Flashback : Dallas

A Miscellany: History, Ads, Pop Culture

Category: Parks

City Park Construction Work — 1941

city-park-construction_1941_david-roberts-photo“City Park, 1941” (click for huge image) / Collection of David Roberts

by Paula Bosse

This great family photo was sent in by reader David Roberts. It shows his grandfather, David Crockett (D.C.) McKay working on a construction crew. The reverse of the photo reads “City Park, 1941.” David has identified his grandfather as the man standing on the makeshift wooden bridge, just to the right of the cement mixer. I love this photograph!

City Park (now “Old” City Park), was Dallas’ first park, acquired in 1876. It became a popular (and beautiful) recreation area, and the adjacent Browder Springs was home to the city’s first waterworks. In 1936, City Park was briefly re-named “Sullivan Park” in honor of Dan F. Sullivan, the city’s first highly-accomplished Water Commissioner. But it was officially UN-re-named (or RE-re-named) and went back to being “City Park” again in May, 1941, because after 60 years of being known as City Park, the “Sullivan” thing just never caught on, and the two names were causing confusion. So the name was changed back.

So what construction was going on around City Park at the time this photo was taken? In 1941, there were major improvements going on throughout the city’s park system, and City Park was one of the beneficiaries of an $800,000 city-wide improvements package. ALSO happening in 1941 was some Mill Creek storm sewer work — Mill Creek ran through the park and there had been ongoing work to its sewers since the ’30s. In January, 1941, The Dallas Morning News reported that a large construction contract was pending on a Mill Creek storm sewer “from Browder to Beaumont” — this may have been a bit beyond the actual park, though. I mention this only because the photo above appears to show construction of a large sewer in the City Park area.

On April 16, 1941 a short article ran in The Dallas Morning News about a fatal accident at a City Park construction site, perhaps the same site that DC McKay was working on — a construction worker named Henry Pilgrim was crushed when a bridge collapsed on him: “The accident was blamed on the weakened condition of the bridge due to rains and the weight of the workmen on it.”

Construction work is hard, sweaty, and dangerous. Mr. Roberts says his grandfather worked for the J. W. Slaughter Construction company, often on concrete culvert and drain projects.

“Some of my earliest memories of visiting his house in the evenings (early ’60s) was that you had to be quiet during the weather, because that forecast was how he knew if he had to work the next day.”

Mr. McKay, who was born in 1903, would have been in his 60s then! But hard construction work must have agreed with him, because DC McKay lived until the ripe age of 84.

Thank you so much for sharing your photo, David! It’s great to see Dallas infrastructure in the making!



Photograph from the personal collection of David Roberts, used with permission.

Sullivan Park postcard found on eBay.

A photo of D. C. McKay (1903-1987) and his wife, Opal McKay, is here.

Two pertinent articles from the Handbook of Texas: the history of Old City Park is here; the history of Browder Springs is here.


Copyright © 2015 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Reverchon Park Flyover

reverchon_aerial_squire-haskins_portalReverchon Park — photo by Squire Haskins (click for VERY large image)

by Paula Bosse

Another of photographer Squire Haskins’ fantastic aerial shots, this one taken over Reverchon Park, looking northeasterly: the Katy tracks are running up and down on the right side, what is present-day Harry Hines is at the bottom, squiggly Turtle Creek Blvd. runs up the middle from the park, Fairmount and Maple run across the photo near the top, and Hood St. runs along the very far left edge. What looks like a date of “6-13-56” is on the back of the photo.

A present-day map of the area, looking north (to zoom out or in, click here):


A couple of questions. What are the two large buildings in the crops below?

The first one is the large white building on property bounded by Fairmount, Enid, Turtle Creek and a street that no longer seems to exist (an extension of Brown?):


The second is on Maple, near Hood — across from the amphitheater in the park, where the Heritage Auctions building is now:


The top one appears to be a (large!) home (I’d love to know who owned it), but I’m not sure what the one at the bottom is. Anyone know? (UPDATE: Thanks to my mother for informing me that the building immediately above is the Bradford Memorial Hospital for Babies, which you can see and read about here.)


