Most Endangered Historic Places
With so many historic buildings in Dallas having uncertain futures, Preservation Dallas developed the Most Endangered Historic Places list to call attention to important historic sites which are at risk of being lost forever. The list recognizes the many significant properties that make up our neighborhoods and reflect: the lives of community leaders, historical events, important architects and builders, and the families who made Dallas their home. The list also highlights the value of the city’s historic architectural styles and building types of rapidly disappearing residential, commercial, and public architecture. These are places are important to the diverse history of our city and are irreplaceable community assets that tell the story of Dallas and its development.
The yearly lists of the Most Endangered Historic Places in Dallas include:
2017 Most Endangered Historic Places
THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS BUILDING – Downtown
The Dallas Morning News Building at the corner of Houston and Young Streets opened in 1949. It is affectionately known as the “Rock of Truth” building due to the inscription on the building’s front façade, which was taken from a 1906 address to employees by vice president and general manager of the corporation at the time, George Dealey. The Dallas Morning News began publication on October 1, 1885 in conjunction with the pre-existing Galveston News. These two newspapers were the first in the country to publish simultaneous editions thanks to being linked by 315 miles of telegraph lines. George Dealey began working for Galveston News as an office boy in 1874 at the age of 15, and worked his way up the corporate ladder until he bought the Dallas Morning News in 1926.
George Dahl, one of Dallas most prolific and preeminent architects, designed the original front portion of the building which has been added on to over the years in different phases. The interior also went through an extensive remodel in the 1960s removing original Dahl features and a lobby mural painted by Perry Nichols chronicling the history of Texas and The Dallas Morning News. The mural was sent to the University of Texas after removal and then came back to the TXCN building on The News campus in the 1980s where it was installed and stayed until 2017 when it was removed and sent back to the University of Texas. The rear section of The News building was devoted to the three-story tall printing presses which were shuttered when the printing of the paper moved to a facility in Plano in the 1980s leaving a large expanse of the building vacant. The exterior of the of the building remains largely intact with its most identifiable feature the “Rock of Truth” inscription and its metal spandrels between the windows featuring the outline of Texas.
Recently The Dallas Morning News relocated to another George Dahl designed building – the old Central Public Library on Commerce Street next to The Statler – leaving the 1949 building vacant. Earlier this year The Dallas Morning News hired architecture firm GFF to study the feasibility of the reuse of the building. Hopefully the value of the important history of the building will be recognized and its architecture by George Dahl preserved, even if it’s only the front portion of the building. If the building goes up for sale it could be demolished by its next owner for new development on the site, which would leave Dallas without a physical connection to this important piece of our city’s history.
FIRST CHURCH OF CHRIST, SCIENTIST (EAGLE’S NEST) – Downtown
Christian Scientists first established a congregation in Dallas in 1894, meeting in a series of downtown buildings. The congregation sold its wood-frame building on South Ervay Street near Marilla Street in 1910 to construct their new church on a recently purchased parcel of land at the corner of Browder and Cadiz in Browder’s Addition. The neo-Classical Revival style church was designed by the well-known firm of Hubbell and Greene, who also designed the Scottish Rite Temple on Harwood Street. The design was intended to reflect the mother church in Boston with its impressive dome on the roof and its Adamesque interior design. Construction work began with the cornerstone being laid on August 27, 1910. The first service in the new 900-seat church was held on January 14, 1912.
First Church of Christ, Scientist occupied the building into the 1980s. By that time the area around it had become deteriorated and members moved to other Christian Science congregations. The building was purchased in 1999 and the new owner completed a renovation of the dilapidated structure which included a new roof, restoration of the metal dome, repair of the exterior masonry, and restoration of the interior along with installing dressing rooms, restrooms, and box office into the original structure. The structure reopened in 2000 as a performing arts center.
The building is currently for sale and the surrounding area south of City Hall has been proposed for massive redevelopment with new towers and buildings which does not include retaining the church. This important religious structure is not protected by the Dallas Landmark status, putting it at increased risk for demolition as part of future redevelopment of the area.
