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Dallas History

Juanita Craft’s Little White House Is Now a Museum

Catherine Wendlandt
By |
When restoring the Juanita Craft house after the 2018 flood, Spriggins says they relied heavily on the building’s historical structural report, which recounted the home’s physical past. “That document became the guide for how we needed to approach the rehabilitation of the house.” Isometric Studio

Hundreds of people packed into buses at Fair Park on May 20, but Patricia Perez had other plans. They were all heading to Juanita Craft’s house at 2618 Warren Avenue, to celebrate the reopening of a museum that took more than six years of work. Perez, 70, skipped the bus ride. She had her ride share driver drop her off at her aunt’s old house in South Dallas. She then walked the familiar three-block route to the freshly painted white craftsman on Warren, a trot she’d made hundreds of times before.

Perez met the civil rights activist on Saturday, October 2, 1965. Her mother had sent her and her little brother from New York City to live with family in Dallas. When she picked the kids up from Love Field, their aunt said, “I have someone I want you to meet.” An hour and a half later, 12-year-old Perez was knocking on the back door of Craft’s home. The woman who met them was unforgettable.

“Mrs. Craft was a large woman in physical stature,” Perez remembers. “But whenever she opened her mouth, you realized if she had been four feet tall, she would have still been a large human being. And at 12 I knew that.”

The influence Juanita Craft had on Dallas, and across the country, was just as large. “I don’t think the city recognizes her impact and legacy continues today,” says HERitage founder Froswa’ Booker-Drew, who served on the museum steering committee and pushed the State Fair of Texas to donate thousands of dollars to the museum efforts. “The impact that Ms. Craft had is beyond South Dallas. It’s national.”

Over a period of 50 years, the longtime South Dallas resident registered thousands of people to vote, organized citywide cleanup campaigns, and served two terms on the Dallas City Council. She worked to integrate the State Fair, the Dallas Independent School District, and colleges like University of North Texas. As a leader in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, she founded more than 180 local NAACP chapters and hosted a long roster of activists, politicians, dignitaries, and celebrities, like Thurgood Marshall, in her humble, 1,300-square-foot home.

“You’d be surprised the kind of people coming in and out of that house, everybody from presidents to senators to ambassadors,” says Peter Johnson, a Civil Rights activist and longtime friend of Craft. “I mean, it is a museum whether you want it to be or not.”

Craft donated her house to the city of Dallas after her death in 1985. It took nearly 40 years for her house to be officially opened as a museum and a monument to the local civil rights movement. Unlike other Dallas museums, the Juanita Craft house doesn’t tower over freeways or take up whole city blocks.

It sits, as it always has, quietly in the middle of the Wheatley Place neighborhood, ready to host anyone from a Supreme Court justice to a teenaged neighbor.

The offer to me was straightforward: talk with Roe v. Wade attorney Linda Coffee about her case archive, which will be up for auction in Los Angeles on Friday. (Bidding for the collection, which includes nearly 150 documents, letters, and artifacts, starts at $50,000.)

The prospect was strangely emotional. Until I read Joshua Prager’s 2021 book, The Family Roe, I did not understand the extent to which the lawsuit’s many players were tied to Dallas. Nor did I understand how many of them were, like me, gay. All I knew was that the case had impacted my life as a woman in America — and as a lawyer and as a woman who was able to finally marry her longtime partner in 2013 — in innumerable ways.

The resulting interview? Downright entertaining.

When I talked with Coffee and her partner, Rebecca Hartt, on the phone yesterday, the two continually finished each other’s sentences and talked over one another, as long-term couples are wont to do. It was heart-warming. And also a little bit shame-inducing, as they clearly view it as the obligation of the “younger generation” (they couldn’t see my white hair over the phone) to take up the now fragmented 50-state battle over privacy and equal protection rights.

But before we got to chatting, because it was such a pretty day both in Dallas and at their home in Mineola, they suggested that I go out for a picnic, or at least for some barbecue. The conversation that followed has been edited for length and clarity.

Local News

A Family’s East Texas Ancestry Was Brought to Life in the AT&T Discovery District

By Garrett Tarango |
In “The Mount Experience,” producer Rodney Hawkins documented the restoration of the 200-year-old Old Mount Gillion cemetery in East Texas, which was near the edge of his family’s property. The AT&T Discovery District presented an exhibit showing photos of the project and of Hawkins’ family story. Kwesi Yanful

For the last five weeks, the lobby of AT&T headquarters has transported visitors to the Piney Woods of Nacogdoches through an exhibit called the Mount Experience. Visitors were introduced to the Old Mount Gillion Cemetery, an approximately 200-year-old site that nature’