The Red Flying Horse in Downtown/Pegasus

What’s the deal with the Pegasus (flying red horses) all over Dallas?  So many things named Pegasus like newspapers and school or how about the statues randomly all over?  –  Questioned by AH

I assume this means both the big one below in downtown  this newspapers, this school and the statues like the one below

23437_1255711435697_7854191_n (Urban Fabric Photographyvan go (pegasusflyers.com)

The reason for all the Pegasus stuff around the city lies in its symbolism of civic pride for Dallas.  Dallasites, true dallasites, see the Pegasus and it stirs a certain sense of pride in our City.  You might ask why a flying red horse is a symbol of pride for Dallas, well the answer is relatively simple but it takes some backing up to do.

How far back, let’s see, maybe Downton Abby-estic English country estates, no wait gotta go further, colonial palaces, or medieval castles, maybe Roman Temples, or Egyptian pyramids.  See what all these buildings have in common is that they are a monument of national, local, civic, or regional pride.  For years groups of people that have formed civilized societies have built monuments to their societies.  They are sources of pride for their engineering, their beauty, their statements on wealth, and ultimately their history.

So what does the Pegasus have to do with all those pretty building mentioned above?  Well you see, the Pegasus was the symbol of the Magnolia Petroleum Company which was founded in Dallas shortly after the turn of the 20th century.  Magnolia was a successful oil company, a very successful oil company, a very very successful oil company.  Magnolia Oil eventually changed it’s name.  It currently is a very successful Oil Company.mobile gas pegasus

Mobile kept the Pegasus as it’s symbol for a number of years. 

Now in the early 1900’s, the Magnolia Oil Company had executives and shareholders that were very proud of their growing city known as Dallas.  So when they built their headquarters in Dallas they wanted to build a monument to the City, and they did.  A four hundred foot tall beautiful building built in downtown designed by Sir Alfred Bossom (also the inventor a device for protecting people from suffocating if they accidentally got locked in a bank vault…awesomesauce).  The building known as the Magnolia Building was not only the tallest building in Dallas at the time, but the tallest in Texas.

magnolia builind - project peagsus The Magnolia Building seen from an early post card (Project Pegasus)

It remained the tallest building in Texas throughout the 1920’s and the tallest in Dallas for twenty years.  In fact currently if you placed the Magnolia building in 15 other states it would be the tallest building in those states, so suck it Idaho .  Also its taller than any building in Finland in case you’re interested.

But back to the Pegasus, Magnolia placed the Pegasus up atop their very tall building in the 1940’s.  Again they were proud of Dallas and themselves, they wanted people to know about it.  So their symbol was all lit up in neon lights for the world to see.  It was actually two Pegasus’s back to back so it could rotate atop their building.  Or if you believe some, they put two Pegasus’s up there to show that Dallas wasn’t a one-horse town…get it.  So this big neon rotating red Pegasus atop one of the tallest building in Dallas was the first thing you saw driving into to Dallas, or flying in on a DC-9 at night.

pegasus 1927 Dallas public library The Pegasus atop the Magnolia when it was the tallest building in Dallas (Dallas Public Library Achieves)

My great aunt would tell stories of returning from camping in the hill country and knowing that when she saw that bright shiny flyin’ horse, she was close to home.  For people back in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s, when they saw a neon red Pegasus it meant Dallas, and not just Dallas, but people from throughout Texas and the nation.  The Pegasus would eventually come down in the 90’s after Magnolia, with Exxon moving out of that buildin. New taller, shinier buildings where built that dwarfed the old Magnolia building, it supposedly lost much of its glamour.

So why are fairly new schools, newspapers and major infrastructure construction projects named Pegasus.   Well that has to do partly with the second life of the Pegasus in Dallas.  In the 70’s and 80’s Dallas did several things that negatively affected the Pegasus.  First it built a lot of  tall shiny buildings, second it told people living in downtown apartments to leave and make way for the tall shiny office buildings.  That meant that by the 90’s there were few people living in downtown, and though there were a lot of tall shiny buildings not all of them were full.  Baby boomers that flocked to the suburbs were now in charge of companies and moved them to office park in far flung exburbs.  So the City was left with a challenge of revitalizing its downtown, a situation many cities at the time were faced with.  It was at this point that Dallas seized upon the Pegasus as a symbol for the revitalization of downtown.  It was once a symbol of the engineering might, of the wealth and the technological achievements of the city.  Now it was going to represent the history and beauty of the City, an image of a by-gone past, a romantic version of a city’s downtown with theater row, nightlife and vibrancy.

