Flashback : Dallas

A Miscellany: History, Ads, Pop Culture

Category: Trinity River

The Nellie Maurine: When a Pleasure Boat Became a Rescue Craft During the Great Trinity River Flood of 1908

nellie-maurine_diaper-daysThe Nellie Maurine (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

107 years ago today — after days and days of torrential rains — the Trinity River reached a crest of over 52 feet, and the resulting flooding caused loss of life and property and almost incalculable widespead damage on both sides of the suddenly surging river. Bridges and train trestles were washed out, cutting off any way for Dallasites or travelers heading west on trains and interurbans to get from Dallas to Oak Cliff, and vice versa. Ever the home of the entrepreneurial capitalist, the owner of one of the only large boats in the area, the Nellie Maurine, offered his water vehicle to be used as a ferry for those souls desperate to cross the river. For a price.

In September of 1906, E. L. Gale built a large boat in Dallas. It was designed to carry freight as well as passengers on pleasure trips between the “wharf” at the base of Commerce Street and the under-construction Lock and Dam No. 1 at McCommas Bluff. The boat was named after his daughters Vanelle and Maurine.

The Nelle Maurine is a model bow, flat-bottomed boat, seventy feet in length, sixteen-foot beam on the water line, and twenty feet including the guard rail. She is a propeller boat, draws twelve inches of water, and is driven by a 40-horsepower engine. In the event it be found that the engine is not of sufficient power to give the boat the required speed, it is so arranged that it can be changed to 80-horsepower with but very little trouble. With full cargo aboard, the vessel will require a depth of about thirty-three inches of water. (Dallas Morning News, Sept. 29, 1906)

nellie-maurine_dmn_092906DMN, Sept. 29, 1906 (before upper deck/pilot house had been built)

Gale envisioned great success in establishing shipyards and a wharf in Dallas. Though the much hoped-for “navigable Trinity” was still not a reality, many believed a trade route waterway between Dallas and the Gulf of Mexico was inevitable. A person could make a great deal of money by being in on the ground floor of such an industry.

The boat, initially a propeller boat which was converted to a sternwheeler in the summer of 1907, had trouble in operating along the short stretch of river with any kind of regular service — the water level was either too low or too high (when the water was high, the boat could not pass beneath the “Zang boulevard bridge”). The Nellie Maurine was often moored near a large cottonwood tree waiting for the river to cooperate. When it did cooperate, the boat was in demand as a pleasure craft, often offering moonlight treks down the river, complete with onboard dance band. The fare for a daytime round-trip to McCommas Bluff was 50¢; the privately chartered night-time cruises were likely quite a bit higher.

nellie-maurine_dmn_070409-ADAd, DMN, July 4, 1909

nellie-maurine_dmn_051308May 13, 1908 (less than two weeks before the flood)

When the Great Flood of 1908 hit on May 25, there was absolute bedlam, beginning in the middle of the night when one man set off several “dynamite bombs” one after another in order to awaken his neighbors who were unaware of the sudden and unexpected rise of the swollen river and who were in imminent danger. When Dallasites went to bed on May 24, the river was at an already high 28 feet. By 3:00 in the morning, just a few short hours later, it had risen to an incredible — and incredibly dangerous — 41.5 feet. By that afternoon it was over 51 feet, and by nightfall, it had surpassed all records and was at more than 52 feet. West Dallas and downtown were underneath water. Homes and livestock were washed away. Electricity was out. Telephones were out. Roads and railways were impassable. There was absolute panic.

For numerous reasons, people were desperate to cross the river. As all roads and bridges across the Trinity were submerged or destroyed, the only way across was by boat. The Nellie Maurine’s owner saw an opportunity to make a lot of money — by charging people to ferry them back and forth across the Trinity, something that probably rubbed people the wrong way. When city authorities asked permission to use the Nellie Maurine to survey the damage, they were rebuffed when Gale (or his captain) insisted the city pay a fee and the city refused. Dallas County Sheriff Arthur L. Ledbetter and Criminal District Judge W. W. Nelms were having none of that and seized the boat, deputizing the crew and ordering them to set off for the west bank of the river. As it turned out, the damage was far worse than anyone could have expected, and the boat was used to rescue stranded people, some of whom were pulled from treetops. (The account of this survey, titled “West Dallas Trip Proves Thrilling,” is pretty gripping — see link below.)

