How Dallas’s West End died…

Why did the West End Die?  – Wendy

I begin with the obligatory statement that the West End is not completely dead. There’s still some life there but definitely not what it was twenty years ago when Van Halen played a free concert that Bruce Willis MC’ed at Planet Hollywood (how 1989 is that sentence).

 van halenThere’s even a DVD of the show for you super Van Halen fans out there

Anyways the reason why the West End is almost completely dead is pretty simple once you understand a few simple aspects of urban life in American Cities.  But first a little history on the West End, don’t worry it’s not boring there are prostitutes, saddles and pillows involved.

e88725a45a73032005026ac88729d495This is the most PC version of a picture that involves two of the three topics from the previous sentence.

Most histories of the West End begin in the early 20th century when the West End was a center for warehousing and manufacturing along the railroad. For the most part this makes sense; most of the buildings that are still standing there were built around that time. There was a cracker factory (boring and unappetizing), a saddle factory (intriguing), and a pillow factory (kinda depressing when you realize your pillows are made in a factory).

crackerFrankly, that’s an awful lot of smoke to be coming from a “cracker” factory

Unfortunately this view of its history ignores West End before 1913 or so, which is even more interesting than a pillow or cracker factory.  Back then the area was known as “Frog’s Town.” Not because of a large population of Frenchmen, but because the area was prone to flooding and hence it had a very large population of frogs.  You know what else it had a large population of?

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That’s right  19th century prostitutes. Frog’s Town was one of a few so called red lights districts in Dallas.  Keep in mind that prostitution was legal in Dallas all the way up to 1913. When the state literally had to intervene and force Dallas enforce the state law(Austin always was so prude). If this comes as a little bit of a surprise keep in mind Dallas as a long history of providing outlets for carnal delights, and that Dallas was still very much of a frontiers town back then. One with 100,000 residents albeit, but one of those residents was Doc Holiday of the OK Corral fame, who ran a crooked dentist office and a straight card game.

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He’ll be your Huckleberry

Anyways fast forward some 60 years to the 1970’s and West End’s “revival as an entertainment district.” Downtown Dallas post WWII had expected a building boom. And because it was pretty much reigned in on all side by freeways, that building boom went vertical. The majority of Dallas’s skyscrapers were built at the expensive of many of the older mid-rise buildings or historical buildings which were torn down. By the 70’s many of those older historical structure were gone. Preservationist, fresh off victories along Swiss Ave and in Old East Dallas began pushing efforts to save the historic buildings in the West End.

imagesSaving these buildings

At the same time as the Preservationist efforts were taking hold, many civic leaders in Dallas were becoming aware of another problem. Retail, dining, entertainment and other so called built cultural amenities were fleeing downtown. This was in part because the new skyscrapers were replacing the venues for entertainment. But also because during the 60’s and 70’s Baby Boomers were fleeing urban areas and central cities.

runningThere’s a new mediocore subdivision in Plano?!?!?  Last one there gets shunned by the PTA and HOA leaders

That was the era of suburban shopping malls and chain restaurants. Many civic leaders in Dallas wanted to chase those fleeing suburbanites, compete with the suburban shopping mall and regain those tax dollars. A strategy that most urban planners nationwide and local civic leaders today find utterly foolish, but more on that later.

So as a result of the Preservationist efforts to stay the West End historical structures, and civic leader’s efforts to lure suburbanites back to downtown, the West End began to develop as a shopping, dining and entertainment district in the late 70’s. By the mid 80’s it had really taken off. The first and Original Spaghetti Warehouse had moved in along with other restaurants. Shops were popping up, the West End Marketplace (a mall) had openned and Club Stark had made quite the name for itself in nightlife circles.

imagesCAJ0GPERClub Stark in it’s hey day.

In a D Magazine in a 1984 story about the district the author even said that the West End was well on its way to becoming something the downtown really needed…”a place to visit in the heart of the city that offers a wide selection of food and drink.”

