Flashback : Dallas

A Miscellany: History, Ads, Pop Culture

Category: Public Utilities

My Dream House at the Greenville Avenue Reservoir

little-house_waterwoks_greenville-ave_bosseAll it needs is a little paint, a few flowers, maybe some curtains…

by Paula Bosse

I have  been fascinated by this little house-like structure which sits just north of the intersection of Mockingbird and Greenville my entire life. I grew up just a few blocks away, and I’ve passed this little house thousands of times. And every time I pass it, I look at it longingly, even though it’s certainly in a worse-for-wear condition. It was once (and may well STILL be) part of Dallas Water Utilities, housing machinery or equipment. 

A large underground reservoir was built on 16 acres at this location in 1929 on what was then generally touted as the city’s highest point of elevation — height equal to the 20th story of downtown’s Magnolia Building, according to newspaper reports at the time. The city’s plan was that the ground above this large “suburban” outpost of the Dallas water department would eventually become a park, but, sadly, those plans never materialized.

Below are a couple of images of the little building, from a 1950s-era silent short film on the City of Dallas Department of Waterworks, from the collection of the Dallas Municipal Archives (which you can watch on the Texas Archive of the Moving Image site here) (see pertinent footage at about the 6-minute mark).

The first screen-capture shows Greenville Avenue, looking north. If the camera panned to the left, you’d see the old Dr Pepper plant.


And here’s the little house from the front:


And here it is today, as seen in a moody April, 2019 Google Street View capture:

waterworks_greenville-ave_google_april-2019Google Street View, 2019

I can’t believe I’ve never actually bothered to look for this, but check out this aerial view showing the water department property, looking to the east, with Greenville Avenue running horizontally at the bottom and Mockingbird Lane at the right, via Google Maps:

dallas-water-utilities_greenville-and-mockingbird_google-aerialGoogle Maps

If anyone knows what’s inside the charming little house, I’d love to know. I’d also love to see other photos of it through the years, inside and out.

I still kind of want to live there. But I’d really do something about that poor metal awning over the door (come on, DWU!). Plant a few flowers. And maybe hang some cheerful curtains.

So. Much. Potential!

greenville-reservoir-house_jan-2018_paula-bossephoto by Paula Bosse


Sources & Notes

Top photo taken by me in 2011.

All thanks to John Botefuhr for posting the link to the Department of Waterworks film on the Lakewood 1925-1985 Facebook group. The film is from the Dallas Municipal Archives and is posted on the website of the Texas Archive of the Moving Image (TAMI), here (“dream house” sequence begins at around the 5:59 mark).

stand-pipes_lakewood_department of waterworks _TAMI

The silent film is just over 10 minutes long and has a lot of interesting footage of what the Dept. of Waterworks was doing around the city at the time. There are a lot of familiar (and unfamiliar) landmarks sprinkled throughout. If someone you know was a waterworks employee, you might see a familiar face.

Even though it appears to have been abandoned, I’m glad “my” little house still stands — it makes me happy every time I pass by.



Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.


The Gill Well

gill-well_highland-park_dallas-rediscoveredThe Highland Park pagoda… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

I never heard of the Gill Well growing up — in fact, it wasn’t until around the time I started this blog — about three or four years ago — that I first became aware of it. Though largely forgotten today, the Gill Well used to be a pretty big deal in Dallas: for years, early-20th-century entrepreneurs tried valiantly and persistently to capitalize on the mineral-heavy artesian water from this well — the plan was to use this hot spring water in order to turn Dallas (or at least Oak Lawn) into, well, “the Hot Springs of Texas.” We came so close!

So — Gill Well? Who, what, when, where, why, and how?

In 1902 city alderman and water commissioner C. A. Gill proposed sinking an artesian well near the Turtle Creek pumping station in order to determine if the flow of water in underground springs was sufficient to augment Dallas’ water supply (there was, at the time, another such test well being drilled in West Dallas). The City Council was on board and wanted this test well to be a deep well, “the deepest in the state — in order to settle once and for all the question as to whether or not there lies beneath the earth in this section a body of water, or ‘an underground sea,’ as some call it, of sufficient size to supply the needs of all the people” (Dallas Morning News, Aug. 6, 1902).

Fellow alderman Charles Morgan explained Gill’s proposition to the people of Dallas in a prepared statement to the Morning News:

By sinking artesian wells it is not intended to abandon the plans proposed to secure an adequate storage supply from surface drainage, but that the artesian wells shall augment the supply. We can not get too much water, but if we secure an ample artesian supply our storage basins will be reserve. There will be no conflict. We simply make success double sure. (Alderman Charles Morgan, DMN, Aug. 24, 1902)

The well was sunk in September or October of 1902 near the Turtle Creek pumphouse (which was adjacent to where a later station was built in 1913, the station which has been renovated and is now known as the Sammons Center for the Arts — more on the construction of that 1913 station and a photo of the older pumphouse can be found here); the drilling was slow-going and went on until at least 1904, reaching a depth of more than 2,500 feet. It’s a bit out of my area of expertise, but, basically, good, palatable artesian water from the Paluxy sands — water “free from mineral taint” — was found, but, deeper, a larger reservoir of highly mineralized “Gill water” — from the Glen Rose stratum — was found. That was good news and bad news.

gill-well_dmn_120103Dallas Morning News, Dec. 1, 1903

The “bad news” came from the fact that a part of a pipe casing became lodged in the well, causing an obstruction in the flow of the “good” water from the Paluxy formation. Again, it’s a bit confusing, but the heavy flow of 99-degree-fahrenheit mineral water (which was corrosive to pipes) threatened to contaminate the “good” Paluxy water … as well as the water from the Woodbine formation from which most (all?) of the private wells in Dallas secured their water. (Read detailed geological reports on the well in a PDF containing contemporaneous newspaper reports here — particular notice should be paid to the comprehensive overview of the well and its problems which was prepared for the Dallas Water Commission by Engineer Jay E. Bacon and published in the city’s newspapers on May 10, 1905).

