Flashback : Dallas

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Category: Research Resources

The University Park Brown Books — An Unbelievable Resource!

snider-plaza_brown-bks_university-park_6600-1934_sinclalirFill ‘er up in Snider Plaza, 1934

by Paula Bosse

You know how sometimes someone nonchalantly mentions something to you which should have been introduced by a fireworks display? That’s what happened when my friend Rod Hargrave sent me a link he had come across about a new online resource from the University Park Public Library: the city’s “Brown Books,” fully digitized. I made a note to check out the link when I had time but didn’t get to it for a week. I’m not the kind of person who uses “OMG,” but… O..M..G !! This is just unbelievably fantastic. 

Here’s the blurb form the University Park Public Library post

Brown Books at UP Public Library
March 2, 2022

Spend some time with one of the library’s newest resources! The City’s Brown Books contain thousands of subdivision records of individual construction permits for homes and some businesses across several decades. In these pages, you can find interesting and helpful information about the original structure. Data includes notations about square footage, construction date, original building price, along with details about the interior of the building and more. Over 98 percent of all documents include a photograph of the original structure.

PHOTOGRAPHS! Almost everything I looked up had a photo. I looked up addresses of places I’d written about – photos! I looked up businesses along Preston, Hillcrest, and Lovers Lane — photos! I looked at just about every business in Snider Plaza — photos! I even looked up the still-standing house my family lived in for a couple of years on Milton — photo! The earliest photos I found were from 1931. And all of this available to anyone with a computer — for free! Thank you, University Park Public Library!

And as the blurb says, not only are there photographs of the properties, but there is a whole history of the building, complete with renovation info, builder info, a drawing of the original footprint, etc. This includes tons of buildings which have been torn down — nothing ever dies in city/county records.

Below are some of the photos I found. Scroll down below them for instructions on how to access these records yourself on your computer.


Here are a few photos of businesses on “the drag” — Hillcrest Avenue, across from SMU. (Click pictures to see larger images.)

6200 block of Hillcrest, at Granada (in 1931). (See this property’s Brown Books page here.)

6200-block-hillcrest_brown-bks_university park_1931


6209 Hillcrest (1959) — Jackson Arms, once my father’s home-away-from-home. (Brown Books page is here.)

6209-hillcrest_brown-bks_university park_1959_jackson-arms


6401 Hillcrest, at McFarlin (1931). The Couch Building, which burned down a few years ago — I wrote about that building here. (Brown Books page is here.) I **LOVE** this photo. I love the billboards on top of the building.

6401-hillcrest_brown-bks_university park_1931_couch-bldg


6407 Hillcrest (1948). Luby’s! What an interesting design. (Brown Books page is here.)



6601 Hillcrest (1931). The Mustang Garage — but instantly recognizable today as the home of JD’s Chippery and Cotton Island. (Brown Books page is here.)



And, a few Snider Plaza highlights. First, the photo at the top of this post, the Sinclair service station at 6600 Snider Plaza (1934). (Brown Books page is here.)


6600 Snider Plaza #313 (no date). The Beef Bar. (Brown Books page is here.) Another fantastic photo! BBQ in UP, before Peggy Sue (RIP).



6701 Snider Plaza (1931). Including the Varsity Theater (at the far left) — I wrote about this cool building here. (Brown Books page is here.)



6730 Snider Plaza (1931). A sandwich shop and a Hires Root Beer stand. (Brown Books page is here.)



6828 Snider Plaza (1941). Skillern’s Drugs and M. E. Moses. (Brown Books page is here. After a facelift, another photo is here.) I remember spending a lot of time in that dime store when I was a kid — it had a weird change in floor level, which looks like it must have been where a wall had once separated it from the space Skillern’s occupied.



7001 Snider Plaza (1946). Cabell’s. (Brown Books page is here.)



A quick jog over to 6001 Preston Road, at Normandy (1931). Country Club Pharmacy (it later moved to Inwood Road). (Brown Books page is here.) My mother worked for a few years as the office manager for the First Unitarian Church diagonally across from this drug store. When I was a kid hanging out waiting for my mother to finish work, I dropped a LOT of cash at the drug store on Archie comic books.



And, lastly, 4129 Lovers Lane (1947). A post-war duplex. (Brown Books page is here.) Every single time I drive down Lovers Lane, I always look forward to seeing this little house which has somehow managed to evade bulldozers. I love this house so much. And this is one of the very few times when I think that it has actually improved in appearance from its original design (see it today on Google Maps here). Hang in there, little house!




  1. Go here. (This is the “welcome page” — if this doesn’t load, go to the UP Public Library blog post here and click through. If you get an error message, go back to “welcome page” and you should see the search page.)
  2. Enter the address (number + street name) you want to find in the search box. You can also just type in a street name, and it will bring up all addresses on that street. (I typed in “Binkley” and got 18 pages of results — seems like overkill, but they’re all in chronological address order.) This works if you enter “Snider Plaza” — take a tour through the Snider Plaza of yesteryear. Some addresses will have more than one sheet. And there’s TONS of info on each property. 

And that’s it! You’ve lost a day! Or several! 

UPDATE: It appears this resource is no longer accessible by the general public. I haven’t checked, but my guess is that it is available only to University Park residents who have a library card. Please say it isn’t so, UP Public Library!

Not 100% sure where the boundaries for University Park are? See a City of University Park map here.



Sources & Notes

Absolutely everything you see here is from the University Park Public Library and the Brown Books in their collection. This is such an amazing resource. Thank you, UPPL and the City of University Park for digitizing these records and putting them online for all of us to use!

And thank you, Rod, for alerting me to this resource which I will be using constantly!




Copyright © 2022 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Dallas Morning News/Fort Worth Star-Telegram Archives Update

dmn-bldg_dmn_sketch_1890sDallas News HQ, 1890s

by Paula Bosse

A couple of facts about me: I guess I’m what you’d call a “power user” of the Dallas Public Library’s NewsBank newspaper database, accessing the archives of the Dallas Morning News and Fort Worth Star-Telegram pretty much daily; I’m also fairly resistant to change (i.e. kind of lazy).

So when I encountered the redesign of the entire NewsBank database yesterday, I was less than ecstatic that I’d have to stop what I was doing and figure out where everything had been moved to. I know I’ll get used to it quickly (I already have), but, what a pain. I’m not sure why some of the changes were made, but, whatever. I actually discovered a few new things which are either brand new or were hidden in what is, let’s face it, a site with a lot of stuff going on. (There are only so many hours in the day….)

