Preservation Haul

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Preservation Dallas
The Crozier Tech building downtown has to be sold. The out-of-town owners ain't in a hurry. Shame.

Tomorrow, Mayor Laura and the rest of the City Council will stop down and recognize the fact May is Preservation Month in Dallas—and, yeah, it's a little late in the month, but better they do it in the middle of May than in June. And if it's that time of the year, that must mean Preservation Dallas is also going to unveil its list of Dallas' most endangered properties: Dwayne Jones, head of Preservation Dallas, says he expects to announce the list a week from today, after it gets approved by PD's board at its monthly meeting. So before the new list arrives—with, most likely, eight to nine new additions to the list—here's a brief rundown of what's happened with some of the key properties on last year's list. Surprisingly, none are yet parking lots.

Some of the buildings have been if not saved, then at least spared: Jones says the Milliner's Supply Company Building at 911 Elm Street and the Awalt Buildings at 807 Elm Street and 804-806 Pacific Avenue have been "stabilized," meaning they're not likely to face the wrecking ball any time soon. The latter, near the West End, was probably saved from destruction when the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railroad freight depot in the historic district was recently demolished without permission, infuriating both preservationists and the mayor. "People are keeping a close watch on Awalt" because of that, Jones says. Of course, the Mercantile National Bank Tower downtown is getting a major, city-subsidized overhaul, and the nearby Thomas Building downtown is safe for the time being; Jones says its owner has hired a local architectural firm to do a feasibility study to see whether it's worth rehabbing.

Also still standing, a year after we first wrote about its possible demise, is the James and Molly Ellis House on Pine Street in South Dallas. But there's been little progress made with the Mount Olive Lutheran Church on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, where Dallas' short-lived civil rights movement was born. Jones says it's in dire need of cash it doesn't have to keep it from crumbling. So too is another South Dallas church: Abyssinia Baptist Church at 1215 McKenzie Street, which may or may not be one of the new additions to the endangered list. But there has been some good news for South Dallas: Jones says the city's providing some money to repair exteriors of some of the more in-need homes on Park Row, which hasn't fared as well as South Boulevard one block over.

In not-so-good shape are the Old Dallas High/Norman Crozier Technological High School building at 2218 Bryan Street and the house at 6015 Bryan Parkway in the Swiss Avenue Historic District. Both properties have been the subject of protracted court cases. In the case of the former, a judge has ruled that the owners—Chinese investors out of California—have to sell it to the city or an outside developer, and Jones says they've been reluctant to do as ordered. "We can't get any word out of them what they're going to do with it," Jones says of the building that rots a little bit more every day near one of Dallas Area Rapid Transit's busiest train stops. In the case of the latter, Preservation Dallas went to court to keep it from getting torn down, but an appellate court has since kicked it back; seems the Plano owners of the house are intent on turning it into splinters, and Jones does not know when the court will again rule on its future.

Of the forthcoming list, Jones says, "I will say that we have more nominations for properties than when we started it, and they're more diverse--they're geographically spread out. People who submit them are looking at a real cross section of what we consider historic and architecturally important in this city. It's not like has to be a 1890s house but important to the community, which is what ultimately makes it significant. Some are not things I would have come across daily, but they're really interesting nominations."

Then he offers this tease: "They will not make some of the council members happy." Then he laughs. Cannot wait to see that list. —Robert Wilonsky


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