FLORENCE HALL AND THE HERITAGE BUILDINGS OF SMU – SMU Main Campus
The Southern Methodist University main campus was carefully planned in 1911 by its founding president Robert S. Hyer who desired to create a campus that was planned for the future and would not necessitate the removal of buildings as the campus expanded. He created Bishop Boulevard as a grand avenue from Mockingbird Lane to lead to the pinnacle of campus, Dallas Hall, which was completed in 1915.
Between 1915 and 1928 a group of ten structures were built in the Georgian Revival style as the earliest buildings constructed on campus. They were placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980 due to the significance of the extensively planned campus using the Georgian Revival style popular at the time. The structures listed on National Register include: Dallas Hall, Clements Hall, Florence Hall, McFarlin Auditorium, Hyer Hall, Perkins Hall, Ownby Stadium (demolished), Snider Hall, Virginia Hall, and Patterson Hall. All relate to one another with their placement on campus and their Georgian Revival style with uniform scale and height, well-proportioned symmetrical compositions, red brick with white trim, multi-paned windows, and decorative Georgian motifs and elements applied in wood and cast stone.
Over time the campus grew in phases following the original campus plan for buildings and for the most part carried forward the design principals of the early buildings. As a university that is continuing to grow there is increased pressure on the older heritage buildings for replacement with larger and more up-to-date facilities for the students. An example of the threat those buildings face is Florence Hall, which is being considered for replacement. It was constructed in 1924 to serve as the home of the SMU School of Theology and was originally named Kirby Hall. It was renamed Florence Hall in 1951 when it was converted to serve the School of Law, which has plans to replace the building with a new larger facility once funds are raised. The demolition of one of the earliest campus buildings would be a terrible loss. SMU has done an excellent job of renovating Dallas Hall and McFarlin Auditorium and we hope that they could do the same with Florence Hall.
MILLER-STEMMONS NATIONAL REGISTER HISTORIC DISTRICT – Oak Cliff
The Miller-Stemmons National Register of Historic Places Historic District is located in the heart of Oak Cliff and is one of the oldest neighborhoods in that area. After the annexation of the City of Oak Cliff in 1903 by the City of Dallas, Leslie A. Stemmons and Thomas S. Miller, Jr. developed what became the Miller Stemmons Addition of more than 200 buildings. The development consisted primarily of one and two-story single-family residential buildings dating from 1910 to the late 1930s with 1920s multi-family apartment buildings mixed in. The buildings are primarily wood frame or brick and reflect the popular styles of the day, including many bungalows and four-square designs.
The development is roughly bounded by West Davis Street on the south, Neches Street on the north, Elsbeth Street on the east and Woodlawn Avenue on the west. It was originally promoted as an affluent neighborhood with more substantial houses constructed on Bishop Avenue, which was particularly popular due to its proximity to the streetcar line. The south end of Bishop Avenue was anchored by a brick fire station. Prominent doctors, lawyers, and business leaders built many of the houses in the district.
As the Bishop Arts District has grown in popularity it has brought increased development pressure for the close by Miller-Stemmons District. Even though it has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1994 it is not afforded the protection of being a City of Dallas Landmark District. In 2010, Bishop and Davis were heavily up zoned for more intensive development. A maximum height of 38 feet (or 3 stories plus an attic) is now allowed along Bishop Avenue, with mixed-use buildings being allowed to go higher. Above ground parking structures are also allowed along with remote parking lots. The historic structures are typically on 50-foot-wide lots; however, lots may now be combined to 150-foot-wide lots encouraging larger scale development and new out of place 3 ½ story buildings. Some new construction has been compatible while some has not. Several new buildings on Bishop have been constructed with a reduced front yard setback and a much larger scale than the historic homes surrounding it which disrupts the rhythm of the historic block-face.
New large scale development is being constructed along Davis Street and Zang Boulevard which will only increase pressure on the Miller-Stemmons neighborhood with developers wanting to replace historic houses with denser development on the lots. Recent demolitions have occurred on Elsbeth Street, Madison Avenue and Bishop Avenue and there will undoubtedly be more in the future as developers look for opportunities.
Unfortunately, the character of the Miller-Stemmons District is changing with more intensive zoning and encroaching development. That pressure will only put the historic nature of the neighborhood at increased risk. The only way to protect the neighborhood’s character is to establish a City of Dallas Historic District or Conservation District.