The point of this is to say that I have re-re-re-updated Flashback Dallas’ most popular post, “How To Access the Historical Dallas Morning News Archive.”

For any of you who might log on to the Dallas Public Library site and click over to the DMN archive and wonder what the heck happened, my step-by-step tips might be helpful. They might also be tedious, repetitive, and vague. But at least it’s up-to-date! Until they change it again!

Click on the link above if you need any help. (Remember: filtering is your friend!)

And, again, many thanks to the Dallas Public Library and The Dallas Morning News (and The Fort Worth Star-Telegram) (and NewsBank) for providing such a valuable resource!



Copyright © 2021 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

The G. B. Dealey Library and Reading Room at the Hall of State

hall-of-state_dealey-library_entrance_042517A quiet place to read or study… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

I spent time this week walking around the G. B. Dealey Library and Reading Room at the Hall of State in Fair Park. It is part of the Dallas Historical Society, and it is a quiet, high-ceilinged, airy-but-cozy Western-themed oasis filled with lots of warm wood and featuring two large murals by legendary El Paso artist Tom Lea. If you haven’t seen it, I highly encourage you to go take a look.

What we now call the Hall of State was the architectural jewel in the crown of the Art Deco splendor created throughout Fair Park for the Texas Centennial Exposition in 1936. The room now housing the Dealey Library was originally the West Texas Room — one of four geographically-specific rooms in the Hall of State. The two Tom Lea murals (one depicting a cowboy, the other, pioneers) are on opposite walls (walls finished with an adobe-like plaster, decorated with famous Texas brands, in relief). One wall is covered with cowhide. There are painted ceramic tiles set into both the walls and the floor (the ones on the floor decorated with images of cactus are great!). There is a wood sculpture of a cowboy, carved by Dallas artist Dorothy Austin, who was only 25 years old when the Centennial opened. And … well — like everything in the Hall of State — everywhere you look you see incredible attention to detail. Every fixture, grating, knob … everything is absolutely wonderful.

In 1989, after a two-and-a-half-year renovation, the West Texas Room became the home of the G. B. Dealey Library (named in honor of the former publisher of The Dallas Morning News). The project was headed by architect Downing Thomas who took great care in choosing the Arts and Crafts-style furniture (the chairs, tables, and bookcases were handmade by Thomas Moser in Portland, Maine, the chairs emblazoned with bronze Texas stars and upholstered in tanned leather), reading lamps with mica shades (made by Boyd Lighting of San Francisco), and a woven rug by Sally Vowell of Fort Worth (I don’t recall seeing a rug, but there’s a lot to take in and I might have missed it). I really love this room.

When the library opened in November, 1989, the first guest through the doors was Tom Lea who had been shocked to learn that his then-53-year-old murals were still in place. And they’re still there, 81 years after Lea created them. And you should go see them.

The library and reading room is open Tuesday-Sunday, same hours as the Hall of State. If you are interested in researching materials from the collection of the Dallas Historical Society, you are encouraged to contact the staff in advance of your visit and make an appointment; though the room is open to the public, research hours are limited. More about this and the hours of operation can be found here.


Below, one of the Tom Lea Murals can be (partially) seen above the cowhide wall-covering and above Dorothy Austin’s cowboy sculpture. (Click photo to see a larger image.) That light fixture is fantastic! (See the full Tom Lea mural here.)


Here’s the view from the back corner looking toward the entrance, over which can be seen Lea’s second mural.


In the photo at the very top, you can see the floor, which is studded with all sorts of cactus-themed tiles. Here are examples of four of them.


My absolute favorite of the cactus tiles is this one, in a very Japanese-like rendering.



That’s what the room looks like today. Here are a few photos of the West Texas Room under construction in 1936 (photos from the Dallas Historical Society’s Centennial Visual Collection). The first one shows Dorothy Austin standing below the Tom Lea mural, about where her cowboy statue would be placed. Those ceilings are pretty high.


And here’s the statue. (See Austin’s statue close up, here, in a 2014 photo by Carol M. Highsmith, from the Library of Congress.)


And here is a look into the room from the entrance, showing a construction crew at work.


Below are 28-year-old Tom Lea’s thoughts on being informed of his important commission, from the El Paso Herald Post, March 24, 1936.  (Click to see larger image.)


It seems strange that Lea was only in the preliminary-drawing stage of the murals’ creation in March — the Centennial was scheduled to open in June, less than three months away. (It’s worth noting that even though the Centennial — which ran for almost six months — opened in June, the Hall of State did not open to the public until September, three months behind schedule and the only Exposition building that did not meet its deadline. It was finally dedicated on September 5, 1936, the 100th anniversary of Sam Houston’s election as the first President of Texas.)

Below, a photo of Mr. Lea at the 1989 opening of the Dealey Library, with his 1936 mural behind him.

via Tom Lea Institute


To read more details on the 1989 opening of the G. B. Library and the renovation of the West Texas Room, please check out these articles from The Dallas Morning News archives:

  • “A Rare Blend — Art Deco, Western and Shaker Unite for a Modern Adaptation at the Hall of State” by Mariana Greene (DMN, Nov. 12, 1989)
  • “G. B. Dealey Library Dedicated at Fair Park — Center Will House Texas Documents” by Todd Coplivetz (DMN, Nov. 13, 1989)
  • “How the West was East at the Hall of State Redo”  by Alan Peppard (DMN, Nov. 14, 1989)
  • “An Old Friend Triumphs Anew: The Hall of State Redo Affirms the Power of Great Architecture” by David Dillon (DMN, Nov. 14, 1989)
  • “Reviving a Cultural Paean to Dallas — Fair Park Changes Designed to Restore Centennial’s Glory” by David Dillon (DMN, April 9, 1986) (this article concerns Fair Park as a whole)


Sources & Notes

Photos of the Dealey Library and Hall of State door (below) are by me.

Photos of the West Texas Room from 1936 are from the collection of the Dallas Historical Society. You can search through low-res thumbnails of some of the images from their very large collection here.

As mentioned above, if you plan a trip to the Dealey Library in order to inspect or research items from the DHS collection, these materials must be requested in advance and an appointment must be scheduled (info here).

More on Tom Lea (1907-2001) can be found at the Tom Lea Institute website, here (with specific information on the Hall of State murals here); a profusely illustrated blog post with an emphasis on his time as a WWII artist-correspondent can be found here.

