by Paula Bosse
Happy Thanksgiving! It seems like a good day to look back at Thanks-Giving Square, the triangular one-acre park in downtown Dallas bounded by Pacific, Bryan, and Ervay. It was originally envisioned in 1961 by Dallas businessman Peter Stewart as a needed quiet refuge and chapel in the middle of a busy city — a calm space set aside for “spiritual gratitude.” It took several years before architect Philip Johnson was brought on to the project in 1971. After more than 15 years from its original conception, its official public dedication was on Nov. 28, 1976, three days after Thanksgiving.
Check out some of the progress reports on the project which appeared over the years on WFAA-Channel 8 News:
Architect Philip Johnson (whose other Dallas projects include the Kennedy Memorial, The Crescent, and the Cathedral of Hope, etc.) talks briefly about Thanks-Giving Square and its underground component, and also shows off a 3-D model (from July 1971):
Business owners whose shops were in buildings on the land which was about to be leveled were forced to move out, and many were not happy (from April 1972):
Construction is underway (November 1976):
And, lastly, Channel 8 weatherman Troy Dungan checks out the progress as the dedication day approaches (November 1976):
For a bit of street-level context, here’s a photo showing some of the buildings that were razed (at the right, directly across from the Republic Bank Building) in order to make way for Thanks-Giving Square:
Below is a detail from a newspaper ad for MetroBank which appeared in August, 1976, with a nice little stylized illustration of the triangular TGS and its swirly chapel (click for larger image).
Speaking of the “swirly” design, in a 1982 article about TGS, Dallas Morning News architect deity David Dillon described this structure as “Philip Johnson’s Dairy Queen chapel,” which, presumably, might not have been met with amusement by internationally acclaimed architect Johnson, who probably wouldn’t have appreciated the comparison of his work to an ice cream cone. Interestingly, that description appeared in a 1982 article about Stewart’s dismay that the tall buildings which loomed over TGS (including Thanksgiving Tower) were, basically, blotting out the sun — little TGS was more often in shadow than in sunlight:
Stewart urged the city to pass a sun and shadow ordinance that would preserve the remaining downtown view corridors from high-rise development […] but the [preliminary] ordinance got such a cool reception from downtown developers that it was dropped quickly. (“Computer Study Sheds Light On Thanks-Giving Square Problem” by David Dillon, Dallas Morning News, July 4, 1982)
I bet it got a cool reception!
Sources & Notes
Postcard found on eBay.
Videos from SMU’s WFAA News Film Collection, which can be found on the SMU Jones Film Collection YouTube channel.
Thanks to Noah Jeppson for passing along a link to the huge Thanks-Giving Foundation Collection of photos and documents, viewable on the University of North Texas’ Portal to Texas History, here.
Read about the history of Thanks-Giving Square (or as it’s often written, Thanksgiving Square) on Wikipedia, here.
Read the D Magazine article “The Park That Peter Built” (which seems to end abruptly) about the history of Thanks-Giving Square by Jane Sumner from Nov. 1, 1977 here.
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