I REMEMBER DOWNTOWN DALLAS
Dallas and the downtown area in particular hold a special charm for me that goes back to my teen years. I was born and raised in Oak Cliff, which originally was a town founded before Dallas. After grade school, I attended Jesuit High School on Oak Lawn.
As a young freshman I enjoyed the adventure of riding a city bus from Oak Cliff to downtown Dallas then transferring to the Oak Lawn bus. As this ritual continued into my junior year, I was constantly fascinated by the downtown district through the seasons.
Near the east end of town on Elm Street is the historic Majestic Theater. My wife Susan still remembers the favorite sundress she wore to ride the bus downtown with a girl friend to see the “new” Beatles’ movie “A Hard Day’s Night” in 1964.
Long before that my Grandfather Moll was employed at the Majestic. He couldn’t read a lick of music, but he sure could play the piano! Which he did with gusto during the silent movies. He’d play softly for romantic scenes then spirited tunes for car chases.
I would have loved to see that!
In the 1960s, the Magnolia Building was visible from miles around, with its Pegasus in red neon spinning slowly at its top. Most Texans around here just called it the Flying Red Horse – and they still do. The red Pegasus was the logo of Magnolia Oil, the predecessor to Mobil Oil. By 1975 it failed to function and was in total disrepair, so it was completely restored in 1999 under strict historical preservation guidelines. Today it proudly stands and rotates again, even if it is dwarfed by newer skyscrapers.
Nearby on Houston Street is the Old Red County Courthouse, which locals simply call ‘Old Red’. This grand old building, built in 1892, has been completely restored and now houses the Old Red Museum and hosts civic activities of all kinds. As a kid, ‘Old Red’ was a grand and mysterious building to me. It still is.
On nearby Young Street is the original home of the Dallas Morning News. I was a carrier (newspaper boy) for the DMN in the 1960s. I didn’t get much of an allowance so my “newspaper money” provided pocket change and more. What I spent that money on I have no idea. Probably comic books, paper kites, movies and plastic car models. One thing I do remember is some of the characters I met on my route!
The west end of downtown included the old train station, also on Houston Street. The old Union Station is still there but like most parts of downtown, the buildings have been repurposed and renovated with a facelift and new surroundings. A new park and fountain now graces our old Union Station.
Downtown has changed a lot over the years. Gone are the old Walgreen’s Drug Store, KVIL Radio (we called it Kayville) and the numerous newsstands. The Sanger Harris Building where my Grandmother Maupin worked for many years became El Centro College where I was part of its first class.
Downtown was virtually dead for years until a Downtown Revitalization Program developed the Historic West End, new park spaces, Hyatt Regency Hotel/Reunion Tower complex, the Dallas World Aquarium, and Dart Rail. These and many other amenities brought new life and excitement to the area.
With many business returning and with new buildings going up everywhere needing employees, the increasing demand for housing was met with new residential properties. Lofts in Dallas? Yes! Lofts and condos and more.
Downtown Dallas is back!
Do you love the color and culture of Downtown Dallas? Or do you avoid it if possible? Please share your thoughts with a comment below. Thanks!