When the city was done with its search-and-rescue mission, it UN-seized the boat, and the Nellie Maurine began operating as a ferry again, transporting frantic people back and forth across the river. If you wanted to cross the river, you’d have to cough up one dollar — maybe even two, a hefty price to reach safety. (According to the Inflation Calculator, $1 in 1908 would be the equivalent of about $26 in today’s money). It was rumored that this ferry service was generating $1,000 a day (almost $26,000 a day in today’s money!).

nellie-maurine_dmn_052808DMN, May 28, 1908

The Nellie Maurine provided a much-needed service during the Great Dallas Flood — and they also made a substantial profit, which — depending on your business philosophy — is either ingenious or appalling.

Below, a few images of the Nellie Maurine. I’m not sure what ultimately became of her, but I have found no mention of the boat past 1910, a year before E. L. Gale died. (Click pictures for larger images.)


flood_nellie-maurine_1908bTwo photos of the boat taken during the flood (the boat had lost its pilot house when it was caught under the Commerce Street bridge earlier that day). (These two “real photo postcard” images found on eBay.)

Below, a post-flood photo from 1909, showing builders and contractors onboard, about to head to Lock and Dam No. 1 to check on its progress.

nellie-maurine_dmn_022309DMN, Feb. 23, 1909 (photo by Clogenson)


Top photo from the highly recommended book Diaper Days of Dallas by Ted Dealey.

Clippings and photos from The Dallas Morning News, as noted.

Read about the introduction of the Nellie Maurine (or the “Nelle Maurine”) to Dallas newspaper readers in an article published in The Dallas Morning News on Sept. 29, 1906, here. (The second photo above accompanied this article.)

Read the account of what was seen from the boat when it was commandeered by city officials in “West Dallas Trip Proves Thrilling,” published in the DMN on May 26, 1908, here.

Read more about the flood in these articles from The Dallas Morning News:

  • “The Trinity’s Swan Song Spree of 1908” by Gene Wallis (DMN, March 1, 1931), a hair-raising account of the havoc wreaked by the flood
  • “Riders Saw 1908 Flood From Ferry” (DMN, May 28, 1957), includes an account of S. S. Cumby, a farmboy who witnessed the flood

The Trinity River flood of 1908 was a story that made national headlines. The death-toll reports were all over the place, from 4 to “hundreds.” I think the official number of lives lost was only 4 or 5, which is pretty amazing, considering the the massive destruction caused by the flood. An interesting first-day report can be found in the Wichita (Kansas) Beacon, in a late edition from May 25, 1908, here. “Trinity Is On a Rampage” — indeed.

An incredible photo of the washed-out T & P railroad trestle can be found in a previous post here.

Stay dry, y’all!

Click pictures for larger images.


Copyright © 2015 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.


“The Walls Are Rising” (1967): Watch It Online!

mercury-dealership-6110-lemmon_wallsDallasites love their cars…. (photo from “The Walls Are Rising”/AIA Dallas)

by Paula Bosse

Late last year I stumbled across mention of a 1967 film about Dallas called “The Walls Are Rising.” It was made by the American Institute of Architects, Dallas Chapter, and was sponsored by the Greater Dallas Planning Council as a sort of warning to the people of Dallas about the dangers of auto-centric sprawl and uncontrolled urban planning. I searched and searched for the whereabouts of the film, but it seemed to have disappeared without a trace. I contacted AIA Dallas, and after much searching, they found the film, still on an old reel. They digitized the film and screened it before a large and enthusiastic crowd in January, and after viewing the film and listening to a panel discussion, audience members launched into a lively and concerned discussion about the state of Dallas today. It turns out that most of the topics of grave concern in 1967 continue to be topics of grave concern today, almost 50 years later.