Obituary for Dorothy Austin Webberley (1911-2001) can be found on the Dallas Morning News site, here; family obituary is here.

Detailed info on the architecture and design of the Hall of State can be found in a Dallas Historical Society PDF, here. The Wikipedia entry is here (someone please correct the erroneous info that the Dealey Library is in the “East” Texas room!), and the always informative Watermelon Kid site has information on the East Texas and West Texas rooms here.

A series of photos of Fair Park, taken in 2014 by Carol M. Highsmith, can be found at the Library of Congress website, here. Her photo of the Hall of State is below.


And, lastly,  a photo I took showing one of my favorite elements of a building packed with aesthetically pleasing details (seriously, everywhere you look): one of the doors of the main entrance to the Hall of State, designed by Houston architect Donald Barthelme, honoring Texas industry (ranching, timber, oil, agriculture, etc.). That sawmill blade gets me every time. And the aerial perspective of oil coming up through a derrick (middle right) is pretty cool, too. (Click to see a larger, more exciting image!)



Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.


Update on Accessing Dallas City Directories For Free


by Paula Bosse

A couple of months ago I wrote the post “How to Access Historical Dallas City Directories Online,” which was, mainly, to give instructions on how to view, for free, scanned city directories from the years 1875 to 1979 online, via the Dallas Public Library website — all that is needed is a current library card issued in the city of Dallas.

Last night, I stumbled across twenty of these Dallas directories on the Portal to Texas History site, issued in various years between 1902 and 1961, scanned in their entirety by the Dallas Public Library. Ironically, several of these scans are far superior to the ones viewable on the Dallas Public Library website (scans which come from HeritageQuest, a database offered to libraries nationally). Many of those scans are, frustratingly, only partial — especially concerning the years 1936-1943;  the scans on the Portal site come from directories in the collection of the Dallas Public Library, and they are complete. I’m know I see these things from a nerdy perspective, but this is very exciting!

I’ve updated my post linked above, but to see the 20 Dallas directories (complete with residential and business listings, street directories, and ads), you can find them here.

Thank you, Dallas Public Library for the full scans, and thank you, University of North Texas for providing them to the public for free on your becoming-more-indispensable-by-the-day Portal to Texas History website and database!


Sources & Notes

Image from the 1902 Worley’s Dallas Directory, found on the Portal to Texas History site, here. (Hiram F. Lively was a lawyer and county judge.)


Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.


How To Access Historical Dallas City Directories Online

ad-marsalis-grocer_1883-directoryAd from the 1883 Dallas directory… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Two of the most important resources I use in delving into Dallas history are newspaper archives and city directories. A couple of years ago I wrote about how to access the indispensable online historical archive of The Dallas Morning News, beginning in 1885 (that post is here), but I haven’t written about how to use the equally important database(s) containing scans of Dallas city directories, beginning with the 1875 directory. 

morrison-and-fourmys_1888-1889-dallas-directory_title-page1888-1889 Morrison & Fourmy’s Dallas directory

There are two ways to do this online: for free, and as part of a subscription (pay) service. I started out by accessing the directories through the Ancestry website, which you have to pay for/subscribe to. It was only recently that I discovered that (as far as I can tell) the exact same directories available on Ancestry are accessible through the Dallas Public Library website — for FREE. All you need is a library card. (You must be a resident of the City of Dallas in order to qualify for a library card. There is more about who can get a library and how one must do this — it requires physically going to a branch with proof of residency — I’ve included this information in that earlier post, here.) (There are a few free online sources which require no library card and no subscription — see those at the bottom of this post.)

Once you have your card and have registered for an account at the Dallas Public Library website, here’s what you do next:

  • Log into your account, here
  • Click on “DATABASES” at the top
  • Scroll down, click on “GENEALOGY”
  • Scroll down, click on “HERITAGEQUEST”
  • Click on “CITY DIRECTORIES” at the top (you will be able to search through many city directories from around the country, not just the ones from Dallas — and, as you can see, there are all sorts of other interesting databases here, too, such as census records, etc.)
  • Enter the name you’re looking for and, voilà.


So why are these directories so useful?

Not only can you determine when someone was living in the city, you can see where they lived, what their occupation was, the name of their spouse, and, in some cases, the race of the person (which, while somewhat disconcerting, can sometimes be quite helpful, especially if the person you are looking for has a common name — up until the ’20s or so, African-American residents and black-owned businesses were followed by “(c)”). (All images shown here are larger when clicked.)

1907 Worley’s directory

There are also ads, like the one at the top taken from the 1883 directory showing Thomas Marsalis’ wholesale grocery business. Ads are not only interesting, they can contain a lot of information, and, in some cases, a drawing or photograph of the business or proprietor.

1878 C. D. Morrison & Co. directory

Typical business listings look like this:

1891 Morrison & Fourmy’s directory

For me, one of the most useful things I find about these directories is the section containing the street directory. There are city directories covering more than 140 years of Dallas history, and there are a lot of street names you come across in researching a person or a place that no longer exist, have changed names, have the same name as a street in a different part of town (there used to be a lot of street names duplicated in Oak Cliff before it became part of Dallas), etc. These street guides tell you the names of everyone who lived/had businesses on the street (or at least the name of the head of the household or owner of the business), and it gives the names of all cross-streets. An address of 400 Main Street was not in the same location in 1950 as it was in 1900. (See this post on when and why Dallas street numbers changed.) One of the resources I use most is Jim Wheat’s easy-to-navigate list of street names from the 1911 directory (it’s faster and easier to use than one of the actual directories!), with links to the pertinent scanned page — these pages show you not only the 1911 address (which is often the same address used today) but they also show you what the address was BEFORE the number changed. I can’t tell you helpful this has been for me. (See an example here, which shows that before the number changed, 1400 Commerce was 324 Commerce.)

Pages from the 1905 street guide:

1905 Worley’s directory

One bit of warning: many of the scanned directories that are online are only partial directories — and some years are missing altogether. The directories from the early 1940s, for instance, are a big headache: some have only 20 pages scanned — one wonders why they even bothered. Inevitably, the pages you need (and need badly) are ones that are not available to you, and you will, verily, let fly words your mother would not approve of. Sometimes you can get around the missing data by jumping to the street guide section or the business listings to see if useful info can be found there, but sometimes you are just going to be completely out of luck. This is when a trip to the Dallas Public Library (or possibly just a polite email to an ever-helpful librarian) will help you fill in the blanks, connect the dots, and get that swearing under control. I think they have a complete — or near-complete — set of city directories, either in hard-copy form or on microfilm. (UPDATE: Many of the incomplete directories mentioned above — issued  between 1936 and 1943 — are available fully-scanned, for FREE, at the Portal to Texas History. See link at bottom of post.)

