Top 5: The Best Dallas Landmarks

Our readers picked Reunion Tower as the best Dallas landmark.  Photo: Flickr user dustin.askins
Our readers picked Reunion Tower as the best Dallas landmark. Photo: Flickr user dustin.askins

First, let us define our term: a landmark is a structure or natural feature that helps foster an unmistakable sense of place. You view the familiar sight and there’s no doubt of where you are and of what this place means to you. (Since Dallas is devoid of distinctive natural features,** here we’re talking about structures.)

Earlier this year, as part of our Best of Big D Readers’ Choice voting, we asked you to determine the best landmark in Dallas. Overwhelmingly, Reunion Tower came out on top. Our D Magazine print-product editorial staff declined to weigh in with its own pick in our August issue, so I’ve decided to take matters into my own hands.

Presenting the Best Dallas Landmarks:

1) Reunion Tower – Can’t disagree with our readers. Or I could, but I don’t want to. There’s still no building more widely associated with the city and its skyline. I give a lot of the credit to the opening title sequence of the original Dallas TV series, which featured this golf-ball-on-a-stick prominently and first took to the airwaves just as it was brand spanking new.  No, it’s not the loveliest or most remarkable edifice in town, but its strong identification with the city makes it perhaps the most important.  It’s a shame that almost five years after it was closed for renovation, the observation deck still hasn’t reopened to the public. (But yes, you can dine at Five Sixty.)

Among the many positive effects that the oil business has had on Dallas: The Pegasus.   Photo via Newscom
Among the many positive effects that the oil business has had on Dallas: The Pegasus. Photo via Newscom

2) The Pegasus – I love that downtown Dallas has embraced the Pegasus (originally a symbol of an oil company) as the symbol of the CBD, displayed on signs throughout the neighborhood. I love the rebuilt sign atop the Magnolia Hotel building. It brings a mythic quality to a city that is, by the standards of history, still relatively young.

The Texas Star, not to be confused with Jerry Jones' Death Star in Arlington.  Photo: Flickr user ZaMoose
The Texas Star, not to be confused with Jerry Jones' Death Star in Arlington. Photo: Flickr user ZaMoose

3) The Texas Star – When D Magazine hosted a little online contest in 2008 to determine the best thing in Dallas, the State of Fair of Texas came out on top. And this Ferris wheel is the greatest symbol of the fair that can be seen from afar. I only wish there really were a gruff-but-loveable boozehound police detective living in a trailer in its shadow.

The Mercantile's tiny top.  Photo: Flickr user Luis Tamayo
The Mercantile's tiny top. Photo: Flickr user Luis Tamayo

4) The Mercantile – You know those dog breeds – like pugs – that are so ugly that they’re cute? That’s how I feel about the top of the Mercantile. It seems all out of proportion to the rest of the building, like those tiny hands on that Kristen Wiig Saturday Night Live character. Yet I cannot look away. Especially when it’s lit up colorfully at night.

5) The Giraffe at the Dallas Zoo – Should I have finished this list with a more historically significant site, like the Sixth Floor Museum building at Dealey Plaza?  No, because it’s my list, and I’m calling the shots. I’m choosing the giraffe statue that stands at the road leading into the zoo, which is visible from nearby Interstate 35E because to me – even though I know this is not geographically true – it’s always felt like I was entering or exiting Dallas whenever I saw that figure on the side of the road while trekking down I-35. That makes it a true landmark. And I like the statue a lot, even though I’m not much a fan of zoos. Depressing places.

Aim high, Dallas.  Photo: Flickr user The Jacobin
The zoo's giraffe aims high, just like Dallas. Photo: Flickr user The Jacobin

**I look forward to some of you disputing these assertions in the comments.

17 comments on “Top 5: The Best Dallas Landmarks

  1. Hope the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge will become a big D landmark. But no grassy knoll? AAC? Red Chapel?

  2. Good start. Unfortunately, many of our landmarks are ugly, hideous, even. You know those women who are so ugly they’re cute? Me neither. The best example of this (besides Reunion Tower) is the old phone company building near Bryan and Haskell. It looks like a silo or a prison. It’s visible throughout Old East Dallas. Also that grotesque old hotel across I-35 from Victory — on display for the benefit of Victory, it would seem. It’s like the City of Dallas’ collective white trash neighbor. The former Sheraton in the Cedars cuts a pretty prominent profile, too, and it’s a foul offense to the eye. (The Ambassador’s pleasant-looking enough, however.)

    A few that aren’t ugly:
    * The Lakewood Theater ball
    * The Melrose
    * Harris Methodist
    * The Crescent
    * The Sammons Art Center or whatever it’s called
    * The escarpment and outcropping at I-20 and (roughly) Loop 12
    * The 1960s-style (fraternal) twin apartment towers on Northwest near Preston — when I drive by, I always start humming the theme to Family Affair
    * The spillway
    * Galleria Towers
    * Cityplace Tower

    I’m afraid Large Marge is a manufactured landmark (ditto Traveling Man) and thus is disqualified for at least 20 years.

  3. Did the giraffe make the list because of the vagina between it’s front legs?

  4. I could do this all day. Shouldn’t. Won’t. Could.

    NOT UGLY
    * The red-brick residential high rise at McKinney and (roughly) Hall — it’s outgunned now, but it’s still the most widely visible of its neighbors, and it’s been there since “Uptown” didn’t exist; it was merely a sketchy extension of Oak Lawn.

    * The big pompous high-rise near Turtle Creek and Lemmon — not the lesser one with the detestable mansard roof, but the taller, cool-looking one.

    * The Dr. Seuss house at Armstrong & Preston. The fact that it almost certainly appalls some of its more uptight neighbors makes it a winner in my book.

    UGLY
    * Lew Sterrett. The only defense for this frequent intruder into my sightline is that most every major city has an ugly jail. Few are this prominent, however.

  5. I do agree with the list and YES, I SINCERELY MISS THE GOOD GUYS!!!! WHAT A GREAT TV SHOW!!!

  6. Orton-HAHAHAHAHA! I thought no one else noticed that! We like to point it out to our out-of-town friends. It’s a source of pride.
    That, and the smell of the Trinity as you cross over 35. Welcome to Dallas!

  7. jeezus – these commenters sound like they’ve come over from the Observer blog. First Daniel with his lovely assessment of women – I’m sure he’s a VERY attractive male. And then ‘orton’ who doubles with a stupid comment about a giraffe vagina and an illiterate ‘it’s’. Gross.

  8. Gotta mention the old Fina office towers on Central — twin gold beacons!!!!

  9. When exactly are they going to reopen the observation deck of the Reunion Tower? That was one of the main things that out of town folks did when they came into Dallas. It was always busy and I can’t help but think that it made lots of money. It is inexcusable that it has been closed this long and no one is being called to the carpet on it.

  10. I was just making fun of Jason’s “so ugly they’re cute” metaphor, bluebird — even if that does apply to certain dogs, it does not apply to buildings any more than it does to people. Was my point. Sorry if it came off as misogynistic. I’m neither ugly nor great-looking, if it really matters to you. Nor misogynistic. And for what it’s worth, what’s more stupid — a comment about a giraffe vagina, or a comment about a comment about a giraffe vagina? Think, now. Think real hard.

  11. How about the spillway at White Rock Lake? Semi-natural *and* right purty…

  12. The Margret Hunt Hill Bridge surely has to be on the list now. The Hunt Oil Headquarters Building might also be there.

  13. How about the Bank of America building all lit up at night? Or the Fountain Place Building?

  14. The Dallas City Hall Building or the building with the Big X’s or the twisted building next to it and last, but not least, .. the Dallas Train Station.