That above statement from D mag hints at something most people growing up in Dallas knew about the West End. The West End was a nice place…to…visit. It was a nice place to visit…means it was for tourists.

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Come to the West End for longhorns and cowboy hats.

Let me explain. If you go back and read, or at least thumb through the D mag article, you’ll notice that the author spends a lot of time talking about all the restaurants, some of the shopping, and she even mentions the pains to which businesses moving into the office space went through to project a different vibe then traditional downtown Dallas. The one thing she doesn’t mention until the very end is that no one actually lives in the West End. The West End was conceived to be a standalone entertainment district.

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The West End trying to be like Time Square in New York

Standalone entertainment districts in urban areas usually aren’t that successful.. Think of the most popular areas of Dallas right now for dining, shopping and “entertainment”. Deep Ellum, Bishop Arts, Greenville Ave, Uptown, Knox/Henderson, the Cedars; they all have residential communities in and around them. The West End didn’t and hence it lacked a certain urban excitement or bohemian feel that attracts people.

Segways1Any area that allows you to rent a seg-way to see it, is not an exciting urban area

The West End also tried to compete with suburban entertainment districts, which generally speaking were more favorable for suburbanites then the West End.

In the end, the West End, devoid of residents, an urban vibe, and struggling to compete with suburban malls; was left to the realm of the tourists. Which would make sense why Bruce Willis opened a Planet Hollywood with a concert headlined by Van Halen.

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Bruce Willis, in early 90’s jeans seen at Planet Hollywood’s groundbreaking

But Dallas, despite a robust convention crowd, has never had the tourists economy to support all those restaurants, let alone a movie theater and an entire mall.   The West End tried mightily, see: free Van Halen concerts, the Hoop-It-Up tournaments; but slowly it began to die off. The Stark Club, though a truly unique and wondrous place, failed to create much of a clustering effect of similar nightclubs or businesses. Those around the time likened it being one Ziggy Stardust amongst a thousand J.R. Ewings. The restaurants started to flee in the late 90’s. Planet Hollywood closed in 2001 as did the movie theater. And the mall finally closed its doors in 2006, with it’s most notable tenant, the antiques shop, moving to….a suburban mall, Grapevine Mills.

There’s hope of course, as I write this news has come out that the owners of the old West End Marketplace, where the mall was, are trying to rebrand the building, and court residential condos or apartment developers to convert the space.

Old East Dallas/ East Dallas – What They Both Mean

I keep hearing people say “Old East Dallas” and East Dallas. Are they interchangeable? Is there a difference? Is Old East Dallas just the old part of East Dallas, or are they using it as an adjective, like saying, “old man Stevens is a ornery fella”? – RM

No they are not interchangeable, they have two different meanings. In fact depending on who you’re talking to, even the term East Dallas can have different meaning. But first East Dallas v Old East Dallas.

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Know what it means before you wear the shirts guys.

Old East Dallas refers to a particular neighborhood in Dallas. It’s a triangle-ish shaped neighborhood bordered by I-30, Central Expressway and Munger Ave.   A hundred and thirty years ago, before the freeways, it was its own separate town complete with an 18 mph speed limit for horses.   The town, incorporated in 1882, had begun to develop in the 1870’s after the railroads arrived at a junction roughly where Baylor Hospital is today.

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Notice this Mosaic at the Hall of State, says the railroads came to East Dallas, not Dallas.

The settlers had initially wanted to name it after its leading citizen Colonel Gaston. However they eventually settled on the name “East Dallas.” The Old East Dallas neighborhood sits where the much of the original town site for East Dallas was. The reasons why East Dallas is no longer a town and now part of Dallas, goes back to Dallas’ hunger for growth and a shady state senator.

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This guy.

