Dallas Preservationists Gear Up to Save Old Buildings From Downtown Park Plans

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One of Downtown Dallas' oldest buildings, a 129-year-old Romanesque Revival structure at 1611 Main St., was razed on Sunday to make way for an expansion of The Joule hotel, the latest in a line of historic Dallas structures sacrificed on the altar of progress.

A few blocks to the southeast, local preservationists are hoping to rescue a handful of historic structures standing in the way of another type of progress: a city park.

In the downtown parks plan unveiled by City Hall last year, Harwood Park occupies 3.8 acres bounded by Harwood, Young/Canton, Pearl, and Jackson streets, a block from Main Street Garden. The rub is, that plot of land is currently occupied by several old buildings that are part of the Harwood Historic District.

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Eddie Bernice Johnson Wants the United States to Put a National Park on the Moon

Categories: Preservation

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via NASA
S'mores, anyone?
Dallas congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson has co-sponsored legislation that would establish a national historic park on the moon, to commemorate the United States' initial moon landings and to protect those sites from future commercial moon explorers.

In other words: Even on the moon, location, location, location.

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The Alamo Plaza Sign is Returning to Fort Worth Avenue -- in Three Pieces

Categories: Preservation

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When preservationists began lobbying Sylvan 30 developer Brent Jackson to return the Alamo Plaza sign to its home along Fort Worth Avenue, this isn't what they had in mind.

From the Sylvan 30 website:

We've heard you and we agree: The Alamo Plaza sign will stay at Sylvan | Thirty. Here's how it's going to be done:

The sign's three main elements - the starburst; the red & white Alamo silhouette & yellow arrow; and the maroon & white "Alamo Plaza" - will be refurbished and repurposed as three beautiful and powerful sculptures across the site.

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When Dallas Razed Lee Harvey Oswald's Flat, It also Destroyed Jane Bryant's Cell Phone

Categories: Preservation

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Last month, Jane Bryant finally lost her years-long fight with the city when demolition crews rolled in early one morning and made quick work of 604 Elsbeth S., better known as Lee Harvey Oswald's old apartment.

For a brief moment, the building, with its tangential connection to history, drew the world's eyes. Then it was gone, and so was the attention. Bryant was left to sift through the rubble alone.

"Things have slowed down, but I'm still trying to decompress," she told Unfair Park this afternoon.

Bryant called to offer a small correction to our post about the demolition: The front door of Oswald's flat had never actually been auctioned off, the planned sale having been halted by a lawsuit. Bryant says the door disappeared shortly after the city seized the property.

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The Sad, Absurd Chronicle of Incompetence at the Alamo

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It's something of a head-scratcher why the Texas Legislature decided in 1905 to entrust the Daughters of the Republic of Texas with the care and preservation of the Alamo, site of one of the fiercest -- and most pivotal -- battles of the Texas war for independence. The DRT is a primarily genealogical organization with no expertise in managing historic properties or cultural sites. To become a member, one needs only be a woman, pay dues, and have ancestors who lived in Texas before it became a state.

In retrospect, it seems obvious that such a group would be poorly equipped to oversee the Alamo, but it was only in February 2010, when Attorney General Greg Abbott's office received a detailed complaint from a member, that it started to become clear what a mess they had made of things.

The woman was later booted from the group for bringing "discredit" to the organization, but her missive was enough to set off an extensive investigation by Abbott's office into the workings of the DRT and its oversight of the Alamo. The final report was completed this month and posted today by Texas Watchdog.

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After 49 Years, A Monument for Slain Dallas Police Officer J.D. Tippit

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Image via Brad Watson
Tippitt's family at his new memorial
Officer J.D. Tippit came home for lunch on November 22, 1963. He rarely ever had time to leave his patrol long enough to do that, and his wife, Marie, scrambled to fix him a turkey sandwich and set the table.

"I got to see him one last time," she said today. Marie is petite, white-haired and a little frail now, so soft-spoken the crowd of reporters around her had to bend to hear every word.

Her husband didn't come home from his beat in south Oak Cliff later that afternoon, or ever again. Forty-nine year later, Marie is still thankful they had the chance for a last meal together.

Someone asked her what was the last thing she said to him before he left.