NATIONAL REGISTER PROPERTIES SURROUNDING LAKE CLIFF PARK – Oak Cliff
Lake Cliff Park and the immediate area surrounding it in Oak Cliff became a National Register of Historic Places Historic District in 1994 due to its significance with the development of the Oak Cliff community and the architecture of the neighborhood, primarily from the 1920s to 1930s. In 1997, the area was designated a Dallas Landmark District; however, significant historic residences at the entrances to the district on Blaylock Avenue and N. Crawford Street were left out of the district despite being listed as contributing historic structures in the National Register Historic District.
The Lake Cliff National Register Historic District covers approximately 75 acres including Lake Cliff Park, which features a man-made lake created around 1888. Properties in the district include a mix of frame and masonry one and two-story houses featuring Craftsman and Prairie School influences along with small compatible apartment buildings. The district includes the residential half-blocks fronting the park including Blaylock Drive, E. 5th Street, N. Crawford Street and the 13-story Lake Cliff Tower north of Colorado Boulevard. The Dallas Landmark District includes that area along with N. Marsalis Avenue and E. 6th Street, but not 826, 832, and 834 Blaylock Drive along with 1103, 1109, and 1119 N. Crawford Street. All of which are included in the National Register Historic District.
Due to interest in the area and recently increased zoning allowances it puts at risk the National Register listed historic buildings facing Lake Cliff Park as much larger multi-family units can be built on the sites since they are not part of the Dallas Landmark District. This threat is evidenced by a demolition permit recently issued by the City of Dallas for 834 Blaylock so that it may be razed for a larger multi-family structure. The two-story, brick-veneer building originally contained four apartments and was constructed in 1922.
In October, the Dallas Landmark Commission initiated the Landmark Designation process to expand the City of Dallas Lake Cliff Historic District to include those six properties facing the park and five others on Marsalis Avenue. The demolition permit issued for the structure at 834 Blaylock cannot be rescinded by the City of Dallas; however, there is still a chance for the others to be protected if the expansion of the Lake Cliff Landmark District is approved by the city. The district expansion is supported by both the Lake Cliff Neighborhood Association and Preservation Dallas as a way to protect the historic character of this important historic district in Oak Cliff.
VAUGHN HOUSE – 5350 South Dentwood Drive (Preston Hollow)
In 1951, when Dallas was still learning to embrace the new modern design movement (now called Mid-Century Modern), oilman Grady Vaughn commissioned architect Robert Goodwin, of Goodwin & Cavitt, to design his waterfront home on South Dentwood Drive in Preston Hollow. The sprawling 9,500 square foot home was designed to serpentine throughout the property, meandering alongside a pond in the Straight Branch tributary, and around existing trees.
The new modern architecture of the 1950s was noteworthy for open floor plans, introduced through post and beam construction, and inviting the outdoors inside. The Vaughn House embraces those characteristics with an open first floor and exterior walls of glass overlooking the water. Modern touches were used, such as terrazzo floors, an open staircase, recessed and cove lighting, simplified hardware (including bullet hinges), streamlined fireplace surrounds, and more.
The roman brick exterior seamlessly incorporates planters, privacy courtyards, retaining walls, an outdoor kitchenette and even a small boat dock. Deep overhangs with soffits of pecky Cypress shades the large casement windows and the house from the sun. The site also features a swimming pool overlooking the creek.
The house has been owned by only two families and the estate of the second owner plans to auction it in February at a price which could encourage the house to be razed. The Vaughn House is truly a Mid-Century Modern masterpiece in Dallas and one that hopefully will not meet the fate of a wrecking ball.
Above photos by Michael Cagle except for the Vaughn House which is by Steve Clicque.
2016 Most Endangered Historic Places
HISTORIC BUILDINGS ALONG THE PROPOSED DART D2 LINE – (Downtown and Deep Ellum)
DART is proposing a second rail line through downtown Dallas which will impact numerous historic buildings along the proposed route and its design options. The locally preferred alternative for the line is proposed to go through the Downtown Dallas National Register of Historic Places Historic District, the City of Dallas Harwood Historic District, and the West End National Register of Historic Places Historic District. Historic properties like the Aloft Hotel, SoCo Lofts, Lone Star Gas Lofts, Statler Hilton, Continental Building, First Presbyterian Church, Scottish Rite Temple, Knights of Pythias building, and more will all be impacted. The line will also impact Deep Ellum further cutting it off from the rest of downtown.