So what the City of Dallas ended up with as a result of this Gill Well was a highly dependable source of hot mineral water. But what to do with it? Monetize it!

As part of the city’s water supply, the mineral water was made available to Dallas citizens free of charge: just show up at one of the handful of pagoda-covered dispensing stations with a jar, a bucket, or a flask, and fill up with as much of the rather unpleasant-smelling (and apparently quite powerful!) purgative as you could cart home with you. (For those who didn’t want to mingle with the hoi polloi, home delivery was available for a small fee.) One such “pagoda” was erected a short distance away, in front of the city hospital (Old Parkland) at Maple and Oak Lawn (the healthful water was also piped directly into the hospital for patient use).

Brenham Weekly Banner, April 6, 1905

One man, however, began offering the water for sale beyond Dallas, hoping to cash in on the free-flowing tonic (see the mineral-content breakdown here), but the city clamped down on him pretty quickly as he was not an authorized agent. From his 1906 ad, one can see that the reputation of Gill water and its healing and restorative powers was already widely known.

DMN, Aug. 2, 1906

If the water was not to be sold, what was the City of Dallas going to do with it? It was decided to pipe the the water a short distance from the test well to nearby property adjacent to the land now occupied by Reverchon Park, then lease the access to the water to a capitalist who would build a sanitarium/spa where people could come to “take the waters” — to bathe in the naturally warm, mineral-heavy artesian water with mystical recuperative properties. The sanitarium would make money by charging its patrons for its services, and the city would collect a small annual income based on the number of the sanitarium’s bathing tubs and the amount of water used:

Compensation to the city shall be $10 per tub per year and one-half-cent per gallon for all water used. (DMN, Jan. 4, 1907)

The Gill Well Sanitarium and bath house opened in January 1907, on Maple Avenue just north of the MKT Railroad (now the Katy Trail). (Most clippings and pictures in this post are larger when clicked.)

gill-well-sanitarium_dmn_010407DMN, Jan. 4, 1907

I searched and searched and searched for a picture of the building and, hallelujah, I finally found one, in the pages of The Dallas Morning News, taken by photographer Henry Clogenson. (This is the only picture I’ve been able to find of it, and, I have to say, it’s not at all what I expected the building to look like. It actually looks like something you’d see in a present-day strip mall.)

gill-well-sanitarium_dmn_011307_photoDMN, Jan. 13, 1907

Advertisement, DMN, Jan. 6, 1907

Business at the new sanitarium was very good, and the public fountains/spigots at both the sanitarium property and a block or so away at the city hospital continued to be popular with residents who needed a boost or a “cure” and stopped by regularly for a sip or a pail of the free mineral water.

gill-well_ad_dallas-police-dept-bk_1910_portal1910 ad

In 1912 a natatorium (an indoor swimming pool) was added and proved even more popular. It was open to men, women, and children; admittance and bathing suit rental was 25¢ (about $6.50 in today’s money). (Contrary to the headline of the ad below, it was not Dallas’ first natatorium — there was one near City Park on South Ervay by at least 1890 — but it was probably the first pool in the city filled with warm mineral water.)

DMN, April 14, 1912

DMN, July 7, 1912

gill-well-natatorium_texas-swimming-and-diving-hall-of-fameCourtesy of the Texas Swimming and Diving Hall of Fame

gill-well-natatorium_dmn_100612DMN, Oct. 6, 1912

The last paragraph of the ad above mentions a plan to pipe Gill water to a hotel downtown — not only would the Gill Well Sanitarium Company’s services be offered in the heart of the city amidst lavish hotel surroundings (instead of in Oak Lawn, way on the edge of town), but the company would also be able to compete with Dallas’ other (non mineral-water) Turkish baths — then they’d really be rolling in the cash. As far as I can tell, nothing came of the plan, but the men behind it were pretty gung ho, as can be seen in this rather aggressive advertorial from the same year:

ad-sanitorium-baths_blue-bk_1912The Standard Blue Book of Texas, 1912

All seemed to be going well with the sanitarium until the city and the Missouri, Kansas & Texas Railroad (the MKT, or the Katy) decided to remove the railroad’s grade crossings through the Oak Lawn area (all work which was to be paid for by the railroad). Double tracks were to be added and crossings were either raised or the streets were lowered. The crossings affected were Lemmon, Cedar Springs and Fairmount (where street levels were cut down to go under the tracks) and Hall, Blackburn, and Bowen (where tracks would be elevated). Also affected: Maple Avenue. (Read more about the MKT plan in the Dallas Morning News article from Aug. 23, 1918 — “Dallas Is Eliminating Four Grade Crossings” — here.)

The Maple Avenue-Katy Railroad crossing had long been a dangerous area for wagons, buggies, and, later, automobiles. Not only was it at the top of a very steep hill (see what that general area north of that crossing looked like around 1900 here), but it also had two sharp curves. The decision was made to straighten Maple Avenue between the approach to the railroad crossing and Oak Lawn Avenue at the same time Maple was being lowered and the Katy track was being raised. (Read the announcement of this plan — “Straighten Maple Avenue Is Plan” — from the Nov. 29, 1917 edition of The Dallas Morning News, here.) The only problem — as far as the Gill Well Sanitarium was concerned — was that the straightened road would go directly through the sanitarium property. I don’t know if the long-time owner of the sanitarium, J. G. Mills, knew about this approaching dire situation, but in 1915 — just a few short months after boasting in advertisements that more than 50,000 patients had availed themselves of the sanitarium’s amenities in 1914 — he placed an ad seeking a buyer of the business (although, to be fair, he’d been trying to sell the company for years):

gill-well_dmn_080815_for-saleDMN, Aug. 8, 1915

(In the ad he states that the buyer had an option to purchase the actual well, but the city had never expressed any desire to sell either the well or the full rights to the water.)