East Dallas grew rapidly, and by the late 1880’s had 6,000 residents. The City of Dallas, had been trying to annex the new and quickly growing East Dallas throughout the 1880’s. Dallas’ goal was to annex East Dallas before the 1890 census in the hopes of combining the populations and becoming the largest town in Texas. But again and again, East Dallas rejected and voted down the annexation effects. That is until Dallas went over the head of the East Dallas citizens. In 1889, state senator R. S. Kimbrough revoked East Dallas’ charter with the state and allowed Dallas to proceed with an annexation scheduled for January 1st, 1890. As part of the agreement, Dallas promised to take over the debt, public holdings, property and streets of East Dallas. So on December 31st, 1889, the day before East Dallas was to be annexed, they dedicated the land for numerous streets and passed bond measures to fund their construction. Dallas was forced to take on the debt and ultimately build the roads. Hence the reasons why Old East Dallas is bisected by nice, fairly wide (for the time) streets like Live Oak, Ross, or Gaston.

 imagesCAAL4F01East Dallas seen here sticking to the Man (i.e. Dallas.)

As far as the term “East Dallas,” depending on whom you ask, East Dallas can mean a wide variety of places. If you’re talking to a man in his 80’s and who begins any discussion with “When I was a kid, the streetcar down Gaston cost a nickel!”, then he’s probably going to have a pretty strong opinion about which neighborhoods are actually in East Dallas. Same goes for the hipster transplant that has lived off Ross for 5 years. They may claim that you can only call the old 1,400 acre town site of East Dallas…East Dallas.

 

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The East Dallas railline station of the “old school East Dallasite”

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The backyard chicken tour of the “new school East Dallasite”

And they might be right. But the vast majority of the almost 7 million people living in DFW, and most of those with a vague familiarity with the area have a different understanding, It’s best summed up by the following conversation I swear I had with a half dozen kids when I started college.

Them: So, where’d you grow up?

Me: Dallas.

Them: Oh, me too, I’m from Plano what about you?

Me: Um…Dallas…Dallas.

Them: Oh, cool, where abouts?

Me: East Dallas?

Them: Like Lakewood, the Arboretum, White Rock Lake?

Me: Um, yeah, there abouts.

To many people living out in Frisco or somewhere out in the North Texas hinterland, that is what East Dallas is. White Rock, Lakewood, the Arboretum.

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East Dallas right?

To them, East Dallas is some general area, vaguely identified by those markers, located north of I-30, east of Central, and including everything all the way out to Garland and Mesquite. Of course that thought usually pisses off the old timers who correctly point out that White Rock was built 20 year after “East Dallas” was incorporated into Dallas, and several miles away from the Old East Dallas city limits. Who’s right? The answer is probably somewhere in between. And it’s probably somewhat of a generational opinion. My great grandparents most assuredly did not call the White Rock Lake area East Dallas. They called that area of unincorporated Dallas County; the Big Thicket (best hunting in the county). But my great grandchildren, if they live in Dallas, will most likely say East Dallas includes White Rock Lake. Of course they may also call Tyler a suburb of Dallas by then.

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Future population of Dallas discussing whether or not to put a “Hoover-Expressway” along the Trinity River bottoms.

 

 

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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

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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.

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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.

How the State Fair of Texas in Dallas became the largest annual Fair in the World

How did the State of Texas get so big?  Why is in even in Dallas? –  GD

It does seem odd that something like a Fair which is so closely associated with all things rural is held in the Texas City that views itself as the state’s most cosmopolitan city.  And that the largest annual Fair in the World is held in the City that also has the World’s largest Arts District.  But the State Fair of Texas(simply known as the Fair to locals) is study on contrasts.

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Called Secular Cathedral of Texas the Hall State Building is one of the nation’s best examples of art-deco architecture in the nation

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Also fried food

  • It is home to perhaps the largest collection of fried foods in the world, but also one of the largest collections of architecturally significant art-deco buildings in the world.
  • More prize winning livestock is sold at the Fair then anywhere in nation, but there also have been  years when famous New York City art galleries sell more art at the Fair than they do the entire year at the NYC galleries.
  • John Deere will sell as many tractors at the Fair as Subaru will sell earth conscience eco-friendly yuppie movers.
  • There are arguably more “carnies” per square foot on the fairgrounds then anywhere, but also three straight weeks of sold-out Broadway musicals and operas running throughout the Fair.
  • The Fair hosts the state’s most important and one of the nation’s biggest football games, but the Fair grounds are also home to the state’s first organic botanical gardens.

