On Sunday, January 10th I sat across from three resting bulldozers. Between us are scattered piles of logs that once composed the GC & SF railroad trestle. For 125 years this trestle successfully spanned the Trinity river. As I draw, I am connecting to what was, what is now, and what will be no longer. The freshly splintered wood perfumes the air with creosote and cypress sap. Then the wind turns, and the pungent diesel fumes fill my nose and sting my eyes.
2204 S Riverfront Blvd. Dallas TX.
Built in 1841 to protect the first settlers of Tarrant County, the Fort was strategically located down river from what was once the largest Caddo village in Texas. In 1842 Sam Houston made the journey from Austin to Bird’s Fort to hold a peace council and sign a Treaty of Peace and Friendship. Unfortunately, fearing a trap the Native American chefs did not attend. In 1887, the land was developed as the Callaway Lake Hunting and Fishing Club. By 1969 the renamed Arlington Sportsman’s Club bulldozed the remains of the Bird’s Fort and installed a swimming pool. The abandoned club is now owned by a real estate development firm.
Meadow Hawk Drive, Arlington TX.
Henry Barrow brought his wife and two sons to Dallas in hopes of finding work. They moved into a shantytown under the Continental Street Viaduct. Henry and the boys made money collecting scrap metal. Things changed for the better when Henry’s wagon was hit by a car killing his mule and destroying the wagon. The money he received in settlement was enough to build the Star Service Gas Station on Singleton Ave.
Ronald Kirk Pedestrian Bridge, Dallas, TX.
Bonnie Parker was a waitress at Hargrave’s Cafe from January 1928 – January 1929. Her future boyfriend Clyde Barrow was working just seven blocks away at a window glass company, but couple didn’t meet until January 1930. Then things changed dramatically for the infamous pair.
3308 Swiss Circle. Dallas TX.
Local Dallas law enforcement officers were staking out Lillie McBride’s house waiting for her small time crook husband to show up when Clyde Barrow of the notorious Bonnie and Clyde Barrow Gang stepped onto the porch. A shout ”Stop where you are!” was followed by gun shots. During the resulting shootout, Deputy Malcolm Davis was killed. Clyde made his escape when Lillie ran onto the porch yelling “Don’t shoot my babies!”
Lillie McBride Shootout House, 3111 N. Winnetka Ave. Dallas TX.
Built across the Trinity river next to Miller’s Ferry, the Houston & Texas Central railroad bridge has been a historically important asset to shipping goods in and out of Dallas. The clay river bottom still holds the splinted wood pillars from the older bridge. The wood pillars were supplanted by massive, solid brick piers. During the latest bridge improvements, the piers where too difficult to remove so the new concrete extensions were simply added to the top. This is one of the few places in Dallas where the city’s long history is laid out like a picture book.
6500 S. Central Expressway, Dallas TX.
When the City of Dallas widened Central Expressway in 1993 it expected to find maybe 12 graves. When the bulldozers quickly exposed human bones, a thorough archeological survey and exhumation began. The survey concluded that within the existing boundaries of the 1869 Freedman’s Cemetery there were over 10,000 graves, and that Central Expressway and the surrounding streets were covering hundreds of additional graves. In the end a total of 1,157 bodies were exhumed from under the roadways and relocated to a mass grave within the remaining cemetery grounds. The story of the Freedman’s Cemetery is long and convoluted, making it hard to fully stitch together the historic importance and neglect of this land and the forgotten African American citizens it contains.
2525 N Central Expressway, Dallas, TX.
1Opening on June 14, 1892 as the high school for all African American kids living in the Dallas, the Colored High School No. 1 quickly became the pride of Freedman’s Town. This pride was reflected in the names of local establishments: The High School Theater, High School Café, High School Tailor Shop, High School Shine Parlor, and High School Cold Drink Stand. The school building was demolished in 1973 when the City of Dallas widened Central Expressway.