"I told him to be careful," Marie replied, holding back tears. "I told him to take care of himself."

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Meet David Preziosi, Preservation Dallas' New Executive Director

Categories: Preservation

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David Preziosi
Katherine Seale officially ended her five-year tenure as executive director of Preservation Dallas early this year, but she didn't stop working. Instead, she's been hanging around as a volunteer until the nonprofit found a new leader.

That just happened. The nonprofit announced in a press release today. that David Preziosi, executive director of the Mississippi Hertage Trust since 2002 and a graduate of Texas A&M, will take the helm on Sept. 4.

"David has a proven track-record as a champion for historic preservation and as an administrator," board president Steve Whitcraft said in the release.. "He brings a strong commitment to advocacy for preservation issues and experience working on programs at the local, state, and national level. He is a leader in the preservation field who will continue to foster the positive role that Preservation Dallas plays in the city and throughout Texas in meaningful ways."

I have an email in to Preziosi, and I'll update when I hear back. In the meantime, if you want to hear from the man himself and have 50 minutes to spare, you can watch him deliver a talk about MHT's preservation efforts post-Hurricane Katrina after the jump.

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In Southwest Dallas, City Uncovers and Plans to Restore One of Its Oldest Remaining Structures

Categories: Preservation

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Old Oak Cliff Conservation League
Before the city of Dallas was contacted several years ago about accepting a few dozen mostly undeveloped acres along the edge of the escarpment in southwest Dallas, few outside the Niblo family knew what it contained. It had been settled as part of the Peters Colony, which was founded at roughly the time John Neely Bryan built his cabin on the Trinity River, and had gone through a couple of owners before being purchased by Judge Grady Niblo in the mid-1930s. His daughter-in-law lived there until she died a few years back, her small house reached by a pair of tire tracks cutting cutting a half mile across a field.

The house was built in the 1940s and is an unremarkable mix of beams and wall studs salvaged from older buildings and newer materials hidden amongst cedar and crab apple trees. What really piqued the city's interest stands maybe 10 yards away: a rickety, one-room long cabin that dates to 1846. That makes it the oldest known structure in Dallas still on its original site and one of the oldest in the county, period.

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The White Rock Lake Boathouse is Just the Latest Attack on Inner-City Dallas

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The lesson of the Highland Park Party Barge is the lesson of Winfrey Point is the lesson of 30 years of history in East Dallas. At key rubber-meets-the-road moments, City Hall becomes the single worst enemy that inner city neighborhoods can confront.

Forgive the Parkies, for they know not how goofy they are. Of course they want a botanical garden modeled on Disney World, and of course they want a boathouse the size of that cruise ship the ship-abandoning Italian guy tipped over onto an island.
For them, life is a reality TV show -- Donald Trump meets Jersey Shore. It's wrong to despise people for acting out their nature.

One of the staunch defenders of White Rock Lake told me last week he was really glad the Park Department tried to peddle green space near the lake for a parking structure and then played footsy with the Parkies on the Love Boat deal. He said it takes this kind of stuff to make new generations of inner city dwellers aware of the problem.


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Now We Have to Build a Boat House on White Rock Lake? Is the Park Not Good Enough?

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Twenty years ago, White Rock Lake was a dump. The park was run-down. The lake itself was half-filled with silt. The main activity out there at night was people having intercourse in cars and then going to the bathroom on the lawns of nearby houses. Good times.

The strong souls who lived near the lake banded together in a magnificent effort to "Save the Lake," as they called their campaign. And they pulled it off. It's a really wonderful chapter in the city's history, a story about something small and people-driven going right in Dallas for a change.

The lake was dredged. The park was cleaned up with a great deal of volunteer effort that's still ongoing. The cops convinced people that fishing and picnicking are more fun than having intercourse. Well, wait. I'm not sure how that one worked exactly.

All I know is that you go out there now, and you see people having a wonderful time running, biking, picnicking, sailing, fishing. The lake has become the closest thing we've got in Dallas to a wonderful central park.

But now, wouldn't you know it, just when everything is all lined up properly and in place, the Park Cities Arbo-Calatravitites are descending on the lake like Attila the Hun to wreck it with their savage love.

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