Photo by Squire Haskins, via the Portal to Texas History, here. (Back of photo is here.)

Map from Bing.

Most images larger when clicked.


Copyright © 2015 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Please Don’t Pull the Daisies

city-park_no-one-allowed-to-pull-flowersCity Park, 1909-ish (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Back when Old City Park was merely “City Park.” The sign at the bottom right reads: “WARNING: NO-ONE ALLOWED TO PULL FLOWERS.” Seems a bit brusque. Not even a “please.” Still, one best not.


Hand-colored postcard with an odd color palette, probably by Weichsel, around 1909.


Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Ferris Plaza Waiting Station — 1925-1950

railway-info-bldg_1926From The Electric Railway Journal, 1926 (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

I came across the odd image above whilst digitally thumbing through a 1926 issue of The Electric Railway Journal (as one does…) and wondered what it was. It was definitely something I’d never seen downtown. Turns out it was a combination information bureau, covered stop in which to buy tickets for and await the arrival of interurbans and streetcars, a place to purchase a snack, and a location of public toilets (or, more euphemistically, “comfort stations”). It was located at the eastern edge of Ferris Park along Jefferson Street (which is now Record Street), with the view above facing Union Station. It was intended to be a helpful, welcoming place where visitors who had just arrived by train could obtain information about the city, and it was also a pleasant place to wait for the mass transit cars to spirit them away to points beyond. With the lovely Ferris Plaza (designed by George Dahl in 1925) between it and the front of the Union Terminal, this was considered The Gateway to the City long before Dealey’s Triple Underpass was constructed. (Click photos and articles to see larger images.)


The “waiting station” was the brainchild of the Dallas Junior Chamber of Commerce which proposed the idea to the City of Dallas and, as it was to be built at the edge of a city park, the Park Board. The small (50 x 30) brick building — designed by Dallas architect J. A. Pitzinger — would cost $5,000 and would be paid for by funding from local businesses, including various transportation concerns (namely, the Northern Texas Traction Company). The “traction” companies would staff the information booth and sell tickets. The plans were accepted and permission was granted. Construction began in July, 1925, and the building was opened for waiting by October.

This improvement is the most recent of a number which have made of Ferris Plaza a beauty spot at the gateway of the city. Designed for a sunken garden, fringed with trees, the plaza is now adorned with a great fountain, illuminated with colored lighting at night, the gift of Royal A. Ferris. The new waiting station is in harmony with the general scheme of the plaza development, and combines beauty with utility. (Dallas Morning News, Sept. 20, 1925)

The little waiting station proved to be quite popular, and by the end of its first year the Northern Texas Traction Company (who operated interurban service between Dallas and Fort Worth) was very pleased, as interurban ticket sales at the station had become a solid source of company revenue. The Ferris Plaza station lasted a rather surprising 25 years. It was torn down in 1950, mainly because the interurbans had been taken out of service and there was no longer a need for it. Also, the park department was eager to get their park back and make it more “symmetrical.”

People would just have to wait somewhere else.


ferris-plaza-info-bureau_rendering_pitzinger_dmn_031625Architectural rendering by J. A. Pitzinger (DMN, March 16, 1925)

ferris-plaza-waiting-stn_dmn_092025Nearing completion (DMN, Sept. 20, 1925)

waiting-station_jefferson-hotel_degolyer-lib_SMU_croppedDeGolyer Library, SMU (cropped)

railway-info-bldg_1926_text_smThe Electric Railway Journal (Nov. 6, 1926)

ferris-plaza_union-station_dpl_1936Union Station, 1936 — view from the “waiting station” (Dallas Public Library)


ferris-plaza_aerial_smu_c1949-det1949 aerial view, showing “waiting station” just above plaza’s circular fountain


Sources & Notes

Top photo from The Electric Railway Journal, Nov. 6, 1926.

