Banning Dogs (And Their Droppings) Won’t Fix What Ails Downtown Dallas’ Thanks-Giving Square

A shady spot in downtown Dallas. Too shady?   Photo by Elizabeth Lavin
A shady spot in downtown Dallas. Too shady? Photo by Elizabeth Lavin

Yesterday on the DMN Opinion Blog, Rodger Jones wrote about taking a morning walk through Thanks-Giving Square.

Half the place looks like a kennel’s exercise yard — which is to say, pity the landscape crew that’s trying to grow grass under the dog droppings — and the other half is dominated by signs trying to keep the animals away.

Even though the park is half off-limits to dogs, that doesn’t prevent the kennel smell from lingering.

He proposes making the space a dog-free zone. I doubt that Patrick Kennedy, who wrote about Thanks-Giving Square’s problems last year in D Magazine, would agree with that proposal.

While Kennedy also was troubled by the amount of feces side-stepping necessary when navigating the area, he pointed to a couple of larger challenges. For one, the buildings that have gone up since the space was dedicated in 1976 have resulted in far more shade on the spot, which has led to erosion problems. And secondly, the walls that border the square have a way of detaching it from the surrounding area:

The walls limit visual and physical porosity, connectedness. We like to see where we’re going and who is there. William Holly Whyte, in his analytical study The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces, warns against the inevitable sunken nature of the square linking tunnels to street level, creating a fishbowl effect. We prefer to be the watchers than the watched.

Though we can’t fix all its ailments, given Thanks-Giving Square’s multipurpose nature (a cover for a terminal with 43 spaces for trucks, an entry point for the underground pedestrian tunnels, a religious site), perhaps we can kill two birds with one stone. There are plans to work on the landscaping, but if we could selectively remove and/or lower some of the exterior walls, it would open more access points, more people space, create more seating, gathering, and dining areas, while softening the steep, muddy banks. It may not make it “world class,” but it will be more neighborhood-friendly, and that’s really what we need.


  • Pegaso

    I’m sorry, but the entire design of this park is one big Philip Johnson turd. It needs a complete redesign, starting with demolishing those walls.

  • David Burrows

    Will they be banning 32 oz drinks as well?

  • Alec Baldwin

    The only people I ever see using Thanksgiving Square are (i) smokers, (ii) the homeless, and (iii) people cutting through to the escalators in Thanksgiving Tower.

  • dallasboiler

    I’ve walked past Thanksgiving Square almost every day for the past 6 years, and I find that I like it less each day. I like the idea of it, but it feels like a concrete jungle within a concrete jungle (CDBD). Its message is meant to be uplifting, but it generally looks so heavy and depressing.

  • kmb

    not all those droppings are dog droppings.

  • Sherry

    Jason, why is the Phillip Johnson designed Ft. Worth Water Gardens such a well liked tourist site despite being almost twice as sunken as Thanks-Giving Square and having tall buildings built around it since its dedication? It has a “No Dogs” policy and it is maintained! The current president of Thanksgiving Square has failed to to keep The Square maintained and the dogs out.. His actions have led to the current sad state of The Square, which not only provided a serene space, but also honored God and Country.

  • Tricia Harris

    I think it’s a disgrace that the President of Thanks-Giving Square has continued to allow dogs in the Square even after the landscapers told him last year that he NEEDED to STOP the dogs because it was killing the grass and the trees from the dog urine and feces. There are plenty of things that can be done, to bring this sacred place back to life, but when those who are set upon destroying it have come out in full force it has become a battle. The neighbors, and the President of the Foundation, have little to no respect for the Square and what it represents. To those who fail to understand the original purpose of Thanks-Giving Square it’s certainly your loss because Peter Stewart, the founder of the Square knew exactly what the city of Dallas needed and that’s Thanks-Giving where all races, religions, and cultures could come together in gratitude and Thanks-Giving to God. The dog walkers have absolutely no respect for PRIVATE PROPERTY – Thanks-Giving Square is NOT a city park, it’s private property, they are extremely rude and abusive to the employees of the Square, and the President supports the dog walkers more than he supports this remarkable place.

  • Sherry

    Alec, many people incorrectly think The Square
    is closed because of the vandalism of The
    Square’s plaques, the mud on the walkways,
    and lack of maintenance. With a No Dog”Policy
    the grass will return. With adequate publicity
    and maintenance, the people will return.