A short guide to historical sites of interest in Dallas

The history of Dallas may not be long, but it certainly is interesting.

It all began when, in the mid-1800s, John Neely Bryan purchased some land from the Caddo Indians and opened a trading post along the Trinity River. He later founded a permanent settlement in the area now known as the West End Historic District. A replica of his one-room cabin can be found at the Dallas County Historical Plaza (junction of Main, Market, Elm, and Record Streets).

Replica Of John Neely Brian's cabin at Founders' Plaza
Replica Of John Neely Brian’s cabin at Founders’ Plaza

Nowadays a premier entertainment district, the West End is located in northwest downtown Dallas, north of Commerce, east of I-35E, west of Lamar and south of Woodall Rodgers Freeway. After the Texas Pacific Railroad intersected with the Texas Central Railroad in the areas, Dallas became a major distribution center. The historically preserved redbrick buildings in the West End were used as warehouses.

A short walk from the West End is the Old Red Museum of Dallas County History & Culture. It is housed in the Old Red Courthouse built in 1892 and it is a symbol of the city’s heritage. The Museum is open daily from 9:00am to 5:00pm. General admission is $8, children 3-16 are $5 and seniors, age 65+, and students with a valid student ID, are $6. It is located on 100 S. Houston St. and is close to the Union DART Station.

The Old Red

Uptown is one of Dallas’ oldest neighborhoods. It boasts the best preserved collection of Victorian houses in Dallas, all built in the late nineteenth century. These elegant mansions were commissioned by wealthy businessmen and built along Maple, McKinney, Routh and Fairmont streets. The McKinney Avenue Trolley (M line) operates around Uptown and the Arts District. Some of its stops include Uptown’s four historical cemeteries.

Uptown’s contiguous historic cemeteries are Greenwood Cemetery (Protestant) opened in 1874, Cavalry Cemetery (Catholic), Temple Emanu-El Cemetery (Jewish) and Freedmen’s Memorial. Freedmen’s, with historical ties to slavery, contains the unmarked graves of thousands of African Americans.

Uptown’s limits are US 75 (Central Expressway), Blackburn Street, Turtle Creek Boulevard, Harry Hines Boulevard and Woodall Rogers Freeway.

The Traveling Man Sculpture welcomes you to Deep Ellum

The Deep Ellum area is nowadays a hotspot for arts and entertainment near downtown Dallas. It is circumscribed by the Central Expressway, Pacific, Elm, Main, Commerce and Canton Streets. The history of the area can be traced back to 1884, when Robert S. Munger built a cotton gin factory and later others followed his example. The Grand Temple of the Black Knights of Pythias was built in Deep Ellum in 1916. It was used as as the state headquarters for the Knights and it also contained the offices of Black doctors, dentists, and lawyers. It was the first commercial building for and by African Americans in Dallas.

Located on Swiss Avenue, the Swiss Avenue Historic District is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and was designated Dallas’ first historic district in 1973. It is also recognized as a Texas Historical Site. Originally developed between 1905 and the 1920s, the area has about two hundred carefully preserved and restored homes built in diverse architectural styles ranging from Prairie and Spanish to Craftsman and Georgian.

Estate sale 5 Swiss Ave

Last but not least is the site where events occurred that changed the course of US History: Dealy Plaza (with its grassy knoll), where President Kennedy was assassinated in 1963 as his motorcade was going past the former Texas School Book Depository on Elm Street. An X marks the spot where he was shot. The building now houses the Sixth Floor Museum, where films, photographs, artifacts and interpretive displays document the events that took place on November 22, 1963, the findings of the official investigations that followed, the historical legacy of the tragedy and the spot from which Harvey Lee Oswald allegedly fired his gun.

Dallas is a comparatively young city that honors its history and that of the nation.







One Trip EVERY Month Challenge: Reunion Tower, Dallas

Marianne, over at East of Malaga, came up with a new challenge. It’s called “One trip EVERY month” and it’s about sharing a trip. It can be an international trip or a local one, that place in your hometown you’ve been meaning to visit but never got round to going.

For the February challenge, I chose the Reunion Tower in Dallas, the city where I live. The Reunion Tower was built in 1978 and is part of the Hyatt Regency Hotel. There is a fine-dining restaurant at the top but, although we said we should go sometime, we never did, as well as an observation deck.