The Gill Well Sanitarium Co. appears to have been dissolved in 1916, but there was still hope that a sanitarium/hot springs resort could continue on the property. In 1917, interested parties petitioned the city to change its plans to straighten Maple, arguing that it would destroy any ability to do business on the site, but the city went forward with its plans, and in November 1919, the City of Dallas purchased the land from the group of partners for $21,500 (about $305,000 in today’s money).

DMN, Nov. 13, 1919

The monetization of water from Dallas’ fabled Gill Well ended after ten years.

I had never heard of Maple Avenue being straightened. Below is a map of Turtle Creek Park (which became Reverchon Park in 1915), showing Maple’s route, pre-straightening — the main buildings of the sanitarium were in the bulge just west of Maple, between the Katy tracks and the boundary of the park.

1915 map, via Portal to Texas History

Another view can be seen in a detail from a (fantastic) 1905 map, with the approximate location of the Gill Well Sanitarium circled in white:

maple-ave_1905-map_portal_det_gill-wellWorley’s Map of Greater Dallas, 1905

A year or more ago I saw the photo below on the Big D History Facebook page but had no idea at the time what I was looking at: it apparently shows Maple Avenue in 1918, taken from about Wolf Street (probably more like Kittrell Street), which was then near the city limits, looking north. You can see the curve Maple makes and the steep hill — that large building at the right must be the sanitarium and/or the later-built natatorium.


The photo below shows the road-straightening in progress, with the MKT bridge now spanning Maple Avenue.

maple-MKT_ca-1920_DPLDallas Public Library

And here it is almost a hundred years later:

maple-MKT_google-street-view_2014Google Street View, 2014

So the Gill Well Sanitarium and Bath House was closed, the land was purchased by the City of Dallas, Maple Avenue was straightened, and, in the summer of 1923, the remaining abandoned buildings on the property were demolished. But that didn’t spell the end of the famous Gill Well water.

Highland Park’s “Gill Water” Pagoda

Around 1924, “Gill water” tapped from the Glen Rose Strata was made available to Highland Park, via a small “watering house” and drinking fountain on Lakeside Drive (at Lexington), a location which proved to be quite popular. The mineral water was a byproduct of Highland Park’s “deep well” which was drilled in 1924 to tap the pure artesian springs of the Trinity Sands Strata in order to augment the water supply of the City of Highland Park: in order to get down to the Trinity Sands, one had to pass through the Glen Rose Strata — I guess the HP powers-that-be figured they might as well tap the hot mineral water and offer their citizens access to it by building a small fountain and dispensing station. In 1928, the little “watering station” structure was spiffed up with the addition of a tile roof, attractive walkways, and drainage. The photo seen at the top of this post has frequently been misidentified as the Reverchon Park well, but it is actually the Highland Park “pagoda.” Here it is again:

gill-well_highland-park_dallas-rediscoveredfrom the book Dallas Rediscovered

It can be identified as the Highland Park location because of the photo below from the George W. Cook collection of historic Dallas photos from SMU’s DeGolyer Library — it shows what appears to be a later view of the same pagoda, now slightly overgrown. The steps to the bridge across Exall Lake and the bridge’s railing can be seen at the far right (the bridge led to the Highland Park pumping station, which can be seen on a pre-watering-station 1921 Sanborn map here).

gill-well_highland-park_cook-collection_degolyer_smuGeorge W. Cook Collection, SMU

And, well, there’s the sign that reads “Highland Park Deep Wells — Free to the Pubic” — here’s a close-up:


(The same sign from the top photo can be seen in a high-contrast close-up here.)

After seeing this photo, I realized that a photo I featured in a post from last year showed the pagoda in what looks like its earliest days, at Lakeside Drive and Lexington Avenue (the bridge can be seen at the left):


I was unable to find out when this HP pagoda bit the dust, but the location as seen today on Google Street View is here. (It’s pretty strange to think that a steady stream of people from all over Dallas drove to the Park Cities to fill up jugs with free mineral water; my guess is that the wealthy Lakeside Avenue residents weren’t completely enamored of the situation.)

Reverchon Park Pavilion

Even though the Gill Well Sanitarium Co. had dissolved in 1916, and the last traces of its buildings had been torn down in 1923, the famed well’s water didn’t disappear from the immediate Oak Lawn area. In February of 1925, the City of Dallas opened a $5,000 pavilion, “making up for twenty years indifference to what is said to be the finest medicinal water in the South” (DMN, Feb. 11, 1925). This pet project of Mayor Louis Blaylock seems to have continued to be a place for Dallasites to get their mineral water at least through the 1950s, according to online reminiscences. This 1925 “pavilion” is described thusly in the WPA Dallas Guide and History:

The water, which resembles in many respects the mineral waters of European resorts and is used in several county and city institutions, is carried to the surface in pipes and can be drawn from taps arranged around a semicircle of masonry near the entrance to the park. Here cars stop at all hours of the day and people alight to drink the water or to fill bottles and pails.

I have not been able to find a photograph of that post-sanitarium dispensing site. A 1956-ish aerial photo of Reverchon Park can be found here. I don’t see a “semicircle of masonry” in an area I assume would be located near Maple Avenue and the Katy tracks.