AIA Dallas has uploaded the 27-minute film to Vimeo, and it is now available for all to watch online. Made to emphasize the dangers of out-of-control urban blight brought on by an over-reliance on automobiles, a lack of green spaces, and depressing expanses of visual clutter, the film is a sardonic look at a claustrophobically “modern” Dallas. It’s a hip documentary — absolutely a product of its era — made by a filmmaker with avant-garde tendencies; imagine what an industrial film would have been like had it been made by “with-it” ad men who were given free-rein to get their message across (and who may have indulged in illicit substances during the editing phase). Not as weird as the film itself (though still plenty weird) are some of the proposals from architects and planners on ways to improve the city’s “livability.”

Best of all, though, are all the photos of the city. It’s great being able to hit “pause” and take a look at each and every 1967 photo of Dallas, from a jam-packed downtown, to a cluttered Oak Lawn, to a serene Turtle Creek.

Thanks again to AIA Dallas for finding the film and uploading this weird little slice of Dallas history!

The Walls are Rising from AIA Dallas on Vimeo.


A few screengrabs (click for larger images):








Sources & Notes

The video can be found on Vimeo here.

All photos by Ronald Perryman, from his film “The Walls Are Rising” (1967), “produced by Greater Dallas Planning Council in collaboration with Dallas Chapter of American Institute of Architects.”

The AIA Dallas website is here.

Robert Wilonsky’s Dallas Morning News blog post (May 21, 2015) on the uploading of this film is here.

My previous posts on “The Walls Are Rising” can be found here.


Copyright © 2015 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

One of the Victims of the Great Trinity Flood: The T & P Railroad Trestle — 1908

flood_t-p-trestle_1908_legacies“T. P. Trestle Before Break, Dallas, Tex.” (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Above and below, photos of the Texas & Pacific railroad trestle spanning the Trinity River, destroyed during the great flood of May, 1908. Five people died in the flooding — in which the Trinity crested at an incredible 52.6 feet — and damage to property was unbelievable. The railroad trestle was just one of numerous victims of the worst flood Dallas has ever known.



Photo from the article “After the Deluge: The Impact of the Trinity River Flood of 1908” by Jackie McElhaney (Legacies, Fall, 1999), which you can read here.

Postcard from Flickr, here.

The May 25, 1908 Trinity River flood on Wikipedia, here.

Click pictures for larger images.


Copyright © 2015 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

A Proposed Trinity River Boulevard Connecting Dallas and Fort Worth — 1924

trinity-river-scenic-drive_dmn-110224The mayor’s plan for a scenic highway… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

In 1924, Dallas Mayor Louis Blaylock proposed a new route between Dallas and Fort Worth which would closely follow the course of the Trinity River. Not only would this new road relieve congestion of the highway already in heavy use by trucks, business vehicles, and “speeding jitneys,” but it would also provide a more sedate and scenic thoroughfare, intended for use by the citizens of Dallas, Fort Worth, and the mid-cities who enjoyed taking their “pleasure vehicles” out for a stress-free Sunday drive.

The following text and the above chart appeared in The Dallas Morning News on Nov. 2, 1924:

Sketch of Proposed Blaylock’s Trinity River Scenic Drive

Mayor Louis Blaylock’s proposed scenic highway between Dallas and Fort Worth would follow the course of the West Fork of the Trinity River between the two cities. The above sketch was made in the office of E. A. Kingsley, city engineer of Dallas.

Last week the Dallas Mayor advanced the suggestion that the “necessary new road to Fort Worth” be planned along these lines. Both Mayor Blaylock and Mayor Willard Burton of Fort Worth have offered $5,000 each toward the new enterprise if nine other citizens in both places donate like sums.

Mayor Blaylock said Saturday that such a project would be impracticable without adequate flood control, and when the matter reaches the conference stage around Jan. 1 a system of locks, dams and levees will be discussed. A boat canal between Dallas and Fort Worth and an irrigation system for the intermediate farming country are among the possibilities, said Mayor Blaylock.

