city directory

What’s at 1710 Hall these days? A vacant lot — soon to be developed, no doubt. Ross Avenue ain’t what it used to be….


Sources & Notes

Top photo from the George W. Cook Dallas/Texas Image Collection, DeGolyer Library, Central University Libraries, Southern Methodist University; more info on this photo is here. Someone has written this on the photo: “Aug. 42, Dallas, Rose Room” — in August, 1942 the club was known as the Rose Ballroom; it changed its name to the Rose Room in early 1943.

Wanda King quote is from the book Texas Blues: The Rise of a Contemporary Sound by Alan Govenar (College Station: Texas A & M University Press, 2008).

Rose Room ad featuring John Henry Branch is from the 1947-48 Dallas Negro City Directory (with thanks to Pat Lawrence!).

More about the hopping Hall Street area can be found in the Flashback Dallas post “Life on Hall Street — 1947,” here.

Click photos and clippings to see larger images.


Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

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.


mcclure-ad_dmn_0201521952 ad

Swiss & Cantegral, 1952 Mapsco


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.


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):

Dallas Morning News, Feb. 11, 1911

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

DMN, May 2, 1912


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.


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):



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.


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!




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.


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.


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.)



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).



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.



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.



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” is).


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.



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).



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.


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



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).


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.


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.



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.


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:

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.)

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.

Bing Maps

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


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).

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.


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!


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!)


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.


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).



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



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.



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.


Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.


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