The Old Praetorian Building Downtown May Be Coming Down as Part of Joule Expansion

praetorianbldg1.jpg
The high-rise standing at 1607 Main Street looks nothing like the one built on that very spot in 1909, when it was known as the Praetorian Building -- "the West's first 'skyscraper.'" Architect Clarence C. Bulger's 15-story building, once an ornate, golden-hued tourist attraction, was gutted and stripped bare in the late 1950s and early '60s, its interior gutted and its exterior stripped and shrouded by porcelain and steel. All that remains of the original building is its frame, which is why, amongst the inventory of buildings that make up the Dallas Downtown Historic District, it is considered "non-contributing." Its historic significance was erased a long time ago.

And now, we learn, the building itself may disappear sooner than later.

In January 2010 we learned that oilman Tim Headington, owner of The Joule, had purchased the old Praetorian, more recently known as Stone Place Tower; it became official a month later. The high-rise, used in December as the site of that "4D" screening of The Tourist trailer, was but one of several properties Headington bought around that time, some of which will become part of the Joule expansion on schedule to make its bow in November 2012. But yesterday we discovered that the Praetorian, as well as 1600 Elm, are on the potential chopping block: On August 29, Headington Realty and Capital filed with the city demolition permits for both properties.

praetorian.jpg
As the building looks today
Michael Tregoning, the company's CFO, tells Unfair Park that, yes, it may have to come down -- though for now, he insists, nothing is definite. Sources say the property factors into a second phase of the hotel's expansion, which may involve retail and parking. Says Downtown Dallas president and CEO John Crawford, "At this point we're trying to decide the highest and best use based on what they're doing."

Headington, of course, has been acclaimed for his downtown restorations; after all, The Joule at 1530 Main Street was, in a previously life, the Dallas National Bank building upon its completion in 1927. Tregoning says they have looked at every possible way to salvage the Praetorian.

"Given it's such a fine example, especially by Dallas standards of neo-Gothic architecture,  it piqued our interest, and it would be really, really cool to restore it," he says. "It was said to be an even better example than 1530. But when they put the skin on it, all the historical elements and articulation was broken or knocked off. ... We are not unsympathetic to the fact it was a cool building; that's not what we're about at all. And, we don't have a time frame. But we are not in the business of doing something disrespectful to historic buildings."

Katherine Seale, executive director of Preservation Dallas, says they're "definitely looking into" plans to raze the building -- if only because it's one of the last of the C.W. Bulger & Son-designed buildings standing in downtown. The skin, she acknowledges, may have ruined whatever history the building may have once had: "It's been covered for more than 50 years, and it depends how it was applied to the building. Often, lots of those historic buildings had nasty facades applied to them, and the buildings were restored. You see that all over downtown."

There was an effort made by the building's then-owner in 2005 to restore the original building; there's visual evidence of that here. But the California owner fell into financial problems, and that was the end of that. And, besides, by all accounts little of Bulger's original lies beneath the skin; it's a shell, if that.

Says Crawford, adding that it's "just a personal comment," the building has become "dull and dingy and doesn't lend itself to the vibrancy of what [Headington] is doing." He, for one, won't miss it. Others will, should its owner decide it must come down.


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22 comments
Guest
Guest

What happens to historical buildings in Dallas is a crime. The city has no sense of history because it keeps covering it up with gaudy 'modernism' and then it's knocked down. 

LaceyB
LaceyB

retail schmetail. The Towers at the Joule. New Res. and a restaurant that closes by 9.

DD
DD

One day we will regret destroying all of these properties.

bobbyv
bobbyv

Well you can make a parking garage look very nice, ( I'm assuming that the type of parking that would be put here).  Then if there is retail space on the floor of the (very nice looking) parking garage, I have no problem with it.

SchluderStrip
SchluderStrip

I never understand why in this part of the world, we believe that in order for something to be "restored" it must be returned to the pristine condition it once exhibited right at completion.

A building like the Praetorian is a story in itself, one that has some good decisions & bad decisions (really bad decisions).  Restoring it doesnt mean you have to make everything look exactly as it was in 1909. 

Rather you can restore a building that is functional AND artistically celebrates its past.  So what if the original facade is torn to hell and all that remains a machined steel structure... then why not show it off, have a clear glass facade that exposes its pre-industrial steel frame.

Stop thinking of the traditional redo like the Joule, and start thinking of the Majestic Ballroom in Potsdamer Platz or the Reichstag in Berlin.

OakParkStudio
OakParkStudio

Looks like the perfect building for the Dallas version of Don Draper and Mad Men.

Anything interior photos like you've shown of Statler Hilton?

Jim Bob Guthrie
Jim Bob Guthrie

Parking?  Tear down a perfectly good building for parking?  How much crack do you people smoke?  Our downtown is full of parking.   That is the last thing we need.  

Green
Green

What would happen to my favorite pizza place, Roma Express?  It'd be sad if they had to relocate somewhere else in Dallas.  I wouldn't be able to get my pizza fix for lunch during the week :(

Downtown_worker
Downtown_worker

Wow. Don't know how I feel about this but have to admit that the building, in its current state, is a blight on the Main Street corridor. And how cool would it be to build new retail that faces Stone Street, one of the most vibrant parts of downtown (sometimes). 

I applaud Tim Headington for having the vision for another Joule expansion... perhaps residences and an even bigger Joule Poule? But who would want to live next to an Ace Cash Express?

Stacy Phillips1980
Stacy Phillips1980

Robert, What is this 2nd phase that the Joule is considering? Is there more to the Joules expansion than the construction that is taking place now?

V707091
V707091

We have so many fantastic examples. Why make such a fuss over a couple that are falling in on themselves. If you're feeling nostalgic go stand in front of the 50+ other buildings that have been incredibly restored. We are so lucky to have what we have. This building deserves a fantastic respectful send off.

Downtown_worker
Downtown_worker

Not only can they do a very nice parking garage with ground-floor retail, but they can (and should) build something that resembles the original Praetorian Building. 

meep
meep

They park cars in the Majestic Ballroom in Potsdamer Plat?

V707091
V707091

Have you seem the building? It won't be a parking lot across from dallas's crown Joule

Downtown_er
Downtown_er

How many parking garages do you either manage or own??? 

V707091
V707091

I am sure that Roma, which has been there for 30 years will remain in the immediate area. They are a neighborhood cornerstone. Headington will surely make sure they are part of the fabric of the developments and character that is downtown.

Downtown_worker
Downtown_worker

Well, there are plenty of empty restaurant spaces downtown that Roma could take over. In fact, the "Tower Garage" on Elm has a street-level restaurant space for lease. It even has a brick facade that would be well suited for a pizza place.

V707091
V707091

Bravo. Headington has brought so much life back to downtown it's amazing. I trust whatever replaces these buildings will be on the same level as the Joule. For that I am thankful and appreciative. Like the Joule, I it was savable it would be. Great man.

Robert Wilonsky
Robert Wilonsky

Yes, it will be much more -- retail perhaps, parking maybe, and a whole lot of not-sures at present. But, yes. This present construction is but the first phrase, as it were.

SchluderStrip
SchluderStrip

Actually, its funny you ask, yes... retail & parking.  Do a little google action and you'll find that despite its name, its no longer a Ballroom.

Stacy Phillips1980
Stacy Phillips1980

He's right, There are 3 parking garages all 6 plus stories just on that one block alone...not counting the valet in-front of joule or the other 4 parking garages1 block way that are 10 stories.....plus add the st parking..least to say I think we have enough parking in Downtown

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