According to a comment on the DHS Archives Phorum discussion group, there was also a public spigot nearer to the original well, along Oak Lawn Avenue, across the street from Dal-Hi/P. C. Cobb stadium.

There is surprisingly little accurate information on the Gill Well online. I hope this overview helps correct some of the misinformation out there. If anyone knows of additional photos of the sanitarium and/or natatorium, please send them my way and I’ll add them to this post. If there are any photos of the Reverchon Park pavilion, I’d love to see those as well. There is a 1926 photo of the Highland Park location which shows two women and two girls filling receptacles — I am unable to post that here, but check the Dallas Morning News archives for the short article “Free Mineral Well Waters Popular” (DMN, May 29, 1926).


Incidentally, even though the wells have been capped, that hot mineral water is still there underground and could be tapped at any time. Dallas could still be the “Hot Springs of Texas”!


Sources & Notes

Top photo is from p. 199 of Dallas Rediscovered by William L. McDonald. The photo is incorrectly captioned as showing the location of the “Gill Well Bath House and Natatorium, c. 1904” — it is actually the Highland Park dispensing station at Lakeside Drive and Lexington Avenue in about 1928.

“Morning” postcard featuring healthy bathing patrons of the natatorium is from the collection of the Texas Swimming and Diving Hall of Fame and is used with permission.

Photo showing Maple Avenue, pre-straightening, is from the Big D History Facebook page; original source of photo is unknown.

Second photo of the Highland Park Gill Well location (with the vegetation looking a bit more overgrown) is from a postcard captioned “Drinking Bogoda [sic], deep mineral well in Highland Park, Dallas, Texas” — it is from the George W. Cook Dallas/Texas Image Collection, DeGolyer Library, Central University Libraries, Southern Methodist University; more information on this image is here.

Photo showing Lakeside Drive with the pagoda at the left is a real photo postcard captioned “Lake Side Drive in Highland Park” — it was offered last year on eBay.

Sources of all other clippings, ads, and maps as noted.


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

Cattle Raisers’ Association of Texas, 1912

DMN, May 2, 1912

haskell-exchange_ca-1915_DHSDallas Historical Society


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 Twin Standpipes of Lakewood Heights: 1923-1955

lakewood_water-towers_reminiscencesAbrams and Goliad, y’all… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

The two large water towers pictured above loomed over the East Dallas neighborhood of Lakewood Heights for over 30 years. They sat at the southwest corner of what was then known as Greenville Road (not to be confused with Greenville Avenue) and Aqueduct Avenue — the streets are known today as Abrams Road and Goliad Avenue. The towers replaced a previous (single) water tank, which, by the early 1920s, was proving inadequate for the needs of an exploding Lakewood area.

These water tanks — called “standpipes” — were really big: each was 100 feet tall, 60 feet in diameter, and held two million gallons of water. They were erected in October, 1923 and, rather surprisingly, stood until 1955. Even though I grew up in this part of town, I never knew about these tanks until a couple of years ago when I saw a photo in a Dallas history group. It’s hard to believe those industrial behemoths were smack dab in the middle of what is now a jam-packed residential neighborhood.


Here are a few photos featuring cameo appearance by the omnipresent tanks. In the first one, from the 1930s, they can be seen at the top right, ghostlike in the distance.



Then there’s this fantastic aerial shot of what would later become the fully developed Lakewood area (and beyond). Looking east, White Rock Lake is in the distance, and the two towers — brand new when this photo was taken in 1923, and taller than anything else in the photograph — are at the left.


Let’s zoom in a bit:



And here is a really wonderful photo which was posted in the Dallas History Facebook group by Mary Doster from the collection of her husband Jim Doster, showing Abrams, looking north, in 1925. (The location of the twin tanks was actually outside the Dallas city limits in 1919 — see the boundary on a 1919 map here.) I never get tired of seeing streetcars, especially traveling down streets I drive everyday.

water-tanks_abrams_dallas-hist-FB-jim-dosterCollection, Jim Doster


A few articles about the tanks’ beginning in 1923.

water-towers_dmn_022723Dallas Morning News, Feb. 27, 1923

DMN, Oct. 7, 1923

DMN, Oct. 7, 1923


Here’s a screenshot from a silent film produced by the City of Dallas waterworks department, showing them at traffic-level, with a view to the northwest from Abrams.


The tanks were dismantled in 1955 (pertinent articles are listed below, in the “Notes” section). Their fate, post-dismantling? One of them was destined to be reassembled in Tarrant County for the Hurst-Euless-Bedford water system, and the other one was “to be kept as stand-by storage for the city” (DMN, June 7, 1955).



Sources & Notes

First two photos from the book Reminiscences, A Glimpse of Old East Dallas.

Aerial photo — titled “East Dallas — 1923” — is a Fairchild Aerial Surveys photograph, from the George W. Cook Dallas/Texas Image Collection, DeGolyer Library, Central University Libraries, Southern Methodist University; more information is here. (I have adjusted the color.)

Screenshot is from a City of Dallas silent film, shot for the water department — the film is in the TAMI collection here, and the standpipes pop up at the 6:39-ish mark. Thanks to John Botefuhr for posting the link to this film on the Lakewood 1925-1985 Facebook group.

More on the tanks’ removal in 1955 can be found in these Dallas Morning News articles:

  • “Familiar Old Landmark To Be Removed” (DMN, March 20, 1955)
  • “Offers Vary on Standpipe” (DMN, April 26, 1955)
  • “East Dallas Landmark Coming Down” (DMN, June 7, 1955 — has photo taken from inside the tank looking up as dismantling was underway)

The present-day view seen in the top photo — looking south on Abrams — can be seen on Google Street View here.

