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Making Dallas Even Better

Why It Is Not Enough for Fair Park Leadership to Merely ‘Cheer’ for South Dallas

Amidst all the hubbub over homelessness that has erupted over the past few days, I feel like an important article by Robert Wilonsky about Fair Park hasn’t received the attention it deserves. On Tuesday, Wilonsky wrote about the many parcels of land that the State Fair of Texas owns outside the boundaries of Fair Park. These lots are dispersed through the community of South Dallas. Some are unkempt, others vacant, and others used to enforce arbitrary parking restrictions. Like the moats of parking around Fair Park, these lots remain a real, active agent of disinvestment in a community that has been the victim of a bully neighbor for decades:

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The Perils of Discussing Nazis on Facebook

Local station CW 33, which I didn’t even realize still airs a newscast, had a piece last night about a retired teacher and Fort Worth ISD administrator, Joe Ross, who’s hoping to donate to a museum a captured Nazi war flag that a student gave him in 1965. He’s afraid if he dies suddenly that someone going through his belongings afterward might find the flag and get the wrong impression about him.

Anyway, as is now required of any media outlet that hopes to garner attention for one of its stories on the web, CW 33 shared it on Facebook, asking readers “What do you think Joe Ross should do with this flag?”

How long would you guess it took for a Holocaust denier to weigh in?

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Ask John Neely Bryan: When Did Parts of Oak Lawn Become Uptown?

Question: Why are large parts of Oak Lawn now called “Uptown”? Just wanted some clarification. — Ronnie W.

I shall forgive your ignorance about the Great Secession of Uptown, since that partition of what was once a united neighborhood (Oak Lawn) was not precipitated by a singular event — like say, the election of Abraham Lincoln — but was instead accomplished by a slowly advancing army of associated developer and city initiatives. Beginning, it could be argued, with the re-introduction of the McKinney Avenue Trolley in 1989.

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The Racist Legacy of America’s Inner-City Highways

There’s an article on Vox today that offers a concise summary of just how we went from being a nation of streetcar riders to a nation of long haul auto commuters. Its a familiar story to anyone who knows the history of urbanism in the 20th century. First came pressure from the auto industry to build new roads for their cars, resulting in a push for public funding of “freeways.” Then came the vision of a future America modeled after the modernist Utopian dream so compellingly depicted in General Motor’s Futurama exhibit at the 1939 Worlds Fair.

With public sentiment favoring a world made easy by zipping to and from suburban homes and downtown offices on ribbons of concrete — and a booming post-war economy that made car ownership more possible — President Eisenhower signed the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956, kick-starting the interstate system. Eisenhower didn’t want the highways to extend into the cities, but once he signed the federal legislation, the highway engineers took over. There was no turning back.

In America’s cities, highways became more than a transportation amenity.

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Jim Schutze’s Modest Proposal to the Dallas Morning News

Get your popcorn ready. Jim Schutze just played a fairly entertaining rhetorical chess opener. Call it the “Preservationist Queen’s Gambit,” the “Sicilian Architectural Defense.” Let’s set the board:

The Dallas Morning News has been a champion of historic preservation, pounding its fist whenever an old building in this city comes under threat. Most recently, they have caused a worthy ruckus over a 19th century home in the Cedars and the proposed desecration of the Meadows Building. Schutze argues that their outspoken ire over old buildings feels out-of-scale when considering the extent of child poverty in Dallas, but I don’t see why the two things have to be mutually exclusive. Both indicate an aspect of the city’s character that ignores its obligation to reconcile with historic realities while favoring the numbing feeling that comes with swallowing well-marketed visions of future fantasies. But I digress.

The point is, the DMN likes old buildings. Enter into the mix the news that the DMN may soon move out of its own historically significant home.

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Before You Head to 35 Denton, A Look Back at the Denton That Was

This weekend, the fifth installment of the music festival currently called 35 Denton will take over the “little Austin” north of Dallas. In many ways, the growth of the festival has mirrored the growth of the reputation of the town, which has even attracted its first celebrity relocation in Jason Lee. But the music hub and home to the University of North Texas has long fostered its own particular and peculiar culture. If you remember Denton before the Fry Street Fire, then these old photos uploaded to Alec Williams’ Flickr account will more than prick your nostalgia. Taken between 1977 and 1986, the images of high school marching bands, crumbling buildings, cavorting college kids, interiors of shops, old store fronts and more are accompanied by extended captions that set the images in a particular place and time. For example, here’s the one he includes for the image above:

Here are some nice folks posing for me on the steps that led to the high ground on West Hickory. The camera is looking due west. The steps are by Strawberry Fields, and you can see the Sound Warehouse sign in the background. Walking due west would take you past Reader’s World, Voertman’s, and on up the hill to Jack in the Box. To the right is the entrance to Benny’s Jazz Club.

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How Dallas Won the Right to Tell Its Own History

There was an item missing from yesterday’s City of Dallas Parks and Recreation Board agenda. It was briefing about a gift two philanthropic foundations, the Boone Family Foundation and the Rainwater Charitable Foundation, planned to give to the city. The gift seemed admirable enough.  The foundations wanted to install markers in seven city parks that would acknowledge their history as historically segregated African-American parks. Sparked both by the redo of Uptown’s once black-only Griggs Park in 2013 and the Facing Race conference held in Dallas in 2014, the intent was to do just that: face up to this city’s racial history, acknowledge the ignominy of the past and celebrate the role these parks played in shaping this city’s African-American community.