But let’s get to the Fair’s history, why it’s held in Dallas and why it’s so massive.

The first “State” Fair in Dallas was held in 1886 when a group of Dallas business leaders came together to put on the “Texas State Fair and Dallas Exposition.”  It was held on land owned by good old Colonel Gaston (Gaston Ave.) on the present day Fair grounds in South Dallas.  A rival Fair was held in North Dallas that same year, but the two fairs merged shortly thereafter.

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You’ll see later on why the woman are featured on this ad

Dallas because of its banking community and location on two major rail lines was well suited in the late 19th century to act as a showcase and clearing house for livestock and produce.  The City, because of large mercantile class and influx of European craftsmen from the La Reunion settlement was also well suited to be a marketplace for the latest consumer goods.  Both are big reasons why the early Fair in Dallas thrived.

But a big reason, perhaps the biggest reason that the State Fair in Dallas went from being a state fair to The State Fair, was that the early backers of the Fair released that providing entertainment and attractions for all walks of people was paramount to the Fair being successful.  The early backers of the Fair brought in family friendly events like hot air balloon demonstrations, they brought in wholesome all American speakers like uber-wholesome William Jennings Bryan.

W_j_-Bryan-Cross-Of-Gold-Painting-e1325306097592When people draw you bearing crosses, you know you’re wholesome

For those looking for high culture they had concerts the likes of John Philip Sousa.  (Note: I don’t mean concerts featuring the music of John Phillip Sousa; I mean concerts featuring the actual man John Phillip Sousa.)  But while the rancher may enjoy the musings of WJB, and his kids marvel at the hot air balloons while his wife enjoys the music of JPS, the ranch hands that helped get the prized heifer to Fair, the one who was just paid a month’s worth of pay after selling that cow, yeah he’s not looking for sweet wholesome highbrow stuff.  And though horse racing and gambling were big early attractions of the Fair (both were legal), it’s another big entertainment option that’s perhaps a better story.

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These guys aren’t entertained by balloons and marches.

There is a story relayed from author and Times Herald columnist John Rogers that dates from the 1890’s about one of the biggest backers and promoters of the State Fair, banker and real estate developer, J.S. Armstrong.  A woman came into Armstrong’s bank seeking a loan.  She meets with a young morally chaste loan officer, who promptly took her request for a $5,000 loan to cover additional labor to Armstrong for denial.  Or so he thought.   When Armstrong asked his loan officer what line of work she was involved in, the loan officer said that she was a madam in one of Dallas leading brothels (prostitutions was legal in Dallas till 1913).  Armstrong then asked when she would need the money and the young loan officer, aware of his boss’s involvement with the Fair, sheepishly replied that she needed it for the duration of the Fair.  Armstrong immediately signed off on the loan and seeing the shock on his young new employee’s face, told him it was merely a business decision.  And her line of work did good business during the Fair.  Armstrong was right, and as the story goes, she paid him back in full.

2939354578_5ba3d72274See what  I mean

All of this helped turn a state fair in Dallas to the Texas State Fair by the turn of the century.  By 1905, more than 300,000 people attended the Fair.  In 1909, President Taft visited the Fair.  Two years later, President Wilson did.  The Fair continued to evolve in its first 50 years.  To court the highbrow crowd the Fair built the beautiful Fair Park Music Hall as an opera and concert venue in 1925.  When it became apparent that saddle makers and carriage  builders were being left behind in the wake of cars, the Fair started hosting its annual Auto Show, which is still so popular that the big three American companies (Chevy, Ford and Dodge) routinely roll out their new model year trucks at the Fair.  When the state moved to outlaw both gambling and prostitution, the Fair replaced those attractions with others.  Car racing became a big draw, not to mention a major plot in the 1962 movie about the State Fair of Texas called State Fair, staring Pat Boone and Ann Margaret.  The Fair built amusement park rides, including the largest Ferris Wheel in North America and installed a 50 foot tall Texan, named Big Tex for people to sacrfice their babies to and for the X-Men to battle around.