You will find so much useful information in these directories that your head will spin. Right off  your neck. In a good way. But it’s also just enormous fun to browse them and imagine what the city used to be like in, say, 1889 when that year’s list of the city’s almost 150 saloons looked like this.


Sources & Notes

HeritageQuest is the service that provides access to scanned U.S. city directories to libraries across the country (it appears to be the same content the genealogy site Ancestry offers its members). This service is available free to holders of library cards. If you do not live in the City of Dallas, check to see if your local library system subscribes to this HeritageQuest database.

Here are a few other free online sources offering Dallas directory info — and these are available to everyone:

  • I’m updating this post on April 5, 2017 to include an INCREDIBLE selection of (from what I can tell) fully-scanned directories — twenty of them! This includes various years between 1902 and 1961 — including most issued between 1936 and 1941 (only partial scans of these editions are available through HeritageQuest/Ancestry, but here we can see complete directories). Thanks to the Dallas Public Library, everyone can access these Dallas city directories at the Portal to Texas History, here.
  • Another fully-scanned Dallas directory available online free for everyone can be found on Archive.org: the 1909 Worley’s directory is here.
  • Jim Wheat’s Dallas County, Texas Archives has all sorts of incredible stuff on his fantastic site, including links to directory information. Scroll down quite a ways on his main page here, and near the bottom in the left column you’ll see several listings under “Dallas City Directories.” Wheat manually transcribed a lot of these things himself, and those of us who research Dallas history owe the late Mr. Wheat a debt of gratitude. (UPDATE: The entire Roots Web website — not just Jim Wheat’s pages — has been down for several months. One can only hope his hundreds — if not thousands — of hours of work will someday be back online and once again accessible to researchers of Dallas history.)


Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.


The Blue House on Browder

The Rosenfield house, in about 2000 (photo courtesy Homeward Bound, Inc.)

by Paula Bosse

Perhaps you’ve been following the recent brouhaha over the plans to demolish one of the last remaining 19th-century residences in the Cedars area, south of downtown — Robert Wilonsky of The Dallas Morning News has been covering the story here and here and here. The house is in terrible disrepair, but it has the beautiful details of the period, and it’s obvious that it was once a lovely house in a well-to-do neighborhood. Preservation Dallas posted this in-better-days photo on their Facebook page:


I thought I’d see what I could find about the history of the house — mainly I wanted to see if I could find who built it and when.

The house currently has the address 1423 Griffin, but before highways were built and streets were moved around, its address was 1015 Browder. Dallas changed almost every address in 1911, so I checked Jim Wheat’s very helpful scan of that year’s directory which tells us both the new and the old addresses of houses and businesses and also shows what cross-streets those addresses are between.

browder-house_1911-directory1911 directory, Browder Street

The original address of the Blue House was 285 Browder Street, between Corsicana and St. Louis. In 1911, P. F. Erb was living there.

Next, I checked the Sanborn maps. The earliest Sanborn map I could find which actually showed this part of Browder was the one from 1892. Here’s a detail showing the two-story frame house on the northwest corer of Browder and St. Louis, with Browder running horizontally along the top. The address is 285 Browder. (The house next to it is 169 St. Louis — more on that house later.)


When you look at the full-page map this detail comes from (here), you’ll see larger numbers in the middle of the blocks. The block I’m interested in is block 84. Then I hopped over to the Murphy & Bolanz block book to see what I could find there. (I haven’t actually used this block book much, mostly because my old computer would not work with the plug-in required to view the pages, and it takes a while to figure out what you’re looking at.) When I clicked on “Block 84” in the index, I found this (click for larger image):


Here’s the detail of the pertinent block:


The names and other assorted scrawls indicate title change (I think). This page was very helpful, because it told me that this block was originally part of Browder/Browder’s Addition, and it was originally classified as Block 13. The lot in question is Lot 5 (and probably Lot 6, because Erb’s name shows up under both. So now I had terms to search on.

And then it was just a tedious slog through the Dallas Herald archives (not to be confused with the Dallas Times Herald archives), the Dallas Morning News archives, and old city directories. Here’s what I found.

First mention of this particular parcel of land was in The Galveston News on March 24, 1883. P. S. Browder, a Browder family executor, transferred a lot of property — including the two lots I was interested in — to Mr. & Mrs. Nathan Godbold as part of a quitclaim deed (I’m probably not using the correct terminology here…). For one dollar.

1883-march_browder_galveston-news_032483_QUIT-CLAIMGalveston News, Mar. 24, 1883

A few inches of print over, the record shows that Godbold immediately sold Lots 5 and 6 to Dallas real estate czar Charles Bolanz (misspelled below). For $1,000.

1883-march_browder_galveston-news_032483_to-bolanzGalveston News, Mar. 24, 1883

A few months later, in July, it was reported that Bolanz had sold the adjoining two lots to T. S. Holden, a young man who worked as a salesman for a wholesale grocery firm but seemed to be engaged in land speculation on the side. (It’s a little odd that Bolanz sold it so quickly for a $200 loss, but I’m sure there was probably more to the story.)

1883-july_browder_galveston-news_070283_HOLDENGalveston News, July 2, 1883

At some point, these two lots were sold to Max Rosenfield, another young man who was buying up land in the hopes that its value would increase. From Dallas Rediscovered by William L. McDonald:

“The year 1884 also saw the opening of a new housing subdivision by two Jewish real estate speculators, Gerson Meyer and Max Rosenfield. Their development, bounded by Akard, Corsicana, Browder, and St. Louis streets, was sold primarily to Jewish families who had begun to arrive as early as 1872 as part of the ‘Corsicana crowd’ — the terminal merchants who followed the construction of the H&TC.”

[I couldn’t find anything else about this block being a “sub-division,” but there definitely was a “Rosenfield & Meyer’s Addition” in East Dallas as early as 1886 — see the bottom of this post for more information on Gerson Meyer and the Murphy & Bolanz map of their East Dallas addition.]

