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Dallas has always been a transient city, and that lack of rootedness has often led to the misconception that it is a city without much history.
Perhaps that is because not many people stick around long enough to learn the history, or those who do tend not to show much interest in it. Ever since John Neely Bryan planted his cabin on the banks of the Trinity River, Dallas has been a city focused singularly on the unspoiled promise of the future, not the inheritance of the past. Ironically, that obsession with the new is one of its oldest and most enduring characteristics.
The result of this impetuous preoccupation with building and rebuilding is a city left with few physical markers of a past that, though invisible, continues to shape the present.
In the following guide, we attempt to unearth that lost city. In doing so, what we discover is that Dallas has long been defined by a desire for transformation. The raw prairie was developed into rich cotton fields; a tiny trading post grew into a burgeoning commercial center; a small frontier town became a major center of the cotton, railroad, merchant, oil, and financial industries. Cattle ranchers became bankers. Widowed pioneer women became industrialists.
Vaudeville theater operators became civic-minded philanthropists, cotton salesmen became tech industry giants. Dallas is where dentist Doc Holliday became a professional gambler; where Ray Charles made the leap from road-weary musician to superstar; and where poor-as-dirt Depression-era teenagers Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow fashioned themselves into fairy-tale bandits and cult heroes.
The prized achievements of the past were plowed under in the name of business, progress, and a new vision of the future.
This was an illuminating, if difficult, project to put together. It was impossible not to feel alternatively nostalgic, sad, and even angry when coming upon images of lost and forgotten buildings, streets, neighborhoods, shops, clubs, and eateries. It was impossible, too, not to imagine what Dallas could look like today if more respect had been shown to the achievements of generations.
One could speculate that, had such due been paid, Dallas may have emerged a more confident and self-assured city. It would certainly be a more beautiful city. In that sense, this is not a story of a lost place. Rather, it is an effort to find in the vanished places of the past a new way of encountering the city Dallas has become. In subsequent years, Dallas maintained its reputation for hardened justice.
The mayor and his lawmen found themselves drawn into a three-day gunfight, as obstinate gamblers barricaded themselves into a gaming house and challenged the mayor to take them out by force. By the s, sheriffs like R. Smoot palled around with the likes of gambler Benny Binion and earned fame for his role in gunning down Bonnie and Clyde.
At the time, it was estimated that Dallas was home to more than professional gamblers. After being arrested for gambling inDoc moved on with his friend Wyatt Earp, eventually landing in Tombstone, Arizona.
A streetcar system was proposed, and the Dallas City Railroad Company introduced two mule-driven streetcars, which ferried passengers back-and-forth up Main Street. One was named John Neely Bryan, after the city founder, and the other was named Belle Swink, after the daughter of the streetcar company owner, Capt. George Swink. Belle Swink lived to the ripe old age of By the time Swink died, inhowever, the streetcar that once bore her name was junked by city leaders in favor of the automobile and an encroaching interstate highway system. Harris—when, inthey opened the original Neiman Marcus at the corner of Elm and Murphy.
It was not a great time to launch a high-end clothing retailer. The Panic of had sunk the country into a depression, and both Herbert and Carrie were ill and missed the grand opening. Nonetheless, Neiman Marcus would outlive its competitors.
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By the time of this portrait of Mrs. The Marcus family had also moved—to the burgeoning Cedars neighborhood, with its rows of Victorian mansions, red brick streets, and cast-iron storefronts. The temple was founded downtown inmoved to a spot later razed to make way for I inand migrated to South Boulevard and Harwood Street in before finally decamping for North Dallas in Highway Ina neighborhood of bungalows and two-story Colonial Revival houses formed along a new streetcar line running down Colonial Avenue; easy access to transportation was the major selling point.
Yet bywealthier residents began moving to Highland Park and Munger Place, as they relied less on streetcars, architectural tastes changed, and the proximity to the industrial Trinity River area proved unpopular. Many of the original bungalows remain today, though some in disrepair. But overpopulation led to impoverished conditions.
By the end of the 20th century, all but a few remnants had been paved over by high-rises and highways. Marker at tee No. InVictor Considerant led Europeans more than half of the existing population of Dallas to 2, acres west of the city to establish a Utopian colony.
Instead, they had to travel from Houston on horseback or foot. In a few years, the colony disbanded, with most of the families moving into Dallas proper. The Loupots, Santerres, Reverchons, and others became business and cultural leaders.
Established by a city ordinance, Frogtown, aka the Reservation, was a red-light district where upwards of prostitutes worked. The name likely came from the frogs that could be heard croaking from a stream that fed the Trinity River. Many of these buildings were owned by leading citizens of Dallas, including Dr. Samuell, for whom a park, road, and high school were named. Atkins moved to Dallas inonly one address would suit an ambitious denizen of the fashionable frontier: Ross Avenue.
Atkins moved into a large home at the corner of St. Paul and Ross, part of a line of stately mansions that once stretched for more than 2 miles, all the way to Greenville Avenue. This view of Main Street in looks east toward the Griffin Street intersection. It housed the Praetorian Order, a fraternal insurance company, until the building was stripped down to porcelain and steel in the early s and became known as Stone Place Tower.
Owner Charles E. The Dallas Morning News later bought the paper and shut it down. Gaston and A. Camp in The bank would merge with others over time to become the Mercantile National Bank, and it eventually vacated the building, which was demolished in Akard St. Finished with Italian marble, outfitted with mahogany, and topped with a Moorish dome, the modern structure was completely electric.
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It was torn down inand the Baker Hotel took its place. But after it was abandoned 47 years later, the city deemed it a liability and razed the structure. The current U. Post Office and Courthouse building sits five blocks to the north. The Renaissance Revival architecture—with its stonework, arches, and ornate details—resembled a castle.
Beer mogul Adolphus Busch bought the land in and demolished the structure so he could build his namesake luxury hotel, where City Hall Bistro now pays tribute to the former seat of government. Tommy Dorsey played at the Peacock Terrace with its lily pond and live ducks, debutantes danced in the Crystal Ballroom, and Lawrence Welk performed for lunchtime guests in the basement restaurant.
The hotel was imploded in to make room for the Southwestern Bell Telephone headquarters. Bounded by Live Oak, St. It was later sold at a public auction in to Dr. Reuss, who opened it as a bed private surgical hospital in Nine years later, it was destroyed in an oil fire.
It would later move to an eight-story building at Main and Lamar streets, which is now part of El Centro College. Inan arch spanning the intersection of Main and Akard streets was erected to celebrate the National Convention of the Fraternal Order of the Elks.
Init became the setting of the last lynching in Dallas County. Allen Brooks was a year-old African-American laborer who was accused of raping. In the subsequent days, newspapers carried sensational and spurious s of the incident.
When Brooks was taken to the courthouse for his arraignment, a massive crowd gathered outside. In a city where politics was still dominated by the Ku Klux Klan, the crowd was thirsty for swift vengeance.
They broke into the courthouse, seized Brooks, tied a rope around him, and lowered the man out a second-story window. A photograph of the horrific event was turned into a postcard, a not uncommon practice at the time to peddle the murder of African-Americans as popular entertainment. Later, when the Southwestern Life Insurance company needed to complete sewer work under the arch, the City Council had it quietly removed. Southwest corner of North St. The building was imploded in when redevelopment plans failed to materialize.