Very early photo and description of Ferris Plaza is from Park and Playground System: Report of the Park Board of the City of Dallas, 1921-1923, via the Portal to Texas History, here.

Cropped image showing the waiting station with the Jefferson Hotel in the background is from the DeGolyer Library, SMU — more info is here.

Photograph of Union Station from the Texas/Dallas History and Archives Division of the Dallas Public Library.

Aerial photo showing Ferris Plaza is from a larger view of downtown by Lloyd M. Long (the original of which is in the Edwin J. Foscue Map Library collection of the Central University Libraries, Southern Methodist University, and which can be viewed here).

To read about the Ferris Park restoration project, see here.

For a few interesting and weird tidbits about the block that eventually became Ferris Plaza (including the fact that it was thought to be haunted and that it was once the site of a brothel), check out this page on Jim Wheat’s fantastic site.

Click pictures for larger images.


Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Exline Park Swimming Pool — 1950s


by Paula Bosse

Summer’s running out, kids.

Plan your waning pool-time opportunities accordingly.



Photos by R. C. Hickman, taken at Exline Park swimming pool; top photo taken on Aug. 6, 1957, bottom photo on July 27, 1955. Both photos © R. C. Hickman/Dolph Briscoe Center for American History.


Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Reverchon Park, Site of a Hovel Town Once Known as “Woodchuck Hill”

reverchon_park_baseballAnyone for a little sport? Or a spell-checker?

by Paula Bosse

Before it became one of Dallas’ nicest parks, Reverchon (named for the French botanist Julien Reverchon who arrived in Dallas to join the La Réunion settlement) began life as a 36-acre plot of land called “Turtle Creek Park.” But before that, it was an open-air slum known as “Woodchuck Hill” — an eyesore of an area filled with tents and hovels where families lived in deplorable conditions. It was a pretty dangerous place — the only thing the violent “Squattertown” had going for it was that it was practically next door to Parkland Hospital at Maple and Oak Lawn. The injured and dying didn’t have far to go for medical attention. Or to breathe their last breaths. News reports such as the one below — from 1911 — were, sadly, fairly common (click for larger image):

Dallas Morning News, Aug. 17, 1911

In October, 1914 it was announced that the city had purchased this tract of land from the heirs of the pioneer Cole family in order to establish what would become Reverchon Park.

DMN, Oct. 19, 1914

A few months after the purchase of the land, the squatters were told to vacate the city’s new park property, and what had been a miserable slum was cleared away and transformed into one of the city’s prettiest “pleasure grounds.”

DMN, March 12, 1915


The following is from the Dallas Park Board’s 1915 report:

Pending suggestions for a more suitable one, Turtle Creek Park has been temporarily adopted as the name for this property. At the time of its purchase it corresponded in a measure to the slum districts of the great cities. It was known as “Woodchuck Hill,” and its inhabitants constituted a novel settlement for the city. They resided in make-shift houses and hovels built by the occupants who paid a small stipend each month in the shape of ground rent. The moral conditions of these people was bad, and they caused much concern to the Social Welfare Workers in particular.

In addition to an athletic field, this park is adaptable for an elaborate botanical garden. Being situated at the western base of the Turtle Creek Boulevard, which extends the entire length of the property, it will one day constitute one of the chief attractions of the city for visitors. It adjoins the water works property, comprising a total of 103 acres of city property, a large portion of which has already been beautified. The grounds surrounding the pumping station and the water purification plant have been laid out in lawns and flower beds. Near the center of this park and at the base of the hills on its northern boundaries is located Raccoon Springs. The springs flow a large volume of water to year round, and provide shady nooks with delightful surroundings.


Hovels below, in the “before” picture.



Turtle Creek Park
Located on Maple Avenue.
Area, 36 acres.
Acquired, 1915.
Cost of land, $40,000.