2015 N Hall St. Dallas TX.
The High School Theater established in 1920 was built across the street from the Colored High School No. 1. The ubiquitous name makes it very difficult to find any background information on this theater’s history. The building was demolished by the City of Dallas to make room for the expansion of Central Expressway.
3211 Cochran St. Dallas TX.
When the Grand Central Theater opened its doors in 1919 it was advertised as “The First Negro Moving Picture Show in Dallas”. Owner John Harris teamed up with early African American film producer Oscar Micheax to produce numerous “Colored” films. The building was torn down when the City of Dallas widened Central Expressway.
405 – 407 N Central Expressway, Dallas TX.
I have seen the famous historic photograph of Jack Ruby shooting Harvey Oswald by the Dallas Times Herald news photographer Robert H. Jackson a hundred times. I have driven down Commerce Street thousands of times but until February 2021 I have never connected this garage door with the event captured in the photograph. Now, this door shines like a dark beacon reminding me how hate and intolerance can turn to tragedy.
2009 Commerce St. Dallas TX.
Walking up to this massive white monument as a child I remember thinking it must contain something really spectacular. The disappointment upon seeing the empty space was a dramatic letdown. Twenty years later I was downtown for jury duty and decided to take another look. Again, there was the buildup of anticipation and the disappointing emptiness. There should be a statue in here. Where is Kennedy?! That’s when it dawned on me this memorial isn’t about the glorification of JFK. It’s about the eradication of future potential. Today I find this memorial to be a somber place for personal reflection very much like the Rothko Chapel in Houston.
646 Main St. Dallas TX.
Overlooked by 98% of the Dallas population, Martyr’s Park is located just the other side of the trees from the Grassy Knoll. This park commemorates the location of another form of assassination. After the July 8th, 1860 Great Fire, which burned down the Dallas business district, rumors that the fire was intentionally set by a band of rebellious slaves led the City of Dallas to form a 52 man Committee Of Vigilance. Despite having no evidence, this Committee spent 15 days interrogating and torturing 100 slaves, resulting in the “implication” of 1070 slaves. The Committee agreeing it would be economically unwise to hang all 1070 slaves, decided to make examples of Patrick Jennings, Sam Smith, and Old Cato. All remaining slaves in the Dallas area, whether implicated or not were beaten. District Judge Nat Burford reportedly left the proceeding in disgust, stating “I didn’t think the three men were guilty, but someone had to die”.
265 Commerce St. Dallas TX.
The three story Elks Arch was built in 1908 to welcome the National Convention of the Fraternal Order of the Elks. So, in 1910 when someone yelled “Take him to the Arch”, the mob knew to drag Allen Brooks’ limp body to the corner of Main and Akard. There, Mr. Brooks was stripped of his clothing and lynched to a lamp post where his body was inflicted with more brutalities. The event was captured by a photographer who later sold the images as souvenir lynching postcards. No one was arrested for the lynching and murder of Allen Brooks. The Elk’s Arch was moved to Fair Park the following year. When the 1936 Texas Centennial Exposition opened at Fair Park, the Elks Arch had been “misplaced”. Today the African American Museum of Dallas has one of the Allen Brooks lynching postcards on display.
1467 Main St. Dallas TX.
Located in East Dallas not far from White Rock Lake, Little Egypt was a 35 acre freedmen’s town founded by freed slaves, Jeff and Hanna Hill in 1865. By 1960 the estimated population was 23 families consisting of about 200 people. Despite the development of the surrounding neighborhoods, Little Egypt enjoyed few amenities. With dirt streets most of the homes did not have indoor plumbing or gas. Some homes reportedly didn’t have electricity. In November 1961 the Shopping Center Syndicate offered to buy Little Egypt. Fearing the City of Dallas would condemn the properties, the community patriarch William Hill and Little Egypt Baptist Church Trustee, Sarah Robin encouraged residents to take the buyout. The Shopping Center Syndicate paid each landowner a minimum of $6500 plus the moving expenses for all the residences. On May 15, 1962 moving trucks showed up and everyone was moved to their new homes. The next day the bulldozers arrived.