Follow the arrows to the tower
Follow the arrows to the tower

Now my sister and my nieces are in town for a visit. The other day we were driving around downtown Dallas. Actually, we were planning to go to a park and I missed my exit on the highway. I took one exit at random and made a big loop back to where we were supposed to go. We happened to drive past the Hyatt and I said “Forget the park and let’s go up the tower!”

It was an exciting experience for all of us. For them, because they’ve never been to Dallas before and for me, because it was my first visit to the Reunion Tower.

Hyatt Regency @ Reunion Tower
Hyatt Regency @ Reunion Tower

We bought our tickets ($16 for adults and $8 for 4-12 year olds) and had our handbags inspected by a security guard. Then the photographer took a group photo and gave us an Access ID. With the ID we were able to see our photo on a computer upstairs, play with the background and email it and share it on social media for free.

Downtown Dallas
Downtown Dallas

The 360 degree of downtown Dallas is spectacular. There are interactive touch screens all around it with information about landmarks, the city and so on. The girls had a great time playing with the real time cameras and my sister and I enjoyed seeing them have fun.

The Margaret Hunt Bridge over the Trinity River is behind the jail.
The Margaret Hunt Bridge over the Trinity River is behind the jail.

We went outside but the wind was bitterly cold, especially at that height (158 metres-over 500 feet.) we lasted long enough to take a couple of photos and then rushed back inside.

Way too windy and cold outside!
Way too windy and cold outside! I should have wrapped my pashmina round my neck and put gloves on.

There’s a café called Cloud Nine one level above the GeoDeck (the observation platform) and the restaurant is one more level up. It rotates every evening so all diners can enjoy the great views of the Big D.

Having visitors to entertain and show around makes me think like a tourist in my own home. I enjoy exploring where I live and finding new places to see and activities to do. The excitement of exploration also helps stave off homesickness for a while.

Looking out the window at the Cloud Nine cafe
Looking out the window at the Cloud Nine cafe
300 Reunion Boulevard East- Dallas TX 75207
Sundays to Thursdays 10 AM-10 PM
Fridays-Saturdays 10 AM-11.30 PM

The architecture of Downtown Dallas

I met Penny, from Adventures of a Carry-On, through social media first and in person last week. She’d published an article on the architecture of Downtown Dallas, I commented on it, and then we continued the conversation on Twitter and finally exchanged phone numbers. Since we both live in Dallas, we arranged to meet for lunch and a stroll.

Our meeting point was outside the Wilson Building, on the corner of Main and Ervay streets. The Wilson was built in 1903 and its design was inspired by the Grand Opera House of Paris.

The Wilson is now dwarfed by modern high-rises
The Wilson is now dwarfed by modern high-rises

Main Street was given its less-than-creative name by John Neely Bryan, the founder of Dallas. The area became the financial and commercial centre of the infant city and still remains so. It had periods of growth and decadence and now it’s experiencing a kind of revival, with new businesses, hotels and old office buildings being converted into lofts and apartments, like the Kirby.

The Kirby Building (1509 Main St.) was built in 1913 in the Late Gothic style by Adolphus Busch, he of Budweiser fame. Originally, it housed offices and a department store. The lobby reminds me of a church with the decorative ribs of its ceiling and the marble staircase. The views of Dallas from the 18th floor terrace are spectacular, including that of the red Pegasus.

The Kirby
The Kirby

The red Pegasus is a symbol of Dallas. The original is on display inside Dallas Farmers Market and used to be on the roof of the Magnolia Building. Magnolia Petroleum (now Exxon Mobil) built their headquarters in 1922 in the Renaissance Revival style. The red Pegasus was its emblem and was placed on the roof in 1934. Nowadays, The Magnolia is a high-end hotel (1401 Commerce St.)

The Magnolia seen from the Kirby's terrace
The Magnolia seen from the Kirby’s terrace

There are a handful of landmark buildings in this area, like The Adolphus, on the corner of Commerce and Akard. This splendid hotel was built by Adolphus Busch in 1912 in the Beaux Arts style. It must be wonderful to have a luxury hotel built and name it after you. How does the Ana Hotel sound? Not very grand, I’m afraid.

Two other historic buildings are being redeveloped: the Merc (the Mercantile National Bank Complex – Main, Ervay, Commerce and St. Paul streets), built in 1943. It was the tallest building in the city at the time. The 1931 Lone Star Gas Co. building is an Art Deco gem located on 301 S. Harwood St

Lone Star Gas Co. Building
Lone Star Gas Co. Building