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I quote from the comic “Emergency – All X-Men to the Cotton Bowl”

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Please god of Texas, accept our sacrfice, don’t destory yourself in fire again

Football also became big.  Texas-OU first played their annual Red-River Rivalry Game on the Fairgrounds in 1929 and moved to the Cotton Bowl in 1934.  The game and the weekend is worth a post in of itself, but more beer is consumed that weekend in Dallas than any other, and during the game in 1968, the Fairgrounds swelled with more than 380,000 people making those 277 acres temporarily the 32nd largest city in the nation.

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Texas-OU is the most entertaing day to go to the Fair.

But perhaps the one event that helped establish the Fair in Dallas as an annual celebration of all things Texas was the 1936 Texas Centennial Exhibition.  The Exhibition was an event designed to be a massive celebration of the 100 birthday of Texas.  It was courted by R.L. Thornton and held in Dallas rather than San Antonio or Houston almost solely based on his salesmanship of Dallas and the Fairgrounds (The joke in Texas goes, they started the war in San Anton, finished it in Houston, and held the party in Dallas).  Planned and held during the great depression, it benefited from the numerous federal works projects.  Most of the iconic buildings, art deco mural and statures in Fair Park where built, designed or commissioned  through the WPA, the CCC  or other Great Depression era work programs.  The building and art programs, along with the Exhibitions was such a success that President Roosevelt showed up along with more than 6 million other visitors.

girls498Most came for the exhibits on new farming methods

Without much of those buildings, the Texas State Fair would have likely hoped around from city to city, showcasing different cities in the State.  Luckily it stayed, and continues to thrive.  Texas, despite increasing urbanization, still has more land dedicated to livestock and agricultural production than any other state.  So there are still plenty of farmers and ranchers who head into to town to show off their prized bulls and sell them to the highest bidder.  Dallas also still maintains its reputation as a leading marketplace for the newest and best consumer goods.  And the Fair still provides expansive entertainment options, whether it be highbrow (the musical this year I believe is the Lion Kong), wholesome (last year an entire museum’s exhibits were dedicated to the Girls Scouts) or rambunctious (take your pick from the midway games, to the rides, to the Texas-OU game and two more football games at the Cotton bowl).

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You show your livestock

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Admire the latest trucks

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And for the Texas-OU game

It’s difficult to explain the State Fair of Texas.  That annual three week tradition held in early September and late October at historical Fair Park in South Dallas. The collection of people and cultures is as unique as anywhere in the world.  In fact, I would say that nowhere in world will you find as diverse mix of people located within the same 277 acres.  It’s a rural, urban, white, ethnic, rich, poor, high-brow, folk culture, football crazy, opera watching mass of humanity for three weeks in the early fall.

Keller’s Hamburgers…Explaining it’s wonder and what seems like the illegal activity there

I love Keller’s but seriously, what they’re doing with beer is illegal right?  A.R.

If you know what Keller’s is, then you can skip to the next three paragraphs, but you’ll miss an early 1970’s movie clip about “carhops” filmed partly at Keller’s.   Okay here’s the first part.

Now if you don’t know what Keller’s is, I can’t truly explain it.  That’d be like explaining what Max’s Kansas City is.  I can only tell you about it.  And I say this as someone who grew up down the street from the Keller compound, and went to their annual Fourth of July Picnics.

imagesCA9ZH03DWait for the pics of the burgers…

Keller’s is a drive up hamburger joint from back in the day.  An old fashioned carhop place, think Sonic but with real authentic character.  In fact I’m ashamed I just compared it to Sonic.  The Northwest Highway location (the flagship one and one I’m talking about) has been around since 1963, and it’s literally 99.9% the same as it was back then.  The only thing that has changed are the prices.  But other then that, it’s the same burger shack, parking, and carhops from the heyday of drive ups.  They still make the same good, but simple food. Burgers, cheeseburgers, fries, onion rings, shakes, and the “number 5” a double meat double cheese special sauce burger.  Grilled onions are free, and you can get chili on anything, including the grilled cheese for a quarter.