A very interesting Sanborn Map from 1922 — before the twin tanks were built, but still showing the “Lakewood Heights Water Works” — can be found here. There’s, like, nobody living there, man.

I’d love to see other photos of these particular “standpipes” — if anyone has any, forward them to me and I’ll include them in this post. Contact info is at the top.

As always, images are magically larger when clicked.


Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.


Tracking Down a Photo Location & Discovering a City Pioneer: D. M. Clower, The Man Who Brought the Telephone to Dallas

house_RPPC_1909_ebayMystery house, Dallas, ca. 1908 (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Not too long ago I came across the above photo which had been made into a real photo postcard.” It was postmarked January 12, 1909, and it contained a chatty message.

“A very good picture of our house. Cold as can be here today – guess I will freeze going to the theater tonight. Quite a good deal of snow and sleet. All doing fine – wish you were here to help me make candy & pop some corn. Tom Dechman from Okla. City spent today with us. Maud.”


Such a nice photo of a modest little house in Dallas, probably taken in 1908. When I saw it, I thought it would be cool if I could figure out where it was. There wasn’t much to go on from the postcard, though. But, as it turns out, there was just enough information to put the pieces together and figure it out. Someone asked me recently how I track down things like this. Basically, I look for a long time in a lot of different places. Here’s how I found out where this mystery house was.

Using Ancestry.com, I found Virginia (“Virgil” — sometimes “Virgie”) Cavaness in Monticello, Arkansas. She was born in 1871 and would have just turned 37 years old when she received this card. The familiar tone of the postcard message indicated to me that Virgil was probably a close friend or family member.

I found Thomas Dechman in Oklahoma City — he would have been 23 when he visited Maud. He probably wasn’t a close friend or immediate family member because she writes his full name out. According to the 1909 Oklahoma City directory (accessible on Ancestry.com), he worked alongside his father, A. F. Dechman, at a wholesale produce company.

Then I checked the Dallas Morning News archives and found this from Dec. 30,1909.

clower_dmn_123009DMN, Dec. 30, 1909

Tom Dechman was Mrs. A. F. Dechman’s son. So I searched on “Maud Clower.” Maud, born in 1877, was also D. M. Clower’s daughter. Mrs. A. F. Dechman was Maud’s sister Annie, and Tom was her nephew.

I continued searching the DMN archives for mentions of the Clower family and found that in 1906 Maud Clower had married Jesse (J. D.) Patterson — and, hey, Virgil had attended the wedding.

virgie_dmn_090206DMN, Sept. 2, 1906

I checked to see where Maud and J. D. Patterson were living in 1908/1909. Most directories are available on Ancestry (a subscription site), but, as it happens, the 1909 directory is one of the few historical Dallas city directories that is available online (for free) — you can access it here (a few other directories are here). I found a Jesse D. Patterson listed as living at 491 N. Pearl, but no spouse’s name was listed, so I cross-referenced the address with the street directory section to determine whether this was the right J. D. Patterson. (Street directories are very helpful — not only do they list the occupants for each address, they also help to pinpoint where specific addresses were as they show which cross-streets those addresses were between; this is extremely helpful when trying to figure out where things were when streets had different names and/or when trying to figure out where things were before all of Dallas’ street numbers were changed in 1911. Another useful resource is a page on Jim Wheat’s site, which has links to every page of the 1911 street directory — click on a street name and find your address: the “new” address is on the left, and the “old” address is next to it, in bold.)

clower-patterson_1909-directory1909 city directory, residents of N. Pearl Street

Even though this didn’t have Maud’s name listed alongside her husband’s, it DID show that her father, D. M. Clower, was living at the same address. Success!

So there it is. When Maud sent that postcard to Virgil, she and her husband were living with her parents at 491 N. Pearl Street. The house in the photo was at the southwest corner of N. Pearl and Thomas. It’s always helpful to check a street map from about the same period for context and to make sure you’re looking at the right location — many street names have changed over the years — if a street named “Forest” is being referenced in the 1940s, for instance, you need to know that the old Forest Avenue and the current Forest Lane are absolutely nowhere near each other. Below is a map drawn about 1900, with the location of the Clower house circled in red (this is one of many maps found on the Portal to Texas History site; the one below is a detail of the map found here).


I also checked out Sanborn maps to see if the house in the photo matched the house that was actually on the lot at N. Pearl and Thomas. It does. To see what the general footprint of the house looked like in 1905 (the Clowers lived at 491 N. Pearl from about 1905 to 1910), see here. In the 1921 map (by which time the address had been changed to 2221 N. Pearl), you can see that additions had been made to the house since 1905 and that it looks more like the house in the photo (a room now juts out at the right and there is an out-building behind the house); see the 1921 Sanborn map here. To see what that Uptown block looks like now, see here (N. Pearl is on the left, looking south). Quite a change! It took me a long time to realize just how essential Sanborn maps can be — they are incredibly useful, and I try to use them whenever I can.


