Dallas Contractor Mulches Texas' Champion Black Willow Tree. Oops.

Ben Sandifer
The tree in question (after).
"City loses historic tree at White Rock Lake Park," that's the headline on a statement sent out by the city regarding the loss of the biggest black willow tree in Texas, which, until January 30, had lived at White Rock Lake for more than 170 years.

You'd think, reading that, that the tree was felled by some quirk of nature or a rogue lumberjack. While it's true that the tree was heavily damaged in a storm last October, it was actually city contractors, sent to the lake to grind up tree stumps to make terrain safer, that destroyed the tree without city permission.

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Belo Foundation Buys Up Land Intended for Downtown Dallas Park

Categories: Preservation

Belo Foundation
Much to the benefit of downtown dogs and their owners, Harwood Park, one of the primary fixtures of the city of Dallas' downtown park plan is one step closer to actually happening.

The Belo Foundation, stepping in for a city it said doesn't have the money to buy the properties proposed for the park, announced that it's acquired 1.57 of the 2.32 acres of privately owned property needed to build the park.

"With the City of Dallas Park and Recreation Department's tight budget and a current absence of available bond funds to acquire the land for Harwood Park, The Belo Foundation trustees were concerned that the site would be purchased by developers attracted by the rapid growth and progress in the expansion of the Farmers Market District. Land prices in the area are on the rise, and the Foundation trustees worried that the City might have found itself priced out of the market by the time bond funds become available for land acquisition," the foundation said in a press release.

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

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

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

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

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

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

tippitt family.jpg
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

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

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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