Top Ten Historical Places in Dallas you might not know about

Where are all the big historical places in Dallas – CF

Dallas has no shortage of historical places.  There are over a hundred places list on the National Historical Registry, and more than three hundred places have those historical markers from the state.

Like this one

freedmens

And instead of listing the most popular ones, or the best known ones, I’ve listed ten that for various reasons are noteworthy but generally not well known.

The Very First Hilton Hotel – Before Hilton hotels became a name brand, before Paris Hilton became Paris Hilton, even before the founder of Hilton Hotels was portrayed by Chelcie Rose in Mad Men, Conrad Hilton was a small time hotel operator.  His very first hotel to bear his name was the 14 story tall Hilton Hotel in Dallas.  Seen here below shortly after opening.

hilton_hotel

Built in 1925 for 1.3 million dollars, Hilton also had his personal office in the building.  Currently it operates as the Hotel Indigo, a chic boutique hotel.

Enjoy Conrad’s first beauty at ­­­­Main Street and S. Harwood Street in Downtown

The First Highway in Texas – Chances are you’ve run by the historical marker for the very first highway in Texas.  Or biked by it maybe.  The first highway in the state was built back when Texas was a republic 170 years ago (yes they had highways before cars).  It ran roughly from Texarkana to Dallas and the road that most closely mirrors its path in present day Dallas is highway 78 or Garland Road.  As such the historical marker is located at the southern end of White Rock Lake above the spillway, right about at the damn.

If this is your view of the lake, turn around and walk up the hill, the marker will be on your left.

white rock spillway

Walk down the same path that the first Texans did at the intersection of San Raphael and Garland in East Dallas.

Sons of HermannThe Sons of Hermann Hall is a 100 year old fraternal hall.  A building that harkins back to an older era and it has more then a few claims to fame.

Known more commonly as “Sons”

sons of hermannFor one, it’s the oldest wood frame two story commercial building in the City.  Okay not impressed, well they filmed part of Robocop there and Kelly Clarkson’s American Idol auditions were there.  Still not, okay, well Pat Green played there, so did Townes Van Zandt, the Dixie Chicks, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Todd Snider and more.  It also happens to be the first spot in Dallas where Robert Earl Keen played, Wlico too.  And that little old band from Dallas, the Old 97’s, played their very first gig at Sons.  If you’re still unimpressed by all that, well it’s haunted too, so there.

Go see ghosts and the next big alt-country band before they get big at 3414 Elm Street in Deep Elbum.

Freedmen’s cemetery – Following the emancipation, small communities of freed slaves began to form on the outskirts of southern cities called Freedmen’s towns.  The largest community in Dallas was located just north of downtown and it thrived for many years.  Known as Freedmen’s Town North Dallas, and later “State and Thomas,”  there isn’t much left of it nowadays.  If you couldn’t tell by the State and Thomas name, the area went through a urban renewal/gentrification period, it’s most commonly referred to today as “Uptown.”  But the Cemetery’s still there, along with a nice memorial to the community.

Pay your respects to generations of African Americans at Central Expy & Calvary Drive in Uptown.

At Eastern Entrance to the Cemetery stands this memorial.

east-side-of-entry-arch

Lee Park – Lee Park’s an interesting Park with an interesting history.  It’s one of the oldest in Dallas (1909).  President Roosevelt (FDR) dedicated the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee back in 1936 on the Park’s grounds.  There’s even a replicate of General Lee’s home in the Park called Arlington Hall that was built around the same time.  Now fast forward three decades to when Oaklawn had become the happening place for hippies and the counter culture.  In April of 1970, the Park was the scene for the infamous “Lee Park Massacre.”  It wasn’t a massacre just a small hippie riot of 3 or 4 thousand hippies when the police arrested a few kids for swimming in Trutle Creek.  And now fast forward to today where the Park is the scene for the magnificent LGBT community staple, the Lee Park Easter Hat Derby.  Truly one of Dallas’s most unique and wonderful scenes.

The three stages of Lee Park

Confederate

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Hippie

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LGBT

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Go be a Fabulous hat wearing Confederate hippie at 3333 Turtle Creek Blvd in Uptown.