I really didn’t expect to track down the actual address of an unidentified house found on a picture postcard, but persistence pays off. A bonus of this persistence was that I ended up learning about the very interesting man who owned the house — a man who played a pivotal role in the development of Dallas: Daniel Morgan (D. M.) Clower. Clower was an electrical engineer who, in 1881, installed the very first telephone in Dallas (for Judge John Bookhout) and ran the city’s first telephone exchange; he also set up phone systems in other cities. In addition to his work for Bell Telephone, he also ran Dallas’ electric company for many years and was responsible for setting up the city’s first electric street lights and helped in developing electrified rail systems in the region.

clower_electrician_1889-directory1889 Dallas directory (click for larger image)

During the Civil War, Clower was a Confederate telegraph operator in the 1st Louisiana Regiment (see Clower’s fascinating obituary below). When the Union army was advancing after the fall of Vicksburg, Clower directed (and helped in) the destruction of the Confederate telegraph system he had helped set up, in order to prevent its being commandeered by Yankee forces — he and his men raced to pull up over 40 miles of wire and equipment, loaded everything on wagons, bugged out, and then used the same wire and poles to string a new Confederate line into and across Texas.

clower-telegrapher_dmn_010822DMN, Jan. 8, 1922

The war ended before Clower had completed his line northward from Houston, but his efforts had helped lay the telegraph infrastructure that the state of Texas relied on for decades afterward.


The people in the top photo are not identified. When that photo was taken, D. M. Clower and his wife, Ellender, would have been about 73; their daughter Maud and her husband Jesse would have been in their early 30s. I assume it’s the elder Clowers, with a mystery bearded man in the foreground.

Mr. and Mrs. D. M. Clower, ca. 1914

You never know what you’re going to discover when you read a 106-year-old postcard and wonder where an old house used to be.


Sources & Notes

Postcard found on eBay.

Daniel Morgan Clower was born in Alabama in 1835; he arrived in Dallas in 1879, coming from Comanche, where Maud was born in 1877. Clower died in 1927 at the age of 92; Maud died in 1948. His wife, Ellender Paralee Clower, died in 1917 (at which time the couple had been married for more than sixty years).

More on Clower can be found in the pages of The Dallas Morning News:

  • “Telegrapher Tells Civil War Episode” (DMN, Feb. 1, 1924) — a fantastically cinematic account of Clower’s past, in his own words
  • A photo of Clower and Eli Sanger, (DMN, May 1, 1927) — what might well be the last photo of Clower ran in the News just a few months before his death at the age of 92; also in the photo is Eli Sanger, of Sanger Bros. (Clower once had a business in Millican, TX when Sanger’s opened there at the close of the Civil War, and he proudly boasted that he was one of their very first customers)
  • “Daniel Clower Funeral Held” (DMN, Aug. 19, 1927) — Clower’s obituary, with photo

Photo of Mr. Clower with text from a Dallas Times Herald story published on the occasion of his 89th birthday can be found here (scroll down to 1924, about halfway down the page), via Jim Wheat’s site.

The photo of Mr. Clower and his wife Ellender is from the book A History of Texas and Texans, published in 1914; the accompanying entry about Clower’s very interesting life can be found here, via the Portal to Texas History.


Copyright © 2015 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

A New Turbine Power Station for Big D — 1907

power-station_1907New and old power plants, 1907 (click for much larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Construction began in 1906 on a new power plant for the Dallas Electric Light & Power Company. It was built next to the old power plant, and it furnished electricity for the city’s lighting and power needs as well as for its streetcars and interurban cars. When construction began, the project was expected to cost more than $500,000 (over $13 million in today’s money), a large (but necessary) expenditure for the growing city.

power-station_dmn_020906Dallas Morning News, Feb. 9, 1906

The photo at the top shows the new plant on the left, and the old 19th-century plant on the right. Here, a view from the other side:


Inside? A lot of fascinating stuff that looked like this (as well as a stern-looking man who appears to be trying to avoid the camera):


The power station was northwest of downtown, between the MKT and Cotton Belt and Rock Island railroad yards (approximately where the American Airlines Center is today). Before the Trinity was straightened and moved, the plant was only about half a mile from the banks of the river. Even though the grade of the new station’s floor was built above the highest flood level, the historic flood of 1908 put the plant out of commission for several days, but — probably because it was filled with brand new equipment — the city’s power was restored much faster than one might have expected.


Sources & Notes

Photos are from the Street Railway Journal, May 18, 1907 (Vol. XXIX, No. 20). To view the entire 7-page article — which includes more photographs as well as several floorplans and schematics, all of which are very cool (even to someone like me who has absolutely no idea of what any of it means!) — check it out, here.

The American Airlines Center incorporated elements of the 1907 plant’s design into its own:


My previous related post, “DP&L’s Twin Smokestacks,” can be read here.

Photos are much larger when clicked.


Copyright © 2015 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.


DP&L’s Twin Smokestacks

An unusual view of the smokestacks from 1939 — in color!

by Paula Bosse

I got to thinking about those two smokestacks that used to be such an important part of the Dallas skyline when I came across this rather forceful 1928 Dallas Power & Light Company ad:

(click for larger image)

“More than twenty thousand ways” to use electricity, “your tireless mechanical slave”! (To see a larger image of the ad’s illustrated inset, click here.)

According to The Dallas Morning News, the Dallas Power & Light Company power plant had been in use at the location at “at the foot of Griffin Street … since 1890, with additions in 1905, in 1912 and in 1914. In 1922 work started on the most recent addition, which when completed will cost over $2,000,000, and will provide additional generating capacity of furnishing 20,000 kilowatts” (DMN, Oct. 14, 1923).

Construction on the new addition — including the first of the two new smokestacks — began in the summer of 1922.

dpl_dmn_FWST_072822Fort Worth Star-Telegram, July 28, 1922

By the summer of 1923 the first smokestack was partially built.

smokestack_dmn_071323smokestack_dmn_071323-captionDMN, July 13, 1923 (click for larger images)

The new addition was completed in 1924 (although improvements and construction were constantly ongoing). The new giant smokestack can be seen in this photo, alongside the old and new parts of the generating plant:

dpl_dmn_101224_photo2DMN, Oct. 12, 1924

And, another view, this one with the 8-acre “spray pond” in the foreground:

dpl_dmn_101224_photoDMN, Oct. 12, 1924

In 1928 DP&L announced that it needed a further addition:

Another large chimney or smokestack, a new boiler room and other plant enlargements will be required in the North Dallas generation plant to house the new addition. (DMN, Oct. 20, 1928)

And in 1929 … voilà — the second smokestack!