In the 1886 city directory, Max Rosenfield is listed as residing at 1118 Browder, which may well have been an address that lasted for a very, very short time — Browder is a very short street, and I wonder if Rosenfield was renumbering addresses in his new development. It does appear to be Lot 5 of the block he and Meyer were developing, though. (Henrietta Rosenfield, widow of Jonas Rosenfield, was Max’s mother, and she lived with or near Max for several years.)

1886_rosenfield_1886-directory_1118-browder1886 Dallas directory

In early 1887, a For Sale ad appeared in the Herald — real estate agents Ducker  & Dudleigh were offering what appears to be Lots 5 and 6. By this time, houses had been built on both lots. (The  numbers 101 and 102 are confusing here, but the property being offered is the lot at the northwest corner of Browder and St. Louis and the lot adjoining it.) The price for the two-story house on Lot 5 was $6,250, which the Inflation Calculator adjusts to being about $166,000 in today’s money, taking into account inflation (but not taking into account Dallas’ outrageous real estate prices!).

1887_browder_dmn_050887-FOR-SALEDMN, May 8, 1887 (click for larger image)

It doesn’t look like either property sold, because a few months later, the 1888 directory showed Max still living in the Lot 5 house facing Browder and mother Henrietta living in the Lot 6 house at 169 St. Louis.

1888_rosenfield_1888-directory1888 Dallas directory

Rosenfield placed a For Rent ad in the paper in Feb. of 1889, offering his corner house on Browder.

1889_rosenfield_dmn_021389DMN, Feb. 13, 1889

This appears to have been when businessman Milton Dargan moved in. He is listed as moving into the house at about this time in the addenda section of late changes for the 1889 directory (directories were usually compiled in the year before they were actually published).

1889_dargan_1889-addenda-listing1889 Dallas directory

In that same directory, Rosenfield had moved in with his mother in the adjoining property.

1889_rosenfield_1889-directory1889 Dallas directory

At some point Dargan bought the corner house. Henrietta continued to live in the St. Louis-facing house until about 1892, when she moved in with Max at his new home on Akard.

And, finally, the “285” address shows up in a directory, in 1891.

1891_dargan_1891-directory1891 Dallas directory

Paul F. Erb bought the Browder house from Dargan in 1896 (he also bought the adjoining Lot 6 house facing St. Louis in 1910).

1897_erb_1897-directory1897 Dallas directory

And we’re back to Paul Erb, seen in the 1911 directory listing old and new addresses at 1015/285 Browder.

browder-house_1911-directory1911 Dallas directory



That was a long way to go to establish a chain of ownership. (I’m sure it would have been faster and easier to have consulted city records.)

So. Without access to building permits, it looks as if Max Rosenfield (who, by the way, was the father of John Rosenfield — born Max John Rosenfield, Jr. — legendary arts critic for The Dallas Morning News) was the person who built the 130-year-old house now going through the process of probably being torn down soon. It appears to have been built in 1884 or 1885. In a 1935 Dallas Morning News article celebrating the 50th wedding anniversary of Mr. and Mrs. Max Rosenfield, the house is mentioned: “…their first home, a house built by Mr. Rosenfield and still standing on the northwest corner of Browder and St. Louis streets…” (see the article “Mr. and Mrs. M. J. Rosenfield To Observe 50th Anniversary,” DMN, Jan. 6, 1935).

Below is a photo of Max Rosenfield and his new bride, Jenny, probably taken the same year the house was built, 1885-ish, when Max was 26 years old.


Thank you for building such a pretty  house, Mr. Rosenfield. Maybe some magnanimous person with deep pockets can have it moved to a new location and restore it to its former loveliness.

rosenfield-max_1935Mr. and Mrs. M. J. Rosenfield, on their 50th anniversary


Here’s a detail of an 1893 map of the area, with the house in question marked.


And here’s the lonely little house in its present hemmed-in location.

browder-house_bingBing Maps


Sources & Notes

Top photo, taken around 2000, from Homeward Bound, Inc., used with permission. Homeward Bound, Inc. took over the house in 1986 (and owned it until October, 2015) for use as Trinity Recovery Center, a substance abuse treatment center. The organization tried hard to save the house, but, according to Homeward Bound, Inc. Executive Director Douglas Denton, when they approached Dallas’ Landmark Commission in the 1990s, “they were not interested in the building.” Thanks to Mr. Denton for allowing me to use this photo, which shows the beauty of the old house better than any other photo of it that I’ve seen. He points to the photo below as an example of what this Cedars neighborhood once looked like. The caption for the photo in McDonald’s Dallas Rediscovered (p. 125): “Looking north toward downtown along Browder Street near the corner of Cadiz, 1895. These homes, built in the early 1890s, began to be razed in the late 1930s and early 1940s for parking space in the expanding business district.” (Photo: Dallas Public Libary)


This would have been about two blocks from the Rosenfield house. Imagine what that neighborhood once looked like!

Watch a news report on the outcry over the possible demolition of this house on the WFAA website, here.

The Dallas Morning News article on the 50th wedding anniversary of Mr. and Mrs. Max Rosenfield in which it is mentioned that Max built the house (“…their first home, a house built by Mr. Rosenfield and still standing on the northwest corner of Browder and St. Louis streets…”) is “Mr. and Mrs. M. J. Rosenfield To Observe 50th Anniversary” (DMN, Jan. 6, 1935).

Photo of the Rosenfields as a newly married couple found on Ancestry.com.

50th anniversary photo of Mr. and Mrs. Rosenfield is from the book John Rosenfield’s Dallas by Ronald L. Davis (Dallas: Three Forks Press, 2002).

All other sources as cited.

Max J. Rosenfield died in 1935 at the age of 76. His very interesting obituary (probably written by his son, John Rosenfield, amusements editor of The Dallas Morning News), can be found in the Dec. 2, 1935 edition of The News: “M. J. Rosenfield, Business Leader Many Years, Dies.”

It’s worth trying to figure out how to use the Murphy & Bolanz block books, courtesy of the Texas/Dallas History and Archives Division of the Dallas Public Library. Background on these very useful books can be found here.

If I’ve made any mistakes or have drawn any incorrect assumptions, please let me know!