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Ever so tasty

But most people go for the atmosphere.  On a given Friday or Saturday evening you’ll find a dozen bikers (to the left of actual hamburger stand), and perhaps three dozen owners of classic and custom cars (to the right).

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Bikers on the Left                                               Cars on the Right

The people and the car watching is half the show.  An in the center across from the stand, lie the rest of the collected masses.  A hodgepodge of elegantly dressed Mercedes driving older folks, mini-vans full of pre-teens, groups of just off the job Hispanics, frat boys, plumber’s trucks, and associated 20 somethings.  Also Ludacris, and Tommy Lee…And Jimmy Buffet.

img_2223  969489_10151909608323084_2095067055_n ??????????

The usually customers at Keller’s

I highly, highly recommend it if you’ve never been.  And if you haven’t been before, don’t get scared by the thing everyone’s doing that seems illegal.  The standing around drinking beers, ordering beers in the cars, and sitting around in cars having a few cold ones.  Newbies to Keller’s always seem surprised by this, they get freaked out, and sling down like a high schooler when the cops cruise by to check on the scene.

And the question is asked how in the world can Keller’s do this?  This has to be illegal.

Well first of all, you have to understand that Keller’s comes from a different time, when the laws were different.  And though laws have changed since Keller’s started, Keller’s hasn’t.  So there are hundreds of mostly minor building codes, health codes, development codes, and alcohol codes that Keller’s doesn’t have to comply with because it’s been ‘grandfathered in.”  There are major changes that Keller’s does have to comply with, but most minor changes they don’t.  Keller’s, because the ownership, building, business model and other key things haven’t changed, is considered legal non-conforming (the lawyer term for grandfathered).  So Keller’s can do what they do in part because they’re operating under liquor laws decades old that say things like no one shall be granted a liquor license if “the applicant is not of good moral character or his reputation for being a peaceable, law-abiding citizen in the community where he resides is bad.”  Wait my bad, it still says that.

snideldy

Sorry Snidely Whiplash, No booze permits for you.

In fact the Alcoholic code for Texas is ass backwards sometimes.  It’s odd, confusing, and based upon prohibition era reasoning.  But at the same time its  reflective of Texas’s strong property, personal and business rights.  Which is why you can’t sell more than two open beers to anyone at the same time, or any beer to anyone without a shirt on, or buy beer anywhere before noon…on Sundays.  But at the same time, you can run a business selling tacos and give away beer to anyone, anytime for free.  Your tacos might cost 25 dollars apiece, but you can still give away the beer for free.  It’s your right to.  Now I have to point out, if you want to run your free beer and taco joint, you have to jump through dozen of hops, have strict prove up requirements, and generally go through so much hassle that it’s not worth your time or money.  Hence the reason why hardly anyone does this longer than a week or so.

ProhibitionRepealPosterYes, please drink.

So for Keller’s and their beer in cars,  we all know you can’t drive drunk, or drive with an open container on a public road, and you can’t provide open alcohol containers to people in a car in an “to-go” manner.  But ask the TABC if you can serve open containers to people in cars on private property, their response is well technically yes.  But in order to do that you have to configure your business in just such a way, doing dozens of things certain exact way, jump through so many legal hops, and doing some many things to satisfy the state and city, that it might not be worth it.  They’re all relatively minor things separately, that have been tacked on throughout the years, but put together they add up.

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Sorry no liquor license for you, new business owner

Unless of course you started way back in the day when liquor laws were different.  Maybe you only had to jump through one or two hops to start your business.  And since your business hasn’t changed, well, you’re still grandfathered in.  And for those reasons we end up this magic tray of goodness.

burgers11-pg-horizontal

Why Campisi’s is called the “Egyptian Restaurant” and why people claim it’s tied to the mob

Why do they call it Campisis’s Egyptian Restaurant, is it because they’re in the mob? A.M.

