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Dallas History

D Magazine’s 50 Greatest Stories: A Brief History of Cedar Springs

In 1979, the Old Plantation set the stage for what would come.
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TMC and S4 on Cedar Springs. Developer Mike Ablon wants to put up some tall residential towers behind these, keeping the bars exactly as they are. Elizabeth Lavin

In 1979, the writer David Bauer went down to Cedar Springs. The Old Plantation was the most popular gay bar in town, so successful that its owners had opened other concepts in Houston, El Paso, and Tampa, Florida. But it took a lot of resilience to get to that point. As Bauer wrote, “the Old Plantation’s life has been nearly snuffed more than once – by arson, by sabotage, by police harassment, by legal hassles, by cutthroat competition.”

His story, “Lords of an Underground Empire,” chronicles the rise of what became the city’s most important block for the LGBTQ+ community. The Old Plantation is today S4 and The Mining Company. Sue Ellen’s is one of the nation’s few remaining lesbian bars. The Round-Up Saloon still offers its daytime dance lessons and turns into a lively club at night. Newcomers like Roy G.’s have become stalwarts.

But it all goes back to the 1970s and the vision of Frank Caven and Charley Hott, who fought through the violence and homophobia and police brutality to provide spaces for Dallas’ gay community.

In 2021, Caven Enterprises sold its holdings to developer Mike Ablon, who wants to build mixed-use towers behind the old buildings. He says those buildings won’t come down, and he’s keeping the tenants, because of the history of the block and its sense of place. He says he recognizes how important it is to Dallas, even as the city changes around it.

His project is on hold until interest rates come down, per the Dallas Voice, but it’s telling that Caven wanted to find a developer who would promise to keep that history intact while working around it. That intent starts in the 1970s, and it comes through today in Bauer’s story. It’s one of the 50 best we’ve ever published, and you can read it here.

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Matt Goodman

Matt Goodman

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Matt Goodman is the online editorial director for D Magazine. He's written about a surgeon who killed, a man who…

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