Those two smokestacks (which actually emitted steam rather than smoke) were almost as much a part of the iconic Dallas skyline as Pegasus. You’ll see them in any wide shot of the skyline taken between 1929 and the late 1990s, when the plant was demolished to make way for the American Airlines Center (the design of which actually is reminiscent of the building it replaced). You could see those smokestacks from miles away, and, even though they’ve been gone for more than 15 years, I still expect to see them standing there. RIP, smokestacks!


dallas-power-and-light_degolyer-lib_SMU1930s, via DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University

langley_skyline-horseback_c1945_LOCPhoto by William Langley, 1945 (with the twin stacks AND Pegasus)

dpl-plant_towers_squire-haskins_UTAvia Squire Haskins Collection, University of Texas at Arlington

smokestacks_long_foscue_ca1948-detAerial photo by Lloyd M. Long, 1948 (detail)



Sources & Notes

Color image is a screengrab from the short 1939 color film of Dallas which you can watch in full, here.

Ad is from the 1928 Terrillian, the Terrill School yearbook.

William Langley photo of the cowboy on horseback is from the Library of Congress, used previously here.

Lloyd M. Long aerial photo is a detail of a photo cataloged as “Downtown Dallas — looking west,” from the Edwin J. Foscue Map Library, Central University Libraries, Southern Methodist University; the full photo and its details are accessible here.

For an unexpectedly enthusiastic essay about the design and cultural/aesthetic significance of the plant and its smokestacks, architecture critic David Dillon’s “Getting Up a Head of Steam: DP&L’s Power Station, Recalling an Urban Past, Is a Function of Triumph” (Dallas Morning News, Sept. 7, 1983) is well worth searching for in the Dallas Morning News archives. This is the first paragraph:

The Dallas Steam Electric Station on Stemmons is nearly a century old and for most of that time it has been a commanding presence on the downtown skyline, its soaring white smokestacks rivaling anything that modern skyscraper designers have come up with. In Pittsburgh or Detroit such a structure might pass unnoticed but in Dallas, never a factory town, it stands out as a romantic symbol of our earliest industrial aspirations.

(My favorite piece of trivia from Dillon’s article is the revelation that the “tapering white shafts and gold caps [were] touched up every few years by daredevil painters lowered from a helicopter…” (!)).

More about this plant (and how it lives on in the design of the American Airlines Center which now stands on the same land) can be found in the Flashback Dallas post “A New Turbine Power Station for Big D — 1907,” here.

As always, most images are larger when clicked. When in doubt … CLICK!


Copyright © 2015 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.


“With Modesty” — The Dallas Gas Company, 1927


by Paula Bosse

Speaking of Dallas and natural gas….

With Modesty

We do not believe in too much bragging about one’s own town, but we do like the way our skyline shines out against a pure blue. Don’t you? This is because Dallas has natural gas. It is a city of smokeless chimneys.


Dallas gas comes into Dallas in four directions from independent fields.

…At least four directions.


Ad appeared in the 1927 Terrill School for Boys yearbook.


Copyright © 2015 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.


“Dear Folks: Dallas’ New Filtration Plant Is Simply Glorious! Weather Great! Wish You Were Here!”

filtration-plant_c1916_lgA famed Dallas beauty spot, circa 1916 (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Above, a postcard from a lady visiting Dallas in 1916, sent to her “dear friend” back home in Wilmette, Illinois. The card has a short, chirpy “hello, hope everyone’s well, be home in a couple of weeks” type of message on it. But there is no mention of the fact that the picture on the other side shows a water filtration plant. …A water filtration plant. Dallas was a big and impressive city in 1916, and there were a lot of beautiful postcards to choose from, so one wonders why she chose THIS one. I’m not even sure why there would be a picture postcard of a water filtration plant in the first place. Maybe to make municipal workers in other cities jealous. “Dallas has a magnificent state-of-of-the-art sedimentation basin, and you don’t!” But, actually, it’s kind of a cool postcard.

This water filtration plant and pumping station was located along the Trinity (before the river’s course was changed), at what is now Oak Lawn and Harry Hines (now home to the Sammons Center for the Arts, a designated historic landmark which contains part of the old Turtle Creek Pump Station).

The filtration plant was built in 1913. Here are a few photos of its construction (click to see larger images):




A large-capacity water filtration plant is a necessary thing for the city to have, certainly, but it still doesn’t explain why Mrs. [Illegible] was sending a postcard of it to her friend in Illinois.


Postcard of the filtration plant (wow, I’ve typed that a LOT today) from a site that sells postcards. It shows the reverse of the card with the hard-to-read message, here.

Photos of the filtration plant (…there it is again…) from the Oct. 23, 1913 issue of Municipal Journal, here. The entire article should be of interest to people who are interested in … this sort of thing.

Even MORE about this plant, along with diagrams, photos, and an in-depth analysis on its operation, can be found in the July 16, 1914 issue of Engineering News, here.

History page for the Sammons Center is here.

A couple of other early photos of the Turtle Creek Pump Station (from 1894 and 1908) can be seen in a previous post — “City Hospital, a Pump Station, and the County Jail — 1894” — here.

Click pictures for larger images.


Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Whither Water? — 1956

drought_caterpillar-ad_1962_det“Dallas — The City That Decided Not To Die of Thirst”

by Paula Bosse

Between 1950 and 1957, Texas suffered the worst drought on record. By 1957, 244 of Texas’ 254 counties had been declared disaster areas. In 1952, Lubbock recorded not even a trace of rain. Elmer Kelton captured the period perfectly in his classic novel, The Time It Never Rained. It might not have achieved the epic catastrophic proportions of the Dust Bowl days, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t devastating.

In Dallas, the lakes and reservoirs were hit hard. White Rock Lake dried up — one was able to walk across the parched lake bed without a drop of water in sight. Lake Dallas (now Lake Lewisville) fell to 11% of capacity. Dallas was desperate for water, and in 1956, it began “importing” water from Oklahoma. Red River water was appreciated, but it was considered by many far too salty to drink. In addition to the unpleasant taste, residents were concerned that there would be permanent damage to pipes and plumbing, and, to a lesser extent (since watering restrictions were being strictly enforced) to their lawns.

According to one report, salt content in the water supply had gone from the normal 39 parts per million gallons to over 800 parts (at the height of the problem, some news outlets reported it to be well over 2,000 parts per million). While the water was generally considered perfectly safe for the average person to drink, many looked for cleaner, more palatable drinking water.

drought_FWST_082356Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Aug. 23, 1956 (click for larger image)

Suddenly bottled water became a boom business. Spring water was being trucked to Dallas from Glen Rose and Arkansas. Water was being sold in bottles and cartons — from 20 cents per half-gallon cartons to $2.50 for five-gallon bottles ($1.50 of which was for a deposit on the glass bottle). WBAP-TV news even sent a cameraman out to a Cabell’s convenience store to capture some boys testing out the Glen Rose water (watch it here, without sound).


The other source of acceptable drinking water that summer was from city wells dotted around Dallas. Long dormant, the city opened the wells and offered free water to residents. From The Dallas Morning News:

If you don’t like that hard, salty water coming from your taps, you can get soft, unsalty water at four city wells beginning Sunday. City manager Elgin E. Crull Saturday said that the city has installed faucets at the four wells where people may take their buckets or bottles and obtain drinking water. No trucks will be permitted to fill up. (DMN, Aug. 19, 1956)

The four wells mentioned above — and two more opened within a few weeks — were located at the following locations:

  • 1325 Holcomb, near Lake June Road
  • Opera and 13th, near the Marsalis Zoo
  • 875 North Hampton, near Lauraette Street
  • 2825 Bethurum, in South Dallas, near the public housing project
  • Northwest Highway and Buckner
  • Matilda and Anita, on the grounds of Stonewall Jackson Elementary School, in East Dallas

These wells were hugely popular, with thousands of people showing up with jugs, jars, kettles, canteens, and bottles of every conceivable size. (More WBAP news footage of people filling up at these wells can be seen here, without sound; details below).



The popularity of the city wells led to private citizens having wells dug on their own property. Not only were bottled water suppliers making a killing during the summer of ’56, so were the owners of drilling businesses. From The Dallas Morning News:

As salty water from city mains reportedly discourages shrubbery and affronts the taste, drillers of shallow residential water wells ride the crest of a boom. […] Luckiest of the water-seekers are residents of the southern section of the city in the Fruitdale, Pleasant Grove and Home Gardens area, and in the neighborhoods that border Loop 12. That is where drillers are finding pay dirt — water-bearing gravel — at shallow depths. (DMN, Oct. 7, 1956)

It wasn’t just professional drillers who were busy — it wasn’t uncommon for the DIY-ers to be out in the backyard on weekends, digging away, hoping for their own personal source of fresh water. And there were probably even some dowsers out and about, water witching their little hearts out.

The drought ended the next year, and personal wells were a thing of the past, but that mania for bottled water really dug its heels in.

Texas developed the Water Planning Act of 1957, and in 1962, this new mandate and what had happened in Dallas during the drought was used as the basis for a Caterpillar ad which had a bit of a hyperbolic headline, “Dallas — The City That Decided Not To Die Of Thirst”:

drought_caterpillar-ad_19621962 ad (click for larger image)


Sources & Notes

Picture of the four boys tasting the Glen Rose water is taken from the WBAP-TV news story that aired on Aug. 12, 1956. The silent, edited footage was shown as the news anchor read the script, seen here. Film footage (linked above) and script from the Portal to Texas History.

The two pictures of people availing themselves of water from the city’s wells are taken from the WBAP-TV news story that aired on  Aug. 19, 1956. The silent footage ran as the anchor read the script seen here and here. Film footage (linked above) and script from the Portal to Texas History.

1962 Caterpillar ad from eBay.

More on affect of the drought on Dallas can be found in these Dallas Morning News articles:

  • “Sparked by Salt: Business Booming For Bottled Water” (DMN, Aug. 5, 1956)
  • “Citizens Stock Up On Saltless Water” by Sue Connally (DMN, Aug. 20, 1956)
  • “Thirsty City Witnesses Revival of Well Drilling” by William K. Stuckey (DMN, Oct. 7, 1956)
  • “Resourceful Citizens Tap City Water Well” (DMN, Oct. 16, 1956)
  • “Continuing Drouth Produces Top Local News Story in ’56” by Patsy Jo Faught (DMN, Dec. 30, 1956)

Read about how the drought affected Texas water management here; read about the Texas Water Rights Commission here.

Read “The City of Dallas Water Utilities Drought Management Update” in a PDF, here.

Finally, I encourage everyone to grab a tall glass of ice water and settle down to read Elmer Kelton’s classic Texas novel, The Time It Never Rained. Or if you’re pressed for time, read Mike Cox’s article about the book in Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine, here.


Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.


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