A few days earlier, a sarcastic editorial about the plan (in which the Dallas mayor’s name was misspelled throughout) appeared in The Fort Worth Star-Telegram (click for larger image):

trinity-highway_FWST_102924FWST, Oct. 29, 1924

Even though Dallas and Fort Worth had long engaged in a (mostly) friendly rivalry, it was Fort Worth’s mayor, Willard Burton, who, rather surprisingly, stepped up to offer financial support for the Dallas mayor’s plan. Saying that it was unfair to further burden the taxpayers, he chipped in $5,000 toward the funding of the new road and suggested that he could persuade nine other civic-minded Fort Worthians to do the same. Blaylock may have been forced by mayoral peer pressure to dig deep and follow suit, but he also pledged $5,000 and said he’d get nine flush Dallasites to fork over five thou, too.

trinity-highway_dmn_103124DMN, Oct. 31, 1924

I’m not sure how either thought a 60-mile road could be built between Dallas and Fort Worth for only $100,000 (slightly less than 1.5 million dollars in today’s money). As it turned out, it couldn’t. An engineer with the U.S. Bureau of Roads estimated it would cost closer to $2,000,000 (about 27.5 million dollars in today’s money — a veritable BARGAIN!).

trinity-highway_dmn_110124-costDMN, Nov. 1, 1924

In less than a week of giddy conversations about the Trinity River fantasy boulevard, the plan was pretty much dead when everyone accepted the fact that it was not economically feasible.

trinity-highway_dmn_110424DMN, Nov. 4, 1924

There must have been many sad souls in Dallas in the fall of 1924. But some still insisted it could be built and should be built. Prominent Fort Worth resident J. N. Brooker wrote an impassioned letter to the Star-Telegram, with a few helpful suggestions:

scenic-drive_FWST_112124FWST, Nov. 21, 1924

A toll road that charges “moonshine whiskey prices” — there you go!


Sources & Notes

Top image from The Dallas Morning News, Nov. 2, 1924 (apologies for the poor resolution!).

More on Mayor Louis Blaylock (1849-1932) from The Handbook of Texas, here.

Lastly, a couple of amusing snide remarks from the pages of Amon Carter’s Fort Worth Star-Telegram:

scenic-drive_FWST_110324FWST, Nov. 3, 1924

scenic-drive_FWST_111124FWST, Nov. 11, 1924

Most images larger when clicked.


Copyright © 2015 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Barges on the Trinity — 1906

barge_trinity_clogenson_1906-LOC-1A confident crew, a stoic Old Red, and a stubborn river (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

“A navigable Trinity.” For over 150 years, people have hoped against hope that the Trinity River might one day be made into a commercial waterway, navigable from the Gulf of Mexico to Dallas. For over a century, federal, state, and local funds were optimistically (misguidedly?) poured into various hopeless plans and projects — but not a one was successful.

In 1906, construction was to begin on one of these projects — a series of locks and dams downriver of Dallas. Above and below are photographs showing the barge Charles R. Lane loaded with lumber and camp provisions, which were to be towed by the launch Admiral to McCommas Bluff, where the first lock was to be built. The above photo ran in the May 1, 1906 edition of The Dallas Morning News above the following caption:

Contractor’s barge, loaded with supplies, about to depart from Dallas for the site of the first lock and dam down the Trinity River.

Below, the story that accompanied the photo. (Click for larger image.)

barge_trinity_dmn_050106DMN, May 1, 1906

barge_trinity_clogenson_1906-LOC-2Dudes and fat-cats, with dollar signs in their eyes (click for larger image)

Later that month, a barge excursion to the site of the future lock was arranged for interested parties. This “merry crowd” of curious looky-loos was towed down the river to McCommas Bluff where they de-barged to tour the site and have a picnic lunch atop the picturesque bluff. They returned to Dallas happy and excited, convinced that maybe — just maybe — the Trinity would finally be tamed!

barge_trinity_dmn_052806DMN, May 28, 1906 (click for larger image)

Giddy enthusiasm about the project was all over the pages of The Dallas Morning News:

The time for doubter and pessimist has passed, and belief in the certainty of the practical navigation of the Trinity now appears unanimous. (DMN, May 2, 1906)

Well-intentioned though this wishful thinking might have been, “certainty” is probably not a word that should be tossed around so lightly. And certainly not in the case of anything having to do with the Trinity.