Over $350 million in redevelopment of historic properties would be impacted by noise and vibrations from construction and running trains, removal of access to buildings for services and garages, and even potential demolition of portions of historic structures. This kind of impact to historic properties is too great for the amazing amount of work that has been done to revitalize them and downtown Dallas. We believe that mass transit benefits the city and the expansion of the DART system to make it more flexible is good for the city’s future. However, in order to create that flexibility the new line should be buried in a subway so that the historic buildings along the line can continue with their full use and access to keep them viable for the future and part of the renaissance of the urban core.
UPDATE: DART has decided to bury the D2 line underground in a subway system. The final locations for the portals to the underground tunnels and the station locations are still being decided and could still have an impact on historic resources in downtown Dallas.
ELBOW ROOM – 3010 Gaston Avenue (Baylor District)
This simple, elegant, workhorse of a brick building was constructed about 1933 and first housed Royal Cleaners. It was gone within a year, followed by the California Flower Shop. Businesses came and left the small 1,824 square foot building every few years, and at times stood vacant. Berta’s Café opened there about 1940, and it proved to be a stable neighborhood institution, occupying the space until about 1957. After the café closed, other short-lived restaurants followed, including Mozelle’s and Grill Thirty-Ten. Around 1964, the little brick building became home to the Thirty-Ten Lounge, drawing its name from both the address and the café. It was followed in 1968 by Cabaret Lounge and in 1998 by the Elbow Room.
The Elbow Room is one of the last remaining historic commercial buildings on that block of Gaston and is threatened with being purchased or acquired by eminent domain by the Texas A&M University System. They would like to demolish the building to build a new clinical education building on the lot for its dental school.
UPDATE: The building was demolished in the fall of 2017 for the construction of their new dental school building.
HISTORIC BUILDINGS AT FAIR PARK – (South Dallas)
Fair Park is one of Dallas’ most important and beloved historic sites. From its beginnings in 1886 it has grown in size and importance becoming home to the annual Texas State Fair, the 1936 Texas Centennial Exposition, and the 1937 Pan American Exposition. In 1904, Fair Park became part of the Dallas Public Park system. The buildings and landscape of Fair Park were redesigned for the Texas Centennial in 1936 by a group of talented architects and designers led by Dallas architect George Dahl. It is now the nation’s largest collection of Art Deco exposition architecture and public art. The significance of Fair Park is so important that it was granted National Historic Landmark status in 1986 and is only one of two such sites in Dallas, the other being Dealey Plaza.
Deferred maintenance due to lack of resources has taken its toll on the historic buildings at Fair Park. Roofs are leaking, plumbing and electrical systems need to be updated and the HVAC improved. These items must be addressed in order to make the buildings more viable for use throughout the year. Resources must be put into Fair Park now in order to avoid more costly repairs in the future. The Fair Park Texas Foundation has identified the numerous needs of the buildings and is the organization that can take on the monumental task of saving Fair Park’s all too important historic assets. They have committed to raising $100 million for Fair Park to match bond fund money; however, the city needs to secure the needed bond money in upcoming bond elections.
A properly preserved and maintained Fair Park, with its landscape, buildings, art, and historic spaces can serve the city on many levels. Thoughtful and careful planning, with citywide engagement, will serve to reinvigorate the National Historic Landmark site. A vibrant site with preserved historic structures will help entice development in surrounding neighborhoods and improve civic pride in one of Dallas most important historic sites.
UPDATE: Fair Park was included in the 2017 City of Dallas Bond package which was approved by voters in November of 2017. Fair Park will receive $50 million in bond money to address items deferred maintenance items, accessibility to buildings, and more. Roughly $14 million will be going to the Hall of State for repairs. Three management groups are vying for the contract to manage Fair Park and have been interviewed by the City of Dallas. The decision on which group the city selected is to be announced in the spring of 2018.
PENSON HOUSE – 3756 Armstrong (Highland Park)
The Penson House was designed by O’Neil Ford, and built in 1954 for Jack and Nancy Penson. It is one of Ford’s largest residential projects and was designed in one of his favorite styles, Texas Regionalism. The exterior and interior of the 9,800 square foot home remains very close to the original design with the expectation of a second story addition, a master bath expansion, and enclosure of a rear porch.