Elm_St_at_night_Dallas_TX_1942 Elm Street or Theater Row circa 1942 when Downtown Dallas was happening (WikiCommons)

The Magnolia Building, long neglected but still beautiful, was renovated and turned into a luxury hotel and apartments building.  A new Pegasus was commissioned for the top of the building that matched the old one.  As a part of the effort, a number of smaller Pegasus statues were built, painted uniquely and auctioned off, like the one below.

texas p Know as Texas Pegasus (pegasusflyer.com)

They can be found throughout the City, here or there, in parks, office buildings, schools, private residency, wherever.  To younger generations the gen-xer’s and Millennials that grew up in Dallas throughout the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s it means a vibrant city, a symbol that speaks to the notion that “I’m proud of the cultural and historical depth of Dallas.”  Or like below, used as part of iconic art work in Deep Elbum.

more kisses please pegasus  All work and no play make Jack hunt flying red horses (Jill at morekissesplease.com)

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What’s the deal with Reunion Tower?

What’s the deal with Reunion Tower, I know there’s a restaurant there but is that the sole purpose of it?

The simple answer is, it’s a 561 foot tall tower with a restaurant up there, a Wolfgang Puck restaurant.  It used to have an observation deck but it hasn’t been open since Wolfgang went in back in 2009.

DALLAS, TEXAS Reunion Tower (Dallas Historical Society)

Of course the right answer starts back in the 1850’s and includes French utopian artists, an attempt to corner the world market in silver, George Washington and the Kansas City Chiefs.  Reunion Tower gets its name from a utopian settlement on the banks of the Trinity River back when Dallas was just starting out.  La Reunion, as it was called, was a utopian community of about 400 European (mostly French, Belgian and Swiss) artists, craftsmen and intellectuals.  It was founded in 1855 about a decade after Dallas was, but only lasted a few years before disbanding.  The land would be incorporated into the growing city of Dallas, and roughly 150 members of the original community ended up staying in Dallas.  They brought with them the first piano to Dallas, started its first brewery, and brought many unique trades and artists to the city.  It’s said that this is where Dallas first got its cosmopolitan feel.  How Dallas started becoming more of a cultural center and something less like a simple western trading post.

considerant Victor Considerant…Radical French Socialist leader and Leader of the La Reunion Settlement (The Texana Review)

Now fast forward a hundred and twenty years to the late 1970’s and early 1980’s and why Reunion Tower was built.  Back then Dallas was in the midst of a building boom funded by oil money and what turned out to be bogus Savings & Loan development deals.  Ray Hunt, an oil man, well the son of an oil man, decided to get in on the action.  Ray was of course the son of legendary oil man H.L. Hunt, the builder of a grand home on White Rock Lake designed to be an exact replicate of George Washington’s Mount Vernon, and he was also thought to be the richest man in the world when he died.   Oh and Ray’s half-brother Lamar Hunt was into sports so he founded and at the time owned the NFL team the Kansas City Chiefs.  Also two of Ray’s other brothers had a well-publicized failed attempt to corner the entire world silver market in the 80’s.  I bring this all up, not as awesome crazy oil family stories (I’m actually leaving out the lobotomized eldest brother and an Austria Ambassador), but as proof that this family takes the “go big or go home” motto to heart.

Ray hunt appreciation Ray Hunt…wonder who won the Eastern Horseman of Year in ’05 (RayHunt.com)

Anyways in the late 70’s, Ray was in his mid-thirties by now, and he decided that he’d get into real estate development.  The spot that he picked out was a under used, and undervalued (according to Ray) part of land just southeast of downtown.  It was a piece of land created by George Kessler’s planning and Dwight Eisenhower’s …highwaying?  A spot between the Union Pacific train tracks and the mixmaster where the I-30 and I-35 highways come together.   He planned a sporting arena, luxury hotel with convention space, office towers, apartments, and more.  Including his very own “go big” part, a 600 foot tall tower, with a ball on top.  Why?  I dunno, ef ‘em, that’s why.  If I can’t own an NFL team or corner the market in something, I’m going to build a giant tower that looks like a lollipop.  What am I going to put in it, I dunno, a restaurant or something, maybe a radio station to broadcast world domination messages?    It doesn’t matter, point is, I wanna build an iconic giant building and this is the easiest way to do it.  Oh and also the tower should have lights that can spell out messages on it in case I have to use it to send secret coded messages.

reunion_godzilla2_jpg_728x520_q85 He Could have just had Godzilla attack (Pegasus News)

So Ray built his hotel, a sporting arena and a tower with a big ball on top and lights that can spell out messages, or Reunion Tower.  He didn’t get to build the rest of the development.  The project died, or lost momentum through a combination of the S&L scandals, a tanking real-estate market, lack of city investment (supposedly still a sore subject with Ray because of the City’s support of Trammell Crow’s Anatole development), and frankly a loss of interest by Ray after he found billions of dollars of oil in Yemen in 84.  But he got to build his fancy tower, 561 feet tall with three floors and lights all around.  At one time in time it’s housed various restaurants, radio stations, event venues, and an observation deck that up until the mid-2000’s you could still visit.  If you were lucky, and visited during the week, during the daytime, the attendants weren’t there, so it was free, and you could wander around there for hours.