I bet that poor river just wishes people would leave it alone.


Sources & Notes

Both photographs taken by Henry Clogenson; from the collection of the Library of Congress, here and here.

“Trinity River Navigation Projects” entry from the Handbook of Texas is here.

History and photos of the McCommas Bluff Preserve and Trails area (including an interesting photo of Dam #1 from about 1910) can be found on the Dallas Trinity Trails blog, here.

An essential history of the various failed attempts over the years to open up a navigable Trinity between Dallas and the Gulf of Mexico can be found in “Navigating the Trinity: A Dream That Endured for 130 Years” by Jackie McElhaney; the article from the Spring 1991 issue of Legacies can be read here.

An interesting page from the American Canal Society Canal Index — with an illustration of the location of the locks — can be accessed here.

To watch a soothing video shot in the area of the abandoned Dam #1 at beautiful McCommas Bluff, click here.

A related Flashback Dallas post — “Snag Boat Dallas — 1893” — can be found here.

Click pictures for larger images.


Copyright © 2015 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.


“The Walls Are Rising” — SEEN!

trinity-amphitheater-bandshell_aia-dallas_1960sA 1960s vision for development of the Trinity (AIA Dallas)

by Paula Bosse

The AIA Dallas screening last night of “The Walls Are Rising,” a 1967 film made by the AIA about Dallas’ somewhat chaotic urban planning, was a huge success! Not only were there upwards of 250 people in attendance at the Sixth Floor Museum to view the film and listen to a panel discussion afterwards, but, for me, it was something of a surreal experience to have a large group of people discussing a film I had researched and researched but had been unable to find any trace of after 1972. I contacted the Dallas Chapter of the American Institute of Architects with my “re-discovery,” and they enthusiastically set out to find it.

Thanks to AIA Dallas’ Anna Procter, the film was found and digitized. Other related archival materials were also found, including a wonderful series of drawings, one of which (above) shows one of the many grand and occasionally outrageous visions for a new Trinity River Town Lake: an amphitheater facing a bandshell set IN the water, replete with the ubiquitous sailboat that always seems to accompany renderings of just about every view of Trinity development I’ve ever seen. I would love to see this series of drawings collected in a book. I would buy it.

It was a great event, and it was so nice (and, again … surreal) to meet so many people who told me they enjoyed the blog. Thank you! (And, guy-who-told-me-about-losing-an-hour-of-time-at-work-reading-the-blog … thanks — but get back to work!)

I loved the film. It was weird and kooky and definitely of its time. It’s interesting to see how the city has improved in the past 40-something years, but it’s also frustrating to see how LITTLE it’s changed.

The film will be available in the near future for online viewing, which is great, because not only will more people be able to see it, but also because we’ll all be able to pause it to look more closely at some of the many, many photos used in the film. UPDATE: Watch the film online, here.

Thanks to AIA Dallas/Dallas Center for Architecture, panelists Howard Parker, Larry Good, and Jack Gosnell, moderator Robert Wilonsky, and the Sixth Floor Museum for an entertaining night. And thanks to everyone who attended!


Sources & Notes

A few of the reviews/recaps of last night’s film and discussion:



Copyright © 2015 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.


Urban Crisis: “The Walls Are Rising” — 1967

Oak Cliff Pier? Just one part of Dallas’ urban future as envisioned in 1967…

by Paula Bosse

In 1967, the Dallas chapter of the American Institute of Architects unveiled a project it had been working on under the sponsorship of the Greater Dallas Planning Council for over a year — a 40-minute color slide presentation with recorded narration called “The Walls are Rising,” directed by writer-photographer Ron Perryman of Austin. Enslie “Bud” Oglesby — one of Dallas’ top architects and the chairman of the committee behind the project — said of the film:

I saw here an opportunity to demonstrate the problems which poor planning bring and the results that can come from a sound, unified planning program…. (Fort Worth Star-Telegram, June 18, 1967)

The rather more urgent tone of the brochure that accompanied the film was a bit more dire:

We cannot afford to lose any more time in developing a coordinated plan to make Dallas a more beautiful and effective city, for all around us the walls are rising, the city is being built… We are designing by default instead of summoning our vitality, wealth resources, talents and human vision to create a design plan that will give Dallas quality and character all its own.