The house will be going up for auction and with the impressive lot on a corner, closeness of the Turtle Creek tributary across the street on one corner, and Davis Park directly across the street on the opposite corner makes this lot very valuable. This amazing property paired with a beautiful, large O’Neil Ford house makes for a very unique combination and one that is in jeopardy of being torn down for redevelopment if it doesn’t go to a bidder who appreciates the house, especially as Highland Park does not have any mechanism to protect historic buildings.
UPDATE: The Penson House sold at auction in September of 2016 for $4.9 million and was subsequently demolished. The lot was put on the market for $5.9 million in December of 2016.
POLAR BEAR – 1207 N. Zang Boulevard (Oak Cliff)
The small but unique building with an extraordinarily whimsical façade across from Lake Cliff Park is commonly know as the Polar Bear for its association with its longest tenant the Polar Bear Ice Cream shop, a beloved shop of many. The structure was originally built in the early 1930s and its first two tenants were the U.S. Sandwich Shop and the Schell Grill. In 1946, the Polar Bear Ice Cream shop opened in the building. Most people associate the cool “frosty” design with Polar Bear thinking it was designed to look like a glacier or an igloo, most fitting for an ice cream shop.
The area surrounding the park and the nearby historic Bankhead Highway (which ran down Houston Street to Zang Boulevard) had many such small restaurants including Pig Stand #2, A&W Root Beer Stand, Pig ‘n Whistle Restaurant, and more. All of which were supported by the 1950s teenage car culture. The building has been vacant since 2014 and a wind storm in early 2015 blew down a portion of the unique parapet. The building has been on the Old Oak Cliff Conservation League’s Architecture at Risk list and has been singled out in the newly created PD 830 Gateway ordinance as one of four buildings the city considers a priority for Landmark designation in the ordinance area. The parcel of land the building sits on is zoned for 8-story mixed use and could face pressure from development and increasing land values in Oak Cliff.
WILLIAMS HOUSE – 3805 McFarlin (University Park)
The Williams house was designed by architect David R. Williams in 1932 for University Park Mayor Elbert Williams. David R. Williams is considered the father of the Texas Regionalism style and the Williams house is considered the premiere example of the style. The home was Williams’ last residential project of its type and contains all his hallmarks including hand carved interior woodwork by Lynn Ford (O’Neil Ford’s brother), a mural painting by Jerry Bywaters and abundant lone star ornamentation.
The 6,000 square foot Williams House occupies 1.15 acres of University Park property. Having only two owners in its lifetime, the house’s exterior and interiors are remarkably intact with original details and layout. The Williams House appears almost exactly as it did when built. The particular plat of land it sits on is exceptionally valuable because it runs along the Turtle Creek shoreline, as well abutting the Dallas County Club golf course. This house is the most important example of the Texas Regionalism style and with it sitting on such a valuable piece of land and no protections in University Park for historic buildings it could be easily demolished for new construction.
Above photos by Michael Cagle except for the Aldredge House which is by Steve Clicque.
2015 Most Endangered Historic Places
ALDREDGE HOUSE – 5500 Swiss Avenue (East Dallas)
Located in the city’s first residential historic district, the Aldredge House is one of architect Hal Thomson’s most important works built in the French Eclectic style with elegant Renaissance detailing. Completed in 1917 for rancher William Lewis and wife Willie Newbury, it quickly passed to local banker George Aldredge and his wife Rena Munger in 1921. It stayed in the family until Rena generously donated it to the Dallas County Medical Society Alliance in 1974 to use as its headquarters. The nonprofit has taken up the mantle of preserving and maintaining Aldredge House, which even includes some of the original furnishings. The house is one of the few properties in Dallas where the historic integrity has not been compromised and in many ways serves as an opportunity for visitors to step back in time. While the house is not threatened with demolition, it is threatened by the removal of its city permission to hold events at the house which allows the public access to one of the most wonderful historic interiors in Dallas and helps the nonprofit generate the funds necessary to maintain this historic gem. If the permission is revoked, the house will most likely have to be sold, closing it to the public and subjecting the highly intact historic interiors to modernization.