But while the board tabled the briefing on February 4, resetting it for February 18, the briefing didn’t happen. Instead, the two artists who were commissioned by the two foundations to prepare the text for the historical markers addressed the board. They spoke of manipulation, cooption, explicit and implicit censorship on the part of the two foundations. They outlined a research process that degraded into prolonged silences, stop orders, and backroom character attacks that led to standoff between the artists and the foundations.

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Remembering June Mattingly, Intrepid Dallas Arts Supporter

If you’ve spent more than five or ten minutes in a Dallas gallery, you’re likely to have met June Mattingly. Mattingly was a stalwart supporter of the Dallas arts, the author of a book on Texas contemporary artists, and a former gallery owner who introduced a number of this city’s more notable artists. The Dallas Observer reports today that Mattingly has passed away.

Mattingly’s creative roots in Dallas ran deep – all the way to one of this city’s most iconic sculptures. The original Pegasus that sat on top of the Magnolia Building in downtown Dallas was created by her father H. Harold Wineburgh’s sign company, Texlite. Mattingly was a tireless advocate for her father’s Pegasus, and it was restored and reinstalled outside the downtown Dallas Omni last year. In this interview from 2011, Mattingly speaks about her father and the Pegasus. In 2012, Mattingly sat for an hour long interview to offer her insight into the history of Dallas culture.

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Why Yesterday Was Such an Important Day for Dallas History

As Tim mentions in Leading Off, the Dallas Landmark Commission voted in favor of pursuing protection for a number of important historic sites and structures yesterday, choosing preservation over lazy private interests in each case. The decision to move a 19th century home in the Cedars, rather than bulldoze it for a parking lot, and to move towards designating the Meadows Building on Central Expressway as a historic landmark, thus protecting it from its current owner’s planned demolition of a wing, demonstrates a rare and welcomed willingness from a city board to stand up to private developers in the name of the public’s interest. And the move to protect Big Spring also showed that the commission is willing to step in on behalf of Dallas’ dwindling natural resource, even in a case where the chief threat to the preservation of that natural resource is the city itself.

Mark Lamster runs through all of this in a column, and I don’t have much to add to his thoughts, though it is worth highlighting a few of them:

If the Meadows isn’t a landmark, than nothing is. The commission’s unanimous vote in favor of designation was a heartening indication of this reality, and a welcome validation of its own responsibility. A landmarks commission that cannot protect a building like the Meadows is not worth its name, and serves no purpose.

Yesterday, Dallas demonstrated that it has a Landmark Commission with a purpose. That should be an encouraging source of optimism. Perhaps we are transitioning into a new kind of Dallas, a city that bucks the character cliches of its ensconced business-first civic mentality that has historically devalued not just history and nature, but the public oversight of municipal government to boot.

First Look at the Dallas of 11/22/63

If you’ve forgiven the Hulu adaptation of Stephen King’s novel — about a time traveler who aims to prevent the assassination of President John F. Kennedy — for snarling traffic downtown last October, you might want to check it out when it drops on the streaming site on Feb. 15.

Hulu today released the first full-blown trailer for 11/22/63. Of particular interest is its CGI re-creation of the Dallas skyline of 1963:

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Remembering David Bowie’s 1983 Las Colinas Sessions With Stevie Ray Vaughan

I’m still trying to wrap my mind around a world without David Bowie. The innovator, the legend, the icon — a man who belongs on a short list of the most important artists of the late-20th century — passed away from cancer last night at the age of 69. Amidst the many obituaries and tributes that are surely to come pouring out over the coming days and weeks, I thought I’d pass along 90 minutes of bootleg Bowie recorded at the Las Colinas Studios on April 27, 1983.

Let’s set the stage:

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Another Old Dallas Building Is Threatened, But How Far Should Historic Preservation Go?

That didn’t take long. On the heels of yesterday’s news that the Meadows Building off Central Expressway may be “amputated” comes word of yet another historic Dallas structure staring down the bulldozers. Candy’s Dirt reports that the owner of the former Church of the Master, Evangelical and Reformed Church in Oak Cliff, near the corner of Kiest and Polk, wants to rezone the land and tear down the building, replacing it with who knows what. The City Plan Commission hearing on the zoning case was supposed to be held today, but it has been pushed back to January 7.

Now, before we get all hot under the collar about this latest historic tear down, it’s worthwhile to raise the question of whether or not every old building in Dallas should be considered historic and worthy of preservation.

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Another Week, Another Abominable Story About a Historic Teardown

Is there even a point in getting angry anymore? I mean, there have been so many stories about Dallas erasing its past that the immediate spike in my blood pressure that came after reading about the latest pending tear down of a historic structure seems like a complete waste of energy. I thought this city was beyond this, all the trashing of itself for the sake of the stupid. But apparently not.

The latest? Well, one of my favorite buildings in the city, the Meadows Building on Central Expressway, is going to have one of its wings “amputated.” To be fair, it’s not a Dallasite to blame. The Chicago real estate company GlenStar Properties wants to tear down the three story section of the Meadows that runs parallel to Greenville Ave. Why? The ugly-as-hell Davaco/Energy Square building that sits behind it is tough to get to, so GlenStar is going to tear down a chunk of the Meadows to make a driveway.

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