Preservation Dallas Releases Most Endangered Buildings List

The annual Preservation Dallas list of endangered buildings was released this morning, and many of the properties included don’t come as a surprise. There’s the Old Dallas High School across the street from the Pearl St. DART station, the Statler Hilton, Deep Ellum (uh, all of it), and 508 Park Ave., where bluesman Robert Johnson recorded in the 1930s.  Some of the surprising items on the list include entire groups of properties, such as the historic buildings owned by the Dallas Independent School District, Dallas Public Libraries, South Dallas Historic Districts, and buildings along Elm St. downtown.

But the item that jumped out at me underpins them all: the City of Dallas’ historic preservation program is listed as endangered. This should come as no surprise to anyone paying attention to the frightening financial state city hall is in these days. But as Preservation Dallas’ release states, “Programs like Historic Preservation, which are supported by the Enterprise Fund, were cut by 50% last year. More cuts are to come, and with no historic preservation officer in place, the program lacks the much-needed support to be pro-active.” A full release is after the jump.

Locations: Various
Threat: While it is clear that many DISD schools – new as well as historic – require updating for technology and to correct deficiencies due to lack of or improper maintenance over the years, the solution is NOT to demolish these venerable and beloved schools that are important landmarks to the city and its history. Distinctive, historic schools contribute to our sense of history, context, and community. A successful model exists of combining historic and new educational facilities within DISD – the recently completed Booker T. Washington High School. Such an approach of utilizing a historic school has been successful in other cities making the schools the pride of the neighborhood.

Examples include: Adamson High School and Old Oak Cliff Christian Church in Oak Cliff; Oran M. Roberts School in east Dallas; and Davy Crockett School in Old East Dallas

Location: 2214 Bryan Street
Threat: This former high school was built in 1907 and is the oldest remaining school building in Dallas. Prominently located next to the DART station at Bryan and Pearl, the structure has sat vacant since 1995. Once vacant, the school alumni organized, attending 44 public meetings in hopes of designating their school a city of Dallas historic landmark. During this process, a California investor purchased the building with plans to knock it down for a parking lot. But the alumni prevailed, and Crozier Tech was saved from the wrecking ball. Now, it sits empty, boarded-up with no plans for redevelopment.

We commend the City Attorneys Office in issuing citations, and encourage the city to be more aggressive in its application of liens against the property for the unlawful neglect the owner is performing. The out-of-town owner investor should sell the building so that it may once again be a viable, attractive building for downtown Dallas.

Locations: Various
Threat: Dallas’ South Dallas historic districts are not getting the private investment and public funds that they merit. Too many empty lots pockmark these historic districts, and demolition has been seen as the only tool to deal with abandoned houses. There is a great opportunity for public entities to turn the situation around. HUD funds could be used to save these neighborhoods, programs could work on clearing property titles, empty lots could be put into the land bank and made available for compatible new construction, thus stimulating the tax base, revitalizing the entire neighborhood, and adding to our affordable housing stock.

Location: 1914 Commerce Street
Threat: Since the opening of Main Street Garden, there has been renewed interest in The Statler Hilton Hotel, located at 1914 Commerce Street in the eastern end of downtown Dallas. Completed in 1956 at a cost of $16,000,000, the Statler was the first major hotel built in Dallas in nearly three decades and the largest convention facility built in the South. The Statler played an important role establishing Dallas as a business center for the Southwest. It was the largest hotel in the Southwest, and helped attract convention business to Dallas for many years.

Today, the building sits vacant. A challenge in attracting developers is lack of parking. Located on an increasingly attractive piece of real estate, the Statler Hilton faces increasing development pressure. City of Dallas landmark protection and financial incentives are needed to ensure the successful redevelopment of this iconic block of Mid-Century Modern architecture.

Locations: Various, see below.
Threat: While staff cuts and reduced hours within the Dallas Public Library system are a sad reminder of the major reduction in public services, a number of the city’s mid-century modern branch libraries are now being replaced with new libraries to accommodate shifts in demand in library services.

These mid-century branch libraries were built in response to Dallas’ new suburban growth, and are representative of a time that continues to define our City. The branch libraries were designed by some of the best young architecture firms in the city who would go on to become prominent firms.