UPDATE: The Aldredge House was recommended for a PD and an SUP by the City Plan Commission (CPC) in November of 2017 to allow the house to operate as a historic house museum and meeting space with restrictions on number of meetings, the size of meetings, and hours of operation. The City Council will make a final decision on CPC’s recommendation at a Council meeting in early 2018.
BIANCHI HOUSE – 4503 Reiger Avenue (East Dallas)
This distinctive brick Mission Revival Style house was designed by noted Dallas architects Lang & Witchell in 1912 for Italian sculptor Didaco Bianchi and his wife Ida. The stunning interior plasterwork and pilasters, unique to this style, were designed and constructed by Bianchi himself. Significant piers support the massive and intricately carved mantelpiece, while its distinctive “Alamo”-style parapet adorns the front façade. The home received awards and accolades, including “House of the Future” at the 1936 Centennial Exposition, due to its advanced ventilation, plumbing, and electrical systems. It also has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The house remained in the Bianchi family until 1979. Although there are permits issued for work on the house, the work has seemingly stopped and the house continues to deteriorate with the roof now showing visible signs of deterioration.
UPDATE: The Bianchi House was initiated for the City of Dallas Landmark designation process by the Landmark Commission in November of 2016. The house sold in the summer of 2017 to new owners who plan on renovating the house.
BRINK’S COFFEE SHOP – 4505 Gaston Avenue (East Dallas)
Designed by Paul & Paul Architects in 1964, Brink’s is perhaps the city’s finest remaining example of Modern “Googie” style architecture. The building features two rear-sloping zig-zag slab roofs with walls formed of alternating sections of storefront and rubble stone masonry with sloping ends. This building was the first restaurant constructed for Norman Brinker and his first wife Maureen Connolly, both former US Olympians. The Brinker’s went on to develop successful restaurants including Steak and Ale, Bennigan’s, and Chili’s. Brinker and his wife Nancy were heavily involved in philanthropic efforts and are credited with establishing the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation in honor of Nancy’s sister. The building is now vacant and boarded up. Unless this unique property is renovated and brought back to life, it will continue to deteriorate, or may eventually succumb to redevelopment pressure, leading to the erasing of a part of Dallas’ culinary and architectural history.
UPDATE: The building sold to a new owner in 2016 who has since fixed the exterior of the building and has put up the space for lease.
CABANA HOTEL – 899 Stemmons Freeway (City Center)
Dallas reflects a bit of Las Vegas with the 1962 Cabana Hotel developed by Jay Sarno, who also developed Vegas properties Caesar’s Palace (1966) and Circus Circus (1968). This 10-story, 300-room hotel with its striking decorative concrete screen once welcomed famed guests, including The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, The Who, Jimi Hendrix, Richard Nixon, and Norman Mailer. Raquel Welch was a cocktail waitress here before being discovered. Much of the original features are intact, including extensive tile-work, terrazzo, concrete screen-walls, curved signature walls, and unique concrete umbrellas on the terrace. After the hotel ceased operation it was converted to the Decker Jail, which is now closed. Dallas County is in the process of selling the building to a developer interested in demolishing this once hip, mid-century building tied to the cultural history of Dallas, for a new data center.
UPDATE: The original developer who wanted to demolish the building backed out of the purchase and now the developer who finished The Statler redevelopment is working to purchase the building to do a project along similar lines as The Statler.
DALLAS INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT SCHOOLS – (City Wide)
Historic schools are very important to the sense of place in neighborhoods across Dallas and are landmarks within each respective community. Historic schools in Dallas date form the early 1900s to the 1950s and were often designed by some of the most important architects in Dallas at the time, including Mark Lemmon and C.D. Hill. They were built to last and constructed of substantial materials with a high level of craftsmanship and unique design. Many wonderful historic schools in the DISD inventory have been well preserved such as Woodrow Wilson in East Dallas, Booker T. Washington downtown, and Sunset in Oak Cliff. However, others are languishing or up for replacement in the upcoming bond election. One of those historic schools being considered for replacement is Rosemont Elementary at 719 N. Montclair Avenue in Oak Cliff. Completed in 1922, it has long been an anchor for the neighborhood and the building is still rated as “Good” in DISD’s conditions inventory. Historic schools are too important to be lost due to closure or replacement and every opportunity should be afforded by DISD for their continued use and preservation.