10051 Shoreview Rd. Dallas TX.
In 1896, Mr. JE Griffin sold one acre of the McCree Cemetery to members of Little Egypt for the exclusive/segregated use as an African American cemetery. I have not been able to find a name for the Little Egypt cemetery, and listings of the McCree cemetery often don’t mention the graves on the other side of the fence. Today, after a short drive down a back alley you’ll find these overgrown, forgotten graveyards surrounded by an 8 foot chain linked fence with locked gates.
9934 Audelia Dr. Dallas TX.
Originally called the Majestic Hotel when it opened in 1904, it was the most luxurious hotel in Dallas. Notable people said to have slept between the sheets are Sarah Bernhardt, Teddy Roosevelt, William H. Taft and Woodrow Wilson. On May 25, 2019, the 115 year old hotel burned to the ground.
1312 S Ervay St. Dallas TX.
Winfrey Point is a plot of land with a deep history. Sited on the east shore of White Rock Lake this acreage served as a Civilian Conservation Corps camp from 1935 – 1942. The US Army used it as a training camp from 1942 – 1943. A tall fence was then constructed around the property and the barracks were converted into a German POW camp 1943 -1945. After the war, the Southern Methodist University used it briefly for student housing 1946 – 1947. In 1957 after a group of “students” blew up one of the barracks, the remaining buildings were removed or demolished. It’s now a baseball field.
950 E Lawther Dr. Dallas TX.
The Dallas based Austin Bridge Company on Singleton Blvd was contracted by the US government to produce incendiary bombs. They employed 1200 people, 85% of whom were women. Working in three shifts, they manufactured 29,524,975 magnesium bombs. The factory blew up between shifts on the night of Dec. 15, 1943. A pilot flying over Houston, 250 miles away reported seeing the flash. The building was quickly rebuilt and back in production until August 14,1945 when Japan sued for peace.
1307 Singleton Blvd. Dallas TX.
If you happen to be walking around Fair Park and you hear an air raid warning, head over to the playground at the old Science Place 2 building and knock on this four ton cement door. If you’re lucky it will open, and you’ll be invited to spend some quality time with the folks in charge of the Dallas Civil Defense Emergency Operations Center. This H-Bomb rated bunker was built in 1961 and can comfortably house 30 Civil Defense officials, and I assume, their spouses and children for two weeks. After that you’ll be dying to get out.
1680 1st Ave. Dallas TX.
Celebrating 111 years this February 2021, The Houston Street Viaduct opened as “The world’s longest cement structure of it’s kind.” (Not sure what that means…) As the years passed this noble bridge proved to be the first bridge to successfully withstand the flooding torrents of the Trinity River. Still standing proud, this bridge and its 4 siblings designed by engineer JF Witt transformed the cities of Dallas and Oak Cliff by providing sound and reliable crossing. Today, millions of commuters cross this bridge without giving it a second thought.
Houston St. Viaduct, Dallas TX.
The story of the Muncey Massacre has probably been retold a thousand times by early frontier mothers as a way to keep their children close to the house. In 1884, the Muncey family was part of the first wave of settlers in the area we now call Plano. Jameson, his wife and their small child were found dead next to a spring where they were building their cabin. Their two older boys were never found. The killing was reported as an Indian attack. Over time the story has expanded from a murder to a savage and brutal massacre that includes scalping and dismemberment.
6900 K Ave. Plano, TX.
Built upon cement pillars, Highway 310 towers above the old growth hardwood forest south of downtown Dallas. From the highway a cascade of plastic bottles, styrofoam cups, shoes, tires, car bumpers, lockboxes, fireproof safes, and ATM machines rain down. Beneath this rubbish was once a farmstead, beneath the farmstead was once a village, beneath the village was for one season a family sitting by a fire cooking fish and mussels. The remains of that long ago meal, the charcoal, bits of brittle bone and blanched shells form an unmistakable midden in the strata of the Trinity riverbank.
Great Trinity Forest, Dallas, TX.