Historic West End Buildings – I’m only picking one of the historic building in the West End to point out.  I’m just going to quote from the historical Marker and let me know when something stops you down.  ‘Constructed in 1909, this building was first occupied in 1910 by the Hobson Electric company. The warehouse was next leased to the Maroney Hardware Company, which was bought in 1926 by Rufus W. Higginbotham”…Rufus W. Higginbotham, quite a name.

I know you’re thinking in your head that this is Rufus W. Higginbotham…but it’s not

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This is Rufus, he was much sweeter, but still very Old World-y

R_W_Higginbotham-NY_portrait

Not to make light of of the name, but if you’re going to checking out a historic buildings in the West End, might as well have it be this one, seen below

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Enjoy Higginsbothaming at 1701 Market St. in the West End.

Buckner Childern’s home and cabin – Buckner is more than just a road. Buckner was a caring Baptist and earlier settler of Dallas.  He has two large contributions to Dallas history.  First, he started a children’s home for orphans and abandoned children.  Which was something of a problem in the early frontier days, by the turn of the century it was helping 500 childern a year.

Buckner’s Charter for a Childern’s home from the 19th century

buckner_application_effieSecond, Buckner and his family watched over Dallas history.  They saved John Neely Bryan’s cabin, the first house, nay the first structure in Dallas.  For years he kept it in the basement of the Buckner Orphanage, and when it was recreated for the World’s Fair in 1936 in Dallas, the City used the remnants of the cabin as a model.

Be reminded of Dallas’s charity and early cabins at 5200 S. Buckner Blvd in Southeastern Dallas.

W. Lee O’Daniel – Quick name the only person in history to defeat President Lyndon Johnson (LBJ) in an election.  Need a hint, he was also the inspiration for Governor Pappy O’Daniels  in the Coen Brother’s movie “O’ Brother Where Art Thou”  Yeah that guy, W. Lee “Pappy” O’Daniel.   O’Daniels was a radio personality in the 30’s with a catch phrase of “pass the biscuits, Pappy.”   Which come to think of it, is a pretty awesome catch phrase.  He ended up running for and being elected as governor of Texas and then ran for the US senate beating LBJ and serving one term.   He retired to Dallas and founded an insurance agency.

Fake Pappy Signing

o-brother-pappy

Real Pappy Signing

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Share a biscuit with Pappy at Cedar Springs and Oaklawn (the Triangle) in Uptown.

The Davis Building – There are plenty of historical building in downtown, from the Kirby building, to Union Station, to the old City Hall. And just like with the Higginbothaming Building I’m only going to point out one.  So why point out this building, well there’s the wonderful cupola up top and the history with the Republic National Bank.

The cupola as seen at night on the Davis Building.

Davis_Building_in_Dallas,_Texas

But really it’s the 1991 TV movie “Touch and Die” starring Martin Sheen that was filmed at the Davis Building means that its making this list.  It also stars his daughter, I think.    From the imdb summary “Magenta getting involved with a combination US Presidential Campaign and plutonium smuggling ring and almost ending up dying from radiation poisoning in the process.”  Made for TV movie about plutonium smuggling in 1991, I’m sure it’s awesome.

See where Martin and his daughter made a movie at 1309 Main St. in Downtwon

Anyone of Dallas 57 historic cemeteries – This might be cheating a little bit, but Dallas has some 57 different historical cemeteries.  That’s one per each 15 square miles.  There’s probably one your neighborhood or the neighborhood just over. Other then the Freedmen’s cemetery I mentioned earlier, there’s the French Utopian settlers cemetery from 1850, the migrate workers cemetery from the great Trinity Farm, cemeteries for settlers from New York, Tennessee, and the large Jewish cemetery.  There’s even one cemetery for the Pioneers of Dallas, that’s actually a cemetery created to combine several older cemeteries that had to be moved.  As a last note, I’d point out that these 57 cemeteries doesn’t even include the cemetery where Mickey Mantle is buried here in Dallas.

Pay your respects to men and women how helped create Dallas at some little cemetery likely located around the corner from you.

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