UPDATE: Max Rosenfield developed a real estate partnership with Gerson Meyer, both of whom worked for Sanger Bros. department store. They bought and sold real estate (often to fellow Sanger’s employees), apparently as a lucrative side-business (Rosenfield even conducted his real estate transactions from his Sanger Bros. office). They apparently had acquired enough land by 1886 to have their own “addition” — “Rosenfield and Meyer’s Addition” in East Dallas. The earliest mention I found of it was this ad from May, 1886.

rosenfield-and-meyer-addition_dmn_052786DMN, May 27, 1886

Their addition was in East Dallas. Below, the map from the Murphy & Bolanz block book (click for larger image):


Gerson Meyer (a Jewish German immigrant, just a couple of years older than Rosenfield), moved to St. Paul, Minnesota in 1897 and continued working for several years in men’s clothing.

If something looks too small, click it!


Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.


How To Access the Historical Dallas Morning News Archive

lintel-pediment_dmn-bldg_belo_smu_1930sThe old Dallas Morning News building

by Paula Bosse

(UPDATED January 11, 2023 — there are a few new tweaks to the database, but things are mostly unchanged. Over the past several months, there have been inconsistent and annoying issues using the “historical” database when I attempt to access Dallas and Fort Worth newspapers at the same time, but I hope the new update addresses those ongoing problems. This continues to be one of the most popular and most frequently accessed of all Flashback Dallas posts, and because the online DMN archive — via the Dallas Public Library website — is frequently updated/redesigned, I try to update this page after each potentially confusing update. Scroll down for step-by-step instructions on how to access the DMN archives. I have recently come to realize that these steps might be slightly different for those using Mac computers.) (I apologize for the bloat of this post — I really need to pare this down — constant updates have gotten out of hand!)


Yesterday I wrote about how I tracked down the location of a photograph with very little information to go on. I hesitated to include the step-by-step process I used to discover the location, because I was afraid that it would be a little too tediously arcane for most people. But, apparently I was wrong. I’ve been surprised by how popular the post has become. It’s gotten many more hits than most Flashback Dallas posts usually do. I’ve seen it shared all over Facebook, and it’s generated more comments and emails than I expected. It’s gratifying that people seem to be interested in the actual process of historical research. Even though I don’t necessarily consider myself a historian (I studied Art History in college, and my background is in bookselling), I’m happy to be able to share historical events and forgotten local tidbits with an audience that finds them as interesting as I do. I consider myself a writer and researcher, and sometimes all the fun is in the researching.

Since I began this blog in February of 2014, I’ve been asked several times how I access the Dallas Morning News archive. Without question, the DMN is the single most valuable resource in the study of Dallas history. Years ago, one would have had to trudge to a library and crank up a microfilm or microfiche reader. Luckily, we are in the digital age, and every edition of the DMN from 1885 to the end of 1984 has been scanned and digitized and can be viewed from the comfort of one’s own home. (Also available in this database are various Fort Worth newspapers — from The Fort Worth Register to The Fort Worth Star-Telegram — from at least 1897 to 1990, which is, of course, very handy!) You can view the paper page by page, article by article, photo by photo, comic strip by comic strip, ad by ad. It’s incredible. You’ll get lost in it for hours. Want to know what was going on 100 years ago today? Easy! Here’s the front page of the DMN from July 30, 1915:

front-page_dmn_073015DMN, July 30, 1915

So how do you do it? First off, you have to live in the city of Dallas — bad news for those of you living outside the city limits, I’m afraid. (UPDATE: THERE IS A WAY FOR NON-RESIDENTS TO ACCESS THE ARCHIVE — FOR A MONTHLY FEE. SEE UPDATE AT BOTTOM OF THIS POST.) For those of us who do live inside the city limits, not only can we access the database whenever we want, but it’s also FREE. All you need is a Dallas Public Library card (information on how to get a free card is here; the DPL’s FAQ is here). UPDATE Nov. 9, 2021: The Dallas Public Library will now offer free library cards (and with it access to their website, including the newspaper archives) to STUDENTS AND TEACHERS AT DALLAS PUBLIC AND PRIVATE SCHOOLS, CHARTER SCHOOLS, COMMUNITY COLLEGES, AND UNIVERSITIES, regardless of whether they actually live in the city of Dallas — see the DPL’s FAQ on that here, and read a news story about it on the KERA site here.

So your first step is to get a library card. Once you have a card, go to the Dallas Public Library site’s “My Account” page, here, to sign up for the free account. You’re now ready to plunge in. 



Use this to search for content published ONLY in The Dallas Morning News, between 1885 and 2016 (articles post-2016 are available on DallasNews.com). (Scroll down for instructions to access Fort Worth papers.) This BY FAR the easiest option for most people and should give you more than you need!

  • Log in to your Dallas Public Library account
  • Click on “DATABASES”
  • Scroll down, click on “MAGAZINES, NEWSPAPERS & JOURNALS”
  • Scroll down, click on “DALLAS MORNING NEWS ARCHIVE”
  • This gets you to a default page with 4 DMN-related sources: 1) the “historical” edition, for the years 1885-1984 (results will show scanned images/articles as they appeared in the newspaper when originally published), 2) the “modern” edition, for the years 1984-2016 (these results will be text-only — no images), 3) DMN Blogs (2006-2016), and 4) the DMN old free paper Quick (2003-2011). Enter your search terms in the search box, and wave goodbye to big chunks of time as you sit in front of your computer searching and reading and searching and reading.

I use the ADVANCED SEARCH option — click “Advanced Search” underneath the main keyword search box. A new page opens and you can filter what you’re searching for by choosing any specific fields you want to use. Click the down-arrows next to the search boxes to show a drop-down menu of options. 



  • Follow the instructions above to log in — the main page opens — click through as above to “DALLAS MORNING NEWS ARCHIVE”
  • At the very top of the page, click the down arrow next to “Change Databases” — click on “ALL DATABASES” — a new page will load
  • Under “Access World News — Historical and Current” click on “Fort Worth Star Collection with Historical Archive” (they’ve left out the “Telegram” in several places with the recent update) — this brings up archives of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram (“historical” editions published 1902-1990 and “modern” editions published 1990-present day) as well as an archive of The Fort Worth Register (1897-1902) — and other stuff. Full scans are available for the editions published between 1897 and 1990; after that, it’s text-only.



This is the option I find most useful in doing daily historical research — I exclude “modern” editions, because I get too many extraneous results. If I do need more recent info, it’s easy to add modern editions, but I find excluding papers published after 1984 is best for my work. 