So first of all, apparently whenever you’re writing about people you know personally, you’re supposed to say so.  I first met the Campisi family when I started preschool in Dallas at age 3 and met the twins.  But I’m not close to them; almost all kids that grew up in East Dallas in the 90’s knew the Campisi’s, or their extended family of the Fry’s, Culter’s, Dome’s, etc.  Now let’s get to the strangely named “Egyptian” Restaurant and its Italian food, wonderful pizza…and the alleged mob connections.

The Egyptian Restaurant                                              Obviously would specalize in this delicious pizza

Campisis Campisis-pizza

The Egyptian part of the name dates back the late 1940’s and early 1950’s.  The Campisi family had run a grocery in Dallas since the turn of the century, but had only started to make pizzas (very good pizza) after World War II.  In a few short years they had become somewhat successful, out growing their location on McKinney Ave. and moving to the current location on Mockingbird.  Before Campisi’s moved in, the space had been known as the Egyptian Lounge, a nightclub and bar.  Campisi’s spent most of their money on the move and renovations to the interior and kitchen, leaving little for a new sign for the restaurant.  So they took the Egyptian Lounge Sign that was out front, and paid what little money they had to remove the lounge part and add the restaurant part.  Since then the name has stuck…going on 60 years.

filename-p1120048-jpg  They changed this sign

What has also stuck is the reputation that the Campisi’s are involved in and the restaurant is run by the Mafia in Dallas, or at least associated with the mob.  Why?  Well, the Campisi’s are an Italian American Family, a large successful Italian American Family, a large successful Italian American family that deals in (up until recently) what is an all cash business.  Doesn’t take a genius to connect the dots or make the accusations.  Of course what people who make these accusations neglect to realize is that Dallas has never really been a big mafia town.  Our crime, the organized kind, is usually gunslinging-murdering Benny Binion gamblers, underhanded Dad Joiner oil wildcatters, or crooked Danny Faulkner land developers.

l  But see, it looks like a place the mob would hang out in

What’s usually the biggest evidence pointed out for the mafia connection is the fact that Jack Ruby visited Campisi’s and allegedly ate with Joe Campisi the night before Ruby shot Oswald.  Or as the conspiracy theorist go, Ruby was a solider in the mob and got his marching orders to kill Oswald from Joe, a local mafia member.  The problem here beyond the fact that mob in Dallas wasn’t really big, was that Ruby was never really considered a member of the mob.  He was a wannabe, all the press corp members and vice cops of the era said as much.  A.C. Green a columnist and former metro writer for the Dallas Times Hearld who knew Ruby, called him, “…an undistinguished man”  who ran “…an undistinguished club”  that “didn’t even have  elementary class.”  And because Dallas lacked a strong organized estblishament, there wasn’t much need for a pleadingly crummy nightclub manager.  For his part, Joe Campisi said he hardly knew Ruby, and told the Warren Commission that Ruby was “…a crazy S.O.B.”

jack-ruby-nightclub-operator-everett  The crazy S.O.B. is on the left.

What’s more realistic is that the Campisi’s had interaction with people who were involved in organized crime as a fact of running a restaurant.  Running a restaurant in the 50’s and 60’s you had to deal with them.  Consider Thorton Mellon’s hidden cost of development lecture. It made sense for Joe to have good relations with liquor suppliers, labor, town officials, and other suppliers. Some of whom were likely involved in organized crime.  Plus Campisi’s likely had a few organized crime members that ate at the restaurant, it wasn’t like the cabana in the Goodfellas, but Tom Landry also ate there, and he’s about as straight laced as they come.  The relationship has been played up recently mainly for publicity now that one Campisi became a Playboy Playmate and another got a short lived TV show.  But really, it’s not as glamorous not as interesting as people make it out to be.

