Flashback : Dallas

A Miscellany: History, Ads, Pop Culture

Category: Stemmons Corridor

Stemmons Tower, Downtown Skyline — 1963

stemmons-tower_night_squire-haskins_041963_UTAPhoto by Squire Haskins, 1963 (UTA Libraries, Special Collections)

by Paula Bosse

Another fantastic photo from premier Dallas photographer, Squire Haskins: the new Stemmons Tower (East), with the Dallas skyline serving as a dramatic nighttime backdrop. (See this photo really big at the UTA website, here.)

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Sources & Notes

“Stemmons Tower with downtown Dallas, Texas in the background; photo taken at night,” by Squire Haskins, taken on April 19, 1963; from the Squire Haskins, Inc. Photography Collection, University of Texas at Arlington Libraries, Special Collections (more info on this photo can be found here).

The first of several “towers,” construction of Trammel Crow’s Stemmons Tower East began in the summer of 1961 and was open and leasing by December, 1962. This office complex was part of the grand vision of the Trinity Industrial District and the “Stemmons corridor” (click ad below to see a much larger image).

stemmons-tower_jan-1963Jan., 1963

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Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

The Cabana Motor Hotel of Dallas

cabana-motor-hotel_portal_postmarked-1967“Elegant and luxurious…” (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

The Cabaña Motor Hotel is remembered mostly for being where the Beatles stayed when they came to Dallas in 1964 and for being a hotel with high hopes but which fizzled out fairly quickly. …But mostly for being where the Beatles stayed. When the Cabaña opened in 1963 on Stemmons Freeway, it was a big deal. It was swanky and even had a very show-bizzy lounge. Celebrities stayed there. The Beatles stayed there.

cabana-motor-hotel_portal_info

The Dallas Cabaña was actually the third in a proposed chain of hotels, following locations in Atlanta and Palo Alto. It even had some Hollywood star-power attached to it: Doris Day’s then-husband Marty Melcher was an investor in the company (turned out it was Doris’ money, and she wasn’t thrilled that he was investing so much of her money in this chain of hotels).

It was fab for a while — but the high point really was John, Paul, George, and Ringo. Before the ’60s had ended, the place was shuttered and mired in litigation. Melcher had died and left Doris $500,000 in debt. Ownership changed hands several times over the years, and each time, more and more of its original hep luster was lost. The building has never really recovered. For a few years it was a rather bizarre site for a minimum-security jail! In recent months it was announced that it has been acquired by the company that has recently renovated the long-moribund Statler Hilton — so there’s hope! It needs a lot of work, but it might actually turn out to be cool again.

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Sources & Notes

The postcard at the top is from the Texas History Collection, provided by Dallas Heritage Village to the Portal to Texas History, where I found it, here.

I have to admit that I’ve never really been a fan of this building until I saw this postcard. It’s like a Dallas version of a subdued Vegas hotel.

For more history of the Cabaña (…whenever I hear reporters in historic footage pronouncing the “n” in “cabana” with that tilde, it’s a bit jarring…), read the informative article “Lost + Found: Cabana Motor Hotel” by Preservation Dallas Executive Director David Preziosi on the AIA Dallas website, here. It’s got some great photos.

Images larger when clicked.

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Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

“Dallas Skyline: Late Afternoon From Stemmons Freeway” by Ed Bearden — 1959

bearden_dallas-skyline-late-afternoon-from-stemmons-freeway_litho_1959Skyline and power plant… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

I think the 1950s Dallas skyline is my favorite Dallas skyline. This lithograph by Dallas artist Ed Bearden shows all the usual superstars — the Southland Life Building, the Medical Arts Building, the Republic Bank Building, the Mercantile, the Magnolia — but it also shows a building that doesn’t often find its way into artistic renderings of the city’s skyline: the Dallas Power & Light plant (which was demolished several years ago and is now the site of the American Airlines Center). It looks really great here, with its familiar twin steamstacks and its oasis-like “spray pond” shimmering in the foreground. In fact, the presence of the DP&L plant is my favorite element of this artwork. The beauty of that workhorse industrial plant gives those fancy skyscrapers a run for their money!

This same view from the Stemmons of today looks like — brace yourself — this.

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Sources & Notes

Lithograph by Ed Bearden; image from an auction listing on the Live Auctioneers site, here. (Thanks, “Not Bob,” for alerting me to this great artwork!)

See another Bearden skyline seen from a similar vantage point, here.

More on the cool-looking DP&L plant and its twin smokestacks can be found in these Flashback Dallas posts:

  • “DP&L’s Twin Smokestacks,” here
  • “A New Turbine Power Station for Big D — 1907,” here

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Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved

Empire Central and Its Fabulous Empire Club

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

by Paula Bosse

“Empire Central.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

empire-central_dmn_101859_empire-club_det

empire-central_dmn_101859_empire-club_pool_det

empire-central_dmn_101859_map_det

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

empire-central_dmn_101859_empire-club
Oct., 1959

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

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

empire-central_183-construction_1960_dallas-freeways-site

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empire-central_1958_ebay
1958 ad

empire-central_dmn_011958_ad
Jan., 1958

empire-central_google
Google Maps

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Sources & Notes

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

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

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

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

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

Think it should be bigger? Click it!

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Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

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