There are two ways to do this — this way is fastest (you won’t see results published after 1984 for the DMN or after 1990 for FWST):

  • Log in — follow all the steps listed above — the main page opens
  • Hover over “Change Databases” at the very top of the page – a dropdown menu appears — click on “All Databases” — a new window opens
  • Scroll down and click on “America’s Historical Newspapers” a new page opens — this will search the “historical” databases of the Dallas Morning News and Fort Worth Star-Telegram as well as the Fort Worth Register (Jan. 2023 update: even though you don’t see them until you look at search results, there are now several other fully scanned “historical” newspapers which will show up from other cities and states — up to 1922, which I gather is when copyright kicks in — you can filter these out and just stick with the DMN and FWST, but they are very interesting to peruse)
  • Filter your search options by date, specific newspaper, etc., on the left side of the page or — my preference — use the “Advanced Search” option by clicking that link below the main search box and add however many rows you need to refine your search (I always add a “Date” row and leave it for the duration of my research period)

This is a way to add and exclude various newspapers (don’t confine yourself to Dallas and Fort Worth!), and it also allows you to see search results from historical and modern papers at the same time:

  • Follow the steps above to log in — the main search page opens
  • Near the top of the page (to the right of the “NewsBank” logo) click on “A-Z Source List” — a new page opens
  • In the search box next to “All Keywords” type in “Dallas” — as of this writing, a LOT of options pop up, mostly modern rather than “historical” — click the checkboxes of all sources you wish to access
  • After you’ve selected all the sources you want, click on the blue box at the bottom of the page reading “Search Within These Selections” — a new page will open — begin your searches from the newspapers you’ve selected.



There are tons of DFW metropolitan-area papers and neighborhood publications to search through on the Newsbank/DPL website — from Alvarado to Weatherford; only the pre-1984 Dallas Morning News and pre-1990 Fort Worth papers are “historical” and fully scanned) — all other papers are text-only and, generally, don’t have content available from before the early 2000s. But those papers have lots of great info. I know this is getting tedious (!), but here’s how to search those non-historical DFW papers simultaneously:

  • Log in — main page opens
  • Click on “Access World News Historical and Current” at the very top of the page — a new page opens
  • Click on the blue box on the right side of the page reading “Dallas Metropolitan Collection” — this brings up archives for (as of this writing) 90 area publications (Jan. 2023 update: I see issues of The Dallas Herald (1855-1887) are, weirdly, kind of hidden in this list — they appear to be the exact same scans available on the Portal to Texas History, where navigation is a lot easier!)


Note: At the risk of beating a dead horse, one more time: the difference between the “historical” and “modern” post-1984 Dallas Morning News archives is that the “historical” (1885-1984) search results include images of fully scanned editions of the newspaper — you see everything the way it looked in the actual newspaper: you can see entire pages as well as individual articles, photos, illustrations, comic strips, ads, classifieds, etc. You do not see any of this in the post-1984 results — the information is still useful, but it’s not as interesting and, maddeningly, not as comprehensive. I tend to use one or the other, otherwise, too many non-applicable results are returned.


It takes a good bit of time to figure out how to use the search engine quickly and effectively — it has a lot of weird little idiosyncrasies that can cause you to miss out on lots of things you’re searching for (apostrophes, initials, and numbers can be extremely problematic) — but once you start to wander around, you’ll be amazed at what an incredible treasure trove is at your fingertips. It’s always confusing after a major re-do of a site, so you just have to play around with it until you figure out how everything works. …Then have everything change again when you finally get comfortable with it.

This is such a wonderful resource — thank you, Dallas Public Library and thank you, Dallas Morning News!


Sources & Notes

Photo at top: “Lintel and pediment above doorway, Commerce St. entrance,” ca. 1930s, from the Belo Records collection, DeGolyer Library, Central University Libraries, Southern Methodist University; photo and details are here.

The best newspaper database for those interested in Texas history is UNT’s Portal to Texas History Texas Digital Newspaper database, here. They have tons of scanned and digitized historical Texas newspapers (excluding The Dallas News), AND it’s free and available to everyone. Below are a few of their offerings of particular interest to Dallasites:

  • The Dallas Herald — absolutely ESSENTIAL for Dallas goings-on between 1855 and 1887, here
  • The Southern Mercury, the agricultural-leaning paper published in Dallas, 1888-1907, here
  • The Dallas Express — a newspaper printed by and for the city’s African American community — ALSO essential — sadly, only the years 1919-1924 have been scanned, here
  • The Jewish Monitor — published in Fort Worth, serving the DFW (and Texas) Jewish community, 1919-1921, here
  • The Texas Jewish Post, 1950-2011, here

Check out all the Texas newspapers UNT has scanned: go to the Advanced Search page and scroll down the “Collections” menu bar to see the full list.

And, of course, there are the subscription sites Newspapers.com (which I use) and NewpaperArchive.com. I’m not familiar with the offerings of the latter, but Newspapers.com has a lot of DFW papers, all of which are fully scanned (and many of which are available for free at the Portal to Texas History). My favorite DFW newspaper on Newspapers.com is a fairly recent addition — the evening edition of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, which is often very different from the morning edition (morning editions are the ones found on the Newsbank/Dallas Public Library database — Newspapers.com has both morning and evening FWST editions).

**If you need some research done, I might be able to help. I have access to several resources and am pretty thorough. Let me know what you’re looking for and inquire on hourly rates by clicking the “Contact” tab at the top of the page.**



7/31/15 — UPDATE: GENEALOGYBANK.COM — HOW TO ACCESS THE HISTORICAL DALLAS MORNING NEWS ARCHIVE IF YOU ARE NOT A DALLAS RESIDENT: While looking for something completely unrelated, I came across a comment by someone who said he accessed the Dallas Morning News archives — historical and modern — through a site called GenealogyBank.com. It sounds like something similar to Ancestry.com where you are given access to several different types of resources used in genealogical research. The website indicates the cost is $19.95/month or $69.95/year. There is a free 30-day trial (but if you don’t cancel it and explicitly tell them you are canceling, they will automatically charge you and you will NOT get your money back). This is the first I’ve ever heard of this site, so I have no idea whether it’s good or bad. (The parent company of GenealogyBank is NewsBank, the company that manages the DMN archive accessible through the Dallas Public Library.) I did ask on a Dallas history group tonight, and a trusted member said that he uses it all the time. He posted a few screenshots, and it’s very similar to the archive accessed through the library’s website. For those interested, you might want to try the free trial to see if it’s something you’d be interested in subscribing to. This is pretty cool, because it offers people who live outside the city limits the ability to access the DMN archives for a relatively small fee each month. I am not promoting or endorsing this site because I had never even heard of it until an hour or two ago. I’d love to hear feedback from people who try it out. The Genealogy Bank website is here. A review of the site from About.com is here. I encourage you to check other consumer sites for pros and cons. I hope this is helpful for those of you who, for some reason, choose to live away from Dallas!