The goal of the project was to create awareness among city officials, planners, and designers (as well as among the public) of the immediate need to address the conscious physical design of the city in order to improve its future “livability.” The argument was that the city of Dallas was, in 1967, an unplanned and uncoordinated chaotic urban environment dominated by (and practically strangled by) the automobile; it was overwhelmed by traffic, noise, and visual clutter, and it lacked much-needed green spaces and personal “refuges.”

It was stressed that the film was not a plan, per se, but was, instead, an outline of suggestions that the AIA and the Greater Dallas Planning Council were proffering for discussion (and, one assumes, hoping would be implemented). Among their suggestions were the following (some of which have been adopted, but many of which have been “on the table” for decades now and which Dallas leaders continue to debate):

  • A 6-mile hike-and-bike trail from Turtle Creek to Reverchon Park
  • A rapid transit system (the report stressed that it would be urgently needed by 1980)
  • The creation of downtown parks
  • The development of downtown apartment housing
  • A centralized transportation hub (bus, rail, air)
  • The reduction in noise, visual clutter, and traffic
  • More “sensitive” freeway planning, which should be designed (or re-designed) for the driver and not for the automobile
  • More awareness of the pedestrian in designing downtown and neighborhood streets, especially in regard to safety and accessibility
  • Development of, yes, the Trinity River and its levees, including a downtown lake and sailboat-dotted marina, with apartments and a variety of entertainment and shopping venues lining the “shore”
  • And, most unexpectedly, a “scenic link” which would connect Fair Park to the Dallas Zoo, incorporating a sort of shuttle service between the two locations (and across the Trinity) via an elevated gondola ride (!)

As fun and fanciful as fresh ideas on getting to Oak Cliff are, the film seems to have been more of a warning of what the city’s future might be if it continued down its then-current path of … having basically no plan at all. The film started off by assaulting the viewer’s senses with several minutes of “blaring, cacophonous music” and a rush of chaotic images — and opened with the ominous words, “We are living in an accident.” The League of Women Voters issued a report in 1968 called “Crisis: The Condition of the American City” in which they described “The Walls Are Rising” as “a horror film.”

What sounds a bit like a sophisticated A/V presentation was screened for dozens and dozens and dozens of groups in the Dallas area between 1967 and about 1972: it was shown to various Chambers of Commerce, Rotary, Kiwanis, and Lions clubs, women’s groups, church groups, business groups, arts organizations, and on and on and on. The film would usually be introduced by an architect who would also lead a discussion and answer questions afterward. If you were a member of a civic or professional group in the late ’60s, chances are pretty good you saw “The Walls Are Rising.”

Which is why it’s so surprising that all traces of the film seem to have vanished in the intervening years. I contacted the Dallas Municipal Archives, the Texas/Dallas History & Archives Division of the Dallas Public Library, AIA Dallas, and Dallas Center for Architecture. Everyone was very helpful, but … nothing. Designs for Dallas and the later Goals for Dallas are better known projects, but it seems that there would be something connected with this film lying around somewhere. I’d love to see it. It sounds like it would be entertaining and informative … and depressing. We’ve come so far. …We haven’t come far at all.


walls_FWST_061867Fort Worth Star-Telegram, June 18, 1967 (click for larger image)


Sources & Notes

“The Walls Are Rising” was introduced to the Dallas public in Dorothie Erwin’s article, “A Design for Dallas Proposed,” which ran in the Feb. 12, 1967 edition of The Dallas Morning News. Additional descriptions of the film can be found in the article “A Courageous Look at Today’s City” by Larry Howell (DMN, May 3, 1968).