Top postcard (with “Reverchon” misspelled — understandably so…), from somewhere in the wilds of the internet.

Quoted text and other images from Report for the Year 1914-1915 of the Park Board of the City of Dallas, With a Sketch of the Park System (Dallas: Park Board, 1915), which can be accessed as part of the Dallas Municipal Archives, here.

For more on the Dallas Parks System, the definitive source may well be Historic Dallas Parks by John Slate (Charleston: Arcadia Publishing, 2010); more info here.

Friends of Reverchon Park website here.

All images larger when clicked.


Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Garrett Park Aburst in Spring Flowers

by Paula Bosse

Garrett Park (at Munger and Bryan) was established in 1915. The postcard above shows it filled with leafy trees and bursting with brightly colored flowers. There is playground equipment at the left and, in the background, St. Mary’s College. The park is still there — just south of Ross Ave., past the lowest bit of Lowest Greenville — but the George Kessler-designed charm is almost entirely gone. The trees are sparser, and those flower beds? Below, a modern-day aerial view (click pictures to see larger images). Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

Google Earth

But back to more luxuriantly landscaped times. Before it became a city park, the land was once part of the sprawling campus of St. Mary’s College, a prestigious boarding school that prepared girls for college, run by the Episcopal Church since the 1880s. The school was on the far, far, FAR eastern edge of Dallas, and in the early days, the isolated area was so dominated by the school that it was referred to by everyone as “College Hill.” Below, a photo of St. Mary’s taken around 1908 — the land which later became Garrett Park was behind the school. (Note the tower of the school below which is seen in the postcard above. Also, note the tower of the next-door St. Matthew’s Cathedral — it is still standing at the corner of Ross and Henderson.)

st-marys-college_c1908St. Mary’s College, circa 1908

In September, 1914, St. Mary’s sold the adjoining five-and-a-half-acre parcel of land to the City of Dallas for $30,000 for use as a park.

garrett-park_dmn_091714_acquisitionDallas Morning News, Sept. 17, 1914

The park was officially named in honor of Bishop Alexander C. Garrett in February of 1915.

Below, a “before” photo showing “Garrett Park at Time of Purchase” (1914):


And descriptions of the new park from a 1914-1915 Park Board publication:




Sources & Notes

Top postcard is from the wilds of the internet.

Source of circa-1908 photo of St. Mary’s College is unknown.

Text and “before” photo of Garrett Park is from the Report for the Year 1914-15 of the Park Board of the City of Dallas; a scanned copy is available at the Portal to Texas History, here.

Map of Kessler’s plan of the park is from Jay Firsching’s article in the Spring, 2003 issue of Legacies; the Garrett Park passage begins on p. 12, here.

To get an idea of the size of the St. Mary campus and Garrett Park in 1922, the Sanborn map from that year is here.

See the location of Garrett Park on a current Google map, here.

Click pictures for larger images.

(This post was updated with additional text and new images on March 23, 2018.)


Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.


The Construction of Turtle Creek Boulevard: “Ascending & Descending Cliffs and Ravines” — 1915


by Paula Bosse

What was going on a hundred years ago in Oak Lawn? Turtle Creek Boulevard was being constructed! Construction was overseen by the Park Board, which probably explains why it is one of the most beautifully landscaped roadways in Dallas.




Incidentally, the “University of Dallas” mentioned above refers to the original location of the University of Dallas, first called Holy Trinity College. It moved northward in the 1940s, and Jesuit High School took over the building. I’m really surprised to learn that this huge building was located near Turtle Creek and Blackburn until Jesuit moved north to ITS new home in the early 1960s.

And here it is, snug on the banks of the turtle-infested creek, around 1909 (in a photograph that does not do the lushly beautiful area justice).


Photos and text from the Report for the Year 1914-15 of the Park Board of the City of Dallas (Dallas, 1915), pp. 63-64.

Click pictures for larger images.


Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

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