Copyright © 2015-2023 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.

That Time When Dallas Changed the Numbers of Every Single Street in Town — 1911

young-street-sign_flickrPhoto by Silver Lighthouse/Flickr

by Paula Bosse

Here’s a topic that isn’t very sexy, but it’s one of those mammoth-scale city-wide operations that had to be done, but no one wanted to tackle it because it was a huge undertaking and it was going to be a big hassle: re-numbering the streets. All of them. Throughout the entire city. I wasn’t aware that something like this had ever happened until I started using old criss-cross directories to try to pinpoint the location of old buildings that were originally built on streets that no longer exist (such as Poydras and Masten).

Why, for instance, is the current address of the Majestic Theatre 1925 Elm St., but in 1909 that same parcel of land on Elm had an address of 463 (-ish)? Weird, huh? Obviously street numbers changed at some point, but when? And why? Eventually I zeroed in on 1910 or 1911 as the year when addresses seemed to have changed, but I was having a hard time finding any information about what prompted the change in the first place. Until I hit on the key phrase “century system.” After that, my search became much easier.

As far back as the 1880s, the city seemed poised to address the haphazard street numbering situation, as it was causing “endless confusion” — the powers-that-be had even seemed to settled on the “century system” (so called because each block is numbered up to 100, with a new hundred starting in the next block). But progress moves at a snail’s pace in city government, and the plan didn’t start picking up steam until fifteen or twenty years later.

In the early days of the 20th century, the numbering of Dallas streets was, as one mail carrier described it, “freakish.” Numbers weren’t always consecutive. Sometimes odd and even numbers were on the same side of the street. Sometimes a run of numbers would suddenly start all over again. Houses sometimes had TWO numbers. People would move and expect to take their number with them. Buildings and houses often had NO numbers. Street signs were few and far between, and it wasn’t uncommon for street names to be duplicated in different parts of town. As you can imagine, unless you were intimately familiar with the area or neighborhood, chances were that you weren’t going to  be able to find anything. Unsurprisingly, the real pressure to come up with some sort of logical, uniform street numbering system came from the city’s postmasters and postal employees (that they managed to regularly deliver mail to the proper recipients is just short of miraculous).

Postmaster Albert G. Joyce (one in a line of several postmasters who tried to effect change over the years) wrote an impassioned/frustrated plea for action in 1904:


1904_street-numbering_dmn_051804b(DMN, May, 18, 1904)

Everyone agreed that something needed to be done — especially as the city’s population was growing at an astronomical rate, but … nothing got done. Here, at the end of 1907, another exasperated postal employee shared examples of the problem:

1907_street-numbering_dmn_120707(DMN, Dec. 7, 1907)

 By 1909, a plan was finally starting to come together. This article describes how the numbering system would be implemented downtown, starting from the Trinity River, with Main and Ervay being the east-west and north-south anchors:

1909-street-numbering_dmn_121709-ervay(DMN, Dec. 17, 1909)

Even though the plan had basically been decided on, it wasn’t put into action for at least a year. There were three main reasons to delay the implementation: city directories had already been compiled and were to be issued soon, the 1910 census survey was about to begin, and the post office (which would bear the brunt of the impact of the drastic change) asked that the changeover take place before or after the busy holiday season.

By the end of 1910, the final details had been hammered out. The main change to the previous version of the plan was that the city, rather than the property owners, would pay for the re-numbering. Also, I don’t know if this was a new detail or not, but there is mention here that numbering east of Greenville Ave. would “begin anew.” The re-numbering was expected to be completed in January, 1911.

1910-street-numbering_dmn_100110(DMN, Oct. 1, 1910)

By the middle of January, 1911 the long-put-off task was completed, ending in Oak Cliff. The cost to the city of the “number placement” and the new street signs was $10,500.

1911_street-numbering_dmn_011511(DMN, Jan. 15, 1911)

The problem that had been moaned about for decades had been fixed, and a uniform system of street numbering had finally been put in place.

 1911_street-numbering_dmn_043011(DMN, Apr., 30, 1911)

 I can’t imagine how much of a headache and how unbelievably confusing the whole process and aftermath must have been. Several businesses, concerned that their clientele might have a difficult time “finding” them, hedged their bets by including BOTH address — the old and the new — on their letterhead and in their ads. This two-address thing went on for quite a while with some businesses — in fact, leading real estate man J. W. Lindsley was so annoyed by this practice that he complained about it to the Morning News in 1916 (a full five years after the switch!). Even though, ahem, Lindsley was one of the few advertisers in the Blue Book Directory for 1912-14 who did that very thing:


Unlike his competitor, Murphy & Bolanz, who had just the one (but still felt compelled to add the “new” to the address):


And that is today’s lesson on how Dallas finally bit the bullet and gave the entire city new addresses.

(And now I know that Neiman Marcus apparently IS the center of Dallas.)



UPDATE: HOW TO FIND THE OLD OR NEW ADDRESS. When I first wrote this, I’m not sure if I knew about the very handy resource Jim Wheat provided on his website: the 1911 Worley’s Dallas street directory, here. This is one way you can determine what the post-address-changeover was if you know the pre-1911 address (or vice-versa): find the street name and click on it. You’ll find two columns: one showing the “new” address, and the other the “old” address. (These aren’t always exact, but it at least gets you in the right block number to investigate further.) If you don’t know a specific address, you can make an educated guess according to the cross-streets. Thank you, Jim Wheat!


Photo of Young St. sign from Flickr, here. It’s great.

All newspaper articles from The Dallas Morning News.

The two real estate ads from The Standard Blue Book of Texas, 1912-14, Dallas Edition (Dallas: A. J. Peeler and Company, n.d.).

 Slightly fuzzy Ervay-Main sign from Google Street View.

An early article about this issue, “Street Numbering, A Neglected Matter to Receive Attention Soon” (Dallas Daily Times-Herald, Nov. 22, 1889) can be found here.

And if you’re interested in just what goes into tackling a problem like this in modern times, hie yourself over to “Street-Naming and Property-Numbering Systems” by Margaret A. Corwin (American Planning Assn., ca. 1976). Read the entire report here, in a PDF. I’m nothing if not thorough.



Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

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