The View From Atop 508 Park Avenue, Where, Very Soon, the Past Will Meet the Present

Categories: Development
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On top of 508 Park Avenue, from left: Alan Govenar, Carol J. Adams, Pat Bywaters and Buddy Jordan
Thursday afternoon I met historian Alan Govenar at 508 Park Avenue, future site of the Museum of Street Culture. He was not alone: Joining him were developer Buddy Jordan, chair of the 508 Park Committee and a man who's been pursuing the building for close to 20 years; Pat Bywaters, grandson of famed Dallas Nine member Jerry Bywaters and the project's "taskmaster"; and Carol Adams, author and activist and wife of First Presbyterian's Reverend Dr. Bruce Buchanan. They had but one request -- that I take no photos of the inside of the building, not yet. Fair enough; it still looks more or less like this anyway, sans the boxes.

They walked me through the building constructed out of marble in the 1920s to store movies for Warner Bros. Pictures -- all five floors, who knew. (Though one is just a small room, a sort-of office with a separate bathroom.) Then, they laid out their plans for the building.

On the first floor: two art galleries for permanent exhibitions, with interactive exhibits documenting 508 Park's past as a film-storage facility and Brunswick Records' branch office; a cafe; a gift shop; a separate gallery for traveling exhibitions; and a green room that will connect to the outdoor amphitheater that will replace next-door 1900 Young. On the second floor: art studios and office space. On the third: a recording studio next to the corner in which Robert Johnson, Bob Wills and dozens of others recorded in the late 1930s; a sort-of shrine set up in that corner space, memorializing those who one stood in the spot; and an open space for meetings or, say, weddings.

On the four floor is a beautiful space unseen from the street -- a modest-sized brick enclosure illuminated by sunlight streaming in from the giant original windows. A door opens to the roof, a giant space they will transform into a deck and garden space. All four point to something I never knew existed: the words "Warner Bros. Pictures" still painted on the top of the building, as you can see below. The stairwell, still mostly original, will also serve as museum space -- a sort of living time line as you travel upwards.

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After all these years, you can still see for whom the building was built: "Warner Bros. Pictures."
Demolition of 1900 Young is expected to begin in March, April at the latest; that is when construction inside 508 Park Avenue will also begin, the say. No doubt there will a ceremony of some kind to commemorate the occasion -- the resurrection of such a historic site. In June, to mark the 75h anniversary of Johnson's two-day recording sessions in the building, Govenar hopes to host a conference. So far, critic and historian Elijah Wald, author of the book Escaping the Delta: Robert Johnson and the Invention of the Blues, has agreed to attend: "We'll learn something from him," says Govenar.

There is no opening date scheduled. But June 19, 2013, they say, is a date they will aim for.
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When 1900 Young is razed, it will be replaced by the outdoor amphitheater.
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At some point, in the not too distant future, this view of downtown will be available to everyone.
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Jordan, Govenar, Adams and Bywaters, beneath the Warner Bros. logo

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8 comments
Jacob
Jacob

Are they going to refurbish the "Warner Bros. Pictures" lettering?

Don O.
Don O.

Ever notice the holes around the 508 sign on the front?  That originally held signage for Warner Brothers Pictures as well. The art deco 508 address signage was actually added later by the Glazers.  That's what the Glazer rep told us back in the 90's.  The WB sign on the roof shack has always been visible from ground level at the corner of Park and Young.

If you check the city directories of the time, it is actually listed as the stockroom for Vitagraph Inc., a subsidiary of WB.  The below was sent to me by Dallas historian Jim Wheat some years back:

----1933-34 Worley's Dallas city directory:Park avenue[@ street listings]:Young intersects508:  Vitagraph, Inc. (stock room)2d floor: Vitagraph Inc.Brunswick Record Corp.Exhibitors Screen Service

[@ alphabetical listings]:

Vitagraph (Inc.) F. M. Jack, district manager; Don C. Douglas,branch manager 2nd floor, 508 Park ave.

Brunswick Record CorporationD. F. Law, Manager, Records and Phonographs, 3d Floor,508 Park ave. Tel. 2-8940

Exhibitors Screen Service, T. A. Curran, branch manager,3rd floor, 508 Park ave.

----

1938 Worley's Dallas city directory:[@ street listings]:Park ave.Young street intersects508: Vitagraph Co. (stock room)2nd floor: Vitagraph Co. Inc. motion picture distributors3d floor: Brunswick Record Corp, musical merchandise

[@ alphabetical listings]:

Vitagraph Inc. , Fred M. Jack, district manager; McClellan D. Roberts,branch manager, motion picture distributors, 508 Park ave., 2d floor

Brunswick Record Corp., Donald F. Law, District Mgr.; Steve Kirschner,Office Manager, Phonograph Records, Music and Musical Instrumentsand Accessories, 508 Park avenue, Tel. 2-8940.

----

Troll Mallow
Troll Mallow

I'm so glad they didn't tear this building down as was planned at one time.

claytonauger
claytonauger

Thanks to all these folks for doing this. Screw the Ferris wheel.

Nick R.
Nick R.

Totally didn't know WB movies were stored there. Very cool. 

Ed D.
Ed D.

A too-rare victory for both history and progress.

Davetischner
Davetischner

If people knew more about this part of the history of Dallas, they'd love what the Presbeterian church is doing with this project. BRAVO !

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