FOREST THEATER – 1914-1920 Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard (South Dallas)
The Forest Theater, with its distinctive neon emblazoned tower floating over the marquee, and the attached shopping center, opened in 1949 to serve the middle-class white patrons in the area. The 1,500 seat theater was part of the Interstate Theatre chain and designed by H. F. Pettigrew of Pettigrew and Worley, who also designed the Lakewood and Circle Theaters. The Forest featured an unusual gently sweeping semi-circular ramp to the mezzanine and murals of tropical birds and flowers. In 1956, the theater changed its patron focus to that of the middle-class African American families moving into the area and became the “Colored” Forest Theater. Due to sagging ticket sales, the theater closed in 1965. Since then it has been used for special events and performances. The theater and block of original commercial spaces are now up for sale and could be demolished to make way for new development, erasing a part of the African American history of the city and taking away one of Dallas’ few remaining historic theaters. Like the Lakewood Theater, the Forest is worthy of designation as a City of Dallas Landmark and should be preserved.
UPDATE: The Forest was initiated for the City of Dallas Landmark designation process by the Landmark Commission in November of 2015. It recently sold to City Square who is working on plans to convert the building and attached commercial spaces into a community arts and educational center.
HIGHLAND PARK INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT SCHOOLS – Bradfield Elementary School – 4300 Southern Avenue (Highland Park), University Park Elementary School – 3505 Amherst Avenue (University Park), and Hyer Elementary School – 3920 Caruth Boulevard (Highland Park)
Three historic and architecturally significant schools in the Highland Park Independent School District are up for proposed replacement as part of this fall’s bond election. The two cities of Highland Park and University Park do not have an established mechanism for protecting historic architecture. As a result, these three schools have been deemed inadequate to meet the needs of the growing school-aged population of the Park Cities. Designed by Lang & Witchell, the 1925 Bradfield Elementary School and the 1928 University Park Elementary School feature identical plans, designed in the Spanish Revival style with added Rococo detailing. The tan, scratch-faced brick facades have monumental main entrances, decorated in typical Rococo Revival detailing, with elaborate curves, scrolls, shells, and shields adorned with fleurs-de-lis. Hyer Elementary School, which opened in 1949, is an excellent example of Mark Lemmon’s historicist architecture and is styled in the Georgian Revival aesthetic. The main entrance features a classically-inspired pediment, supported by original cast iron columns with lace detailing. The façades feature decorative hexagonal windows and nine-over-nine double-hung windows with prominent central keystones in the decorative brick headers. Preservation Dallas representatives have met with the HPISD administration to stress the importance of these historic schools. We encourage the administration to thoroughly explore the incorporation of these structures into new designs that will both meet the capacity needs of the district, while also honoring the 100-year legacy of the HPISD. There are many options which would both value the original buildings of these three historically-significant schools, designed by prominent Dallas architects, while at the same time providing HPISD with the needed additional capacity. Options include the targeted demolition of ancillary additions and the rehabilitation of the original core structures, while adding on multi-level spaces to accommodate new, 21st-century educational programs. A blend of old and new buildings would celebrate the importance of physical examples of civic history when educating young, elementary-aged children.
UPDATE: Plans are still underway for replacing all three schools with students being relocated to different schools for the demolition and construction of replacement schools.
HISTORIC CEMETERIES IN DALLAS – (City Wide)
The final resting place of many of Dallas’ founders and early residents are seeing the ravages of time and a lack of resources for proper maintenance and upkeep. Some of Dallas’ historic cemeteries date back to the 1800s, including McAdams in Oak Cliff, McCree in Lake Highlands, and Pioneer in downtown. Thanks to a grant from the B.B. Owen Trust, Preservation Dallas is currently working to restore and preserve McCree Cemetery. These cemeteries include examples of early stone grave makers with exquisite design and symbolism. Over the years, many have suffered vandalism, deterioration, storm damage, and improper upkeep of the markers. Historic cemeteries often have limited resources for care and maintenance with many markers lost in overgrowth or toppled to the ground. Historic cemeteries must be treated with the utmost respect and the resources found to properly maintain the resting places of the early citizens who helped make Dallas the city it is today.