UPDATE: Jan. 9, 2015 — Great news! AIA Dallas has found the film and has scheduled a screening!

  • To read my follow-up post “‘The Walls Are Rising’ — FOUND!” click here.
  • To read Robert Wilonsky’s Dallas Morning News article on the newly-found film, click here.
  • For info on the AIA Dallas screening, click here.

UPDATE: Jan. 20, 2015 — The public screening and panel discussion at the Sixth Floor Museum was great! Read about it here.

UPDATE: May, 22, 2015 — AIA Dallas has digitized and uploaded the film to Vimeo. Watch the complete film here.


Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.


Crossing the Trinity River Viaduct — 1946

streetcar-crossing-trinity_1946-denverpublibStreetcar on the Trinity River Viaduct (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

A few days ago I posted a photograph of a streetcar pulling into Oak Cliff, having just crossed the Trinity River Viaduct (link below). In this photo, we see what streetcars of the period looked like actually crossing the viaduct.


Photo by Robert F. Richardson, taken on June 5, 1946. From the Western History/Genealogy Dept., Denver Public Library, viewable here.

Photos of these double-ended streetcars taken from a distance present a bit of a Pushmi-Pullyu problem in determining which direction they’re heading, but if you enlarge the photo at the Denver Public Library link just above, you can see the silhouette of the operator at the eastbound end of the car, driving the car toward Dallas. UPDATE: I’m wrong! The car is moving toward O.C., not Dallas! That motorman silhouette is a figment of my imagination! See the comments below for tips on how an amateur like myself who’s never actually seen a streetcar can tell which direction one is moving. (Thanks, Bob and Bob for the correction!)

Streetcars ran back and forth across the Trinity River on a special trestle just south of the Oak Cliff Viaduct/Houston Street Viaduct. It had been in use since 1887 (through various renovations) and was demolished in the early 1970s to build the present-day Jefferson Street Viaduct. The streetcar shown is from the Dallas Railway & Terminal Co. fleet.

My previous post mentioned above, “Waiting for a Streetcar on a Sunny Winter Day in Oak Cliff — 1946,” contains a fantastic photo taken by the same photographer, four months earlier, showing people waiting for the approaching streetcar just after it’s crossed the river; that photo can be seen here.


Copyright © 2014 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.

The Trinity River at the City’s Doorstep

downtown_trinity_ca1920s_smu_foscueWhat? You didn’t know the Trinity River was straightened? (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Back before Dallas decided to straighten out the Trinity River and move it a mile or two to the west (in an attempt to prevent future flooding), the river ran only about a block from the Old Red Courthouse. It’s so strange looking at this picture and seeing a river in a place where we’ve never seen it. It’s a shame they moved it (who knew you could “move a river”?), but flooding was a major issue, and, in fact, it looks like there was flooding the day this photo was taken. Below, you can see a magnified view — it looks so different from what we’re used to that it takes a second to get your bearings. Imagine how different Dallas would feel today if the Trinity had been allowed to run its natural course.

downtown_trinity_ca1920s_smu_foscue-det(click for MUCH larger image)


Photograph by Lloyd M. Long, from the Edwin J. Foscue Map Library, Central University Libraries, Southern Methodist University; it can be seen here (with many of the buildings labeled) and here (without the labeling).

SMU has the photo dated “ca. 1930s or 1940s,” but I think it may be from the late ’20s. I’ve seen non-specific dates of the river’s realignment from the 1920s to the 1930s, but a couple of landmarks in the photo above place it sometime between 1925 (the year the Santa Fe buildings were constructed) and 1933 (the year the Hippodrome Theater — seen here, on Pacific — became the Joy Theater).

UPDATE: The river was straightened in 1928. See fascinating information about the when, where, why, and how of the Trinity River realignment, below in the comments — it was a true feat of modern engineering.

A few Trinity River-related links: the Trinity Commons Foundation site is here; the Trinity River Corridor Project site is here; and an interesting look at plans and proposals for the future of Dallas and the Trinity River can be read on the American Institute of Architects (Dallas) site here.

Click pictures for much larger images.


Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.


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