Swimming in White Rock and Why It’s called White Rock

Can people swim in White Rock Lake?  If not have they ever been able to?  From MR

Round Rock is named after an actual Round Rock, is White Rock Lake named after an actual white rock?  AH

I put these two questions together because, well, they’re both about White Rock.  And the simple answer, kinda yes sorta no…but really here you go.

First you can’t technically swim in the lake, not since 1952, when a drought forced the City to go back to using the lake as a public water source.  Could you swim in the lake before then?  Well, the Bath House on the east side of the lake used to have a beach with real sand out front. That beach on the lake in the 1940’s used to attract 10,000 people a day during the weekends.  They’d catch a streetcar down the Gaston line to last stop there at the spillway, and be ferried across by boat.  So a lot of people used to swim in the lake, back when White Rock Lake was considered the out skirts of town and a recreation lake like Possum Kingdom Lake or Lake Tawakoni is nowadays.

history_dam

The building of the Damn

Much like those lakes, White Rock is a manmade lake. As a result of drought concerns in 1910, a damn was built on a creek the following year, and the lake eventually filled up by the mid-decade.  The Lake, was built on land that was mainly farm land, notably the Cox Family Farm.  The area had been originally settled by the Beeham family in the 1840’s not long after John Neely Bryan founded Dallas. The Beehams were among the first settlers of Dallas, Beeham’s wife was actually the first woman to visit the Dallas settlement.  She recorded on her first visit to the general store in Dallas, it had two items, a spool of fabric 3 yards long, and a barrel of whiskey.

1840-fabric-folded                awt-bourbon-cask-640_s640x427

Some of This                                                                                 And some of this

When  Beeham settled in Dallas, he settled along an escarpment above a creek.  An escarpment comprised of white chalky rocks, so he called the creek that ran through the white rocks, “White Rock Creek.”  The Lake would eventually take it’s name from the creek that he named.  So White Rock Lake is actually named after a bunch of white rocks, not one.

_JR26552-white-rox-in-creek

White Rocks from White Rock Creek

So why can’t you swim in white rock anymore?  Because the lake was never really a well-designed manmade lake.  The lake was only used as a water source until 1929, when Lake Lewisville was built.  So really only 15-20 years, which is a really short time for a public water source.  Of course from 1910 to 1930 Dallas went from 42,000 residents to over 250,000 so simple little White Rock wasn’t gonna do as a public water source, but it was still a lively recreational attraction.

In the years following White Rock’s removal as the public water source, there was some debate as to what to do with the Lake and the property around it.  Most, including George Kessler, agreed that the land immediately surrounding the Lake needed to be park land, but some wanted a Coney Island style attractions, while others, including Mayor, J. Waddy “Hot Dog” Tate wanted more subdued park amenities.  In the epic battle between the Coney folks and the Hot Dog folks, (ha) Hot Dog won.

jwt                                                     hotdog

Mayor Hot Dog                                                                                            Also Mayor Hot Dog

Well it might be more a result that the mansions begun to spring up around white rock, the planation style Bella Nora was built in ’29, H.L. Hunt’s Mt. Vernon’s replica was built ’38 and E. L. DeGolyer’s Rancho Encinal (currently The Dallas Arboretum) was built in ’39.  All surrounded the lake and likely won’t have taken to a giant Ferris wheel or fun house next to their million dollar homes.

So from the early 30’s to the late 40’s, a combination of Dallas County  chain gangs, New Deal CCC workers and German POW’s, built much of the trails, roads, benches, bridges and buildings currently serving White Rock.

ccc_chow_hall2          ccc_camp_view-400   CCC workers and their barracks (watermelon-kid.com

The lake since then has had its ups and downs.  The lady of the lake stories, the motorboat races,  the years of the submarine races at the lake(teenagers necking), the years of the lake used as a cruising ground for gays, the marathons,  the 75 pound cat fish that were pulled from the lake, etc.

But with local East Dallas volunteer groups like For the Love of Lake, it’s become hugely successful as an urban natural amenity in a town that has few.

117-rray-cycling-wrl  Also an artist’s Inspiration  (dallasartrevue.com)