Once the new replacement libraries open, the existing buildings are moth-balled, and the utilities are turned-off. Deterioration sets in, and the buildings become vulnerable to neglect, arson, and vandalism. As part of the de-accession process, the City is encouraged to consider appropriate preservation restrictions and to monitor the status of these buildings on a regular basis.

Libraries include:
Former Downtown Central Library (George Dahl, opened 1955)
1954 Commerce Street
(Now owned by a private investor).

Walnut Hill Branch Library (Fisher & Jarvis, and Associates Architects, opened 1961)
9495 Marsh Lane
Honor Award, Texas region/American Institute of Architects, 1963

Casa View Branch Library (William H. Hidell, opened 1964)

10355 Ferguson Road

Hampton-Illinois Branch Library (Harold A. Berry, opened 1964)
2210 West Illinois

Lancaster-Kiest Branch Library (Harper & Kemp, opened 1964)
3039 Lancaster Road

Locations: Main, Elm, and Commerce Streets
Threat: For a third year in a row, the Deep Ellum area is listed as endangered. Deep Ellum, the center for Texas blues and jazz in the 1920s and 30s, includes remnants of the largest collection of one & two story storefronts from the 1920s, 30s, and 40s still standing in the city. Multiple business closings, increased development pressure due to the new Dallas Area Rapid Transit rail station, and no city historic overlay in place, has Deep Ellum ripe for demolition. Current zoning allows for larger buildings as tall as 15-stories to replace the 1 and 2-story buildings that characterize the area. Alterations not in keeping with the historic character of properties also threaten to diminish the historic look of the area.

While historic district designations have been drafted, property owners have declined designation. Deep Ellum retains its early-twentieth century commercial character once nearly universal in American towns but now all but vanished from the landscape. A tone or “look” has been created by accumulation over many years of commerce, music, and history. As Deep Ellum is potentially redeveloped for the future and an ever larger population, the existing character becomes an asset to preserve and enhance.

Threat: 508 Park Avenue and 1900 Young Street were the subject of an application for demolition last year. The demolition certificates were denied by the Landmark Commission, and upheld by the City Plan Commission.

508 Park was built in 1929 as the Warner Brothers Film Exchange. It also served as lease space for Brunswick Record’s regional distribution center. With its Zig-Zag Modern detailing, the Art Deco edifice is one of the best examples of this type of architecture in the city. Also, the building has significance for its association with giants in the music industry including Art Satherley (inducted into the Country Music Hall of Music in 1971), famous record producer Bob Wills (inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1968), legendary producer Don Law (inducted into the Country Music Hall of Music in 2001). 508 Park is perhaps best known for its association with Mississippi Bluesman Robert Johnson (1911-1938), who reportedly made his second and last recording there.
With the future development of the new convention center hotel and potential plans for light rail transit in the area, and vacant space in near-by historic buildings, Preservation Dallas hopes that a new owner will seize the opportunity to take advantage of federal preservation tax credits and redevelop these historic properties.

Location: 501 Second Avenue
Threat: Originally known as the Gulf Oil Company Distribution Facility, these six buildings from the 1920s served as a sales center and warehouse for the regional distribution of Gulf Oil products. Gulf Oil was a major contributor to the economic development of Dallas, and the state of Texas.

Today, the complex has been preserved, and the buildings have been re-used for commercial office and event space. It also lies within the planned I-30 Highway expansion project. According to the site-plan, the majority of the property will be demolished by the widening of the highway and a new on-ramp that slices through the main building.

Locations: 2226 Elm Street, 2224 Elm Street, and 2222 Elm Street
Threat: These small buildings are some of the last late nineteenth and early twentieth-century structures remaining in downtown, and they stand in the way of the proposed widening of Cesar Chavez Boulevard, formerly Central Expressway. Preservation Dallas supports the plans to expand and beautify the new Cesar Chavez Boulevard, and we encourage the City to explore options for moving the buildings out of harm’s way.

Threat: All city services are being cut to meet major gaps in the City’s budget. Programs like Historic Preservation, which are supported by the Enterprise Fund, were cut by 50% last year. More cuts are to come, and with no historic preservation officer in place, the program lacks the much-needed support to be pro-active. As the economy improves, and renovations and construction increases, the staff will be stretched too thin, resulting in delayed landmark designations and protections of our historic buildings.

Photo via WikiCommons


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