UPDATE: Both the McCree Cemetery and McAdams Cemetery are in the process of working their way through the City of Dallas to become Landmarks.
LOW-RISE HISTORIC DOWNTOWN BUILDINGS – (Downtown)
Smaller historic buildings downtown, 2 to 4 stories in height, are rapidly vanishing due to development pressure, with four between Elm and Main Streets demolished for new development just last year. These smaller historic buildings often date to the early 1900s when Dallas was developing as a commercial center. They are tied to the retail and commercial history of the city and those that remain are often not protected by City of Dallas Landmark status. One such example is Milliner’s Supply Company Building located at 911 Elm Street. This circa 1880 historic building is one of the oldest surviving in the central business district. Milliner’s Supply, a wholesale/retail business for hats, moved into the building in 1925. This property is currently for sale and is not protected. It is also in a location downtown that is ripe for redevelopment with the potential to be replaced by a much larger and taller building allowed by zoning. These low-rise historic buildings give a human scale to downtown, present opportunities for business ventures not possible in larger, more expensive buildings, and are tangible reminders of Dallas’ early commercial history. Their reuse, instead of replacement, should be encouraged and prioritized.
SALVATION ARMY BUILDING – 6500 Harry Hines Boulevard (Medical Center)
Originally home to the Great National Life Insurance Company this office building, completed in 1963, is an outstanding example of the 1960’s garden style office complexes which sprang up around Dallas. Designed by Grayson Gill, it has a unique projecting screen of diamond shaped panels giving the building a distinctive look in contrast to the very flat, clean lines of earlier 1950s office building architecture. The Salvation Army now uses it for offices, although the building is currently for sale. The expansion and growth of medical facilities near the building raises the threat that this mid-century gem could be razed for new development.
UPDATE: The building has sold to a new owner who is leasing out the building for office space.
Above photos by Michael Cagle.
Sites on previous Most Endangered Historic Places lists from 2004 to 2010 include:
|211 North Ervay|
|Old Dallas High School/ Crozier Tech|
|Statler Hilton Hotel|
|Mercantile Bank Tower|
|Ross Avenue Baptist Church|
|6015 Bryan Parkway|
|Casa Linda Theater|
|James H. and Molly Ellis House|
|Tenth Street Historic District|
|Historic Public Schools|
|Old Dallas High School/ Crozier Tech|
|Milliner’s Supply Company Building|
|Mercantile Bank Tower|
|6015 Bryan Parkway|
|Historic Apartment Buildings|
|James H. and Molly Ellis House|
|Victorian Houses of the Cedars|
|Residential Historic Districts of Southern Dallas|
|Historic African American Churches|
|Kip’s Big Boy Restaurant|
|City of Dallas Historic Property Tax Incentive|
|Historic Resources of Old Oak Lawn|
|St. Joseph’s Catholic Church and Academy|
|Turtle Creek Bridges|
|Wynnewood Shopping Village|
|Nurses Building at Old Parkland Hospital|
|Thomas & Mary Shiels House|
|Old Dallas High School/ Crozier Tech|
|6015 Bryan Parkway|
|Buildings surrounding the proposed site of Main Street Garden|
|Midway Hollow Neighborhood|
|Fort Worth Avenue’s motor-court motels — Alamo Plaza Courts Motel, The Mission Motel, The Ranch Motel|
|David Crockett School|
|Tax Incentive Program|
|400 W. Page Avenue|
|McKinney Avenue Baptist Church Building|
|Criswell College Library|
|Statler Hilton Hotel|
|Knights of Pythias|
|Old Dallas High School/ Crozier Tech|
|Tenth Street Historic District|
|Mid-Century Modern Buildings|
|Luna Tortilla Factory|
|Streetcar Retail Shops|
|No City Demolition Review for Historic Resources|
|Adamson High School|
|Vanishing Community around Adamson High School|
|Historic Buildings Owned by DISD|
|Old Dallas High School/ Crozier Tech|
|South Dallas Historic Districts|
|Statler Hilton Hotel|
|Dallas Public Libraries|
|508 Park Avenue & 504 Young Street|
|Hickory Street Annex|
|Elm Street Buildings in Downtown|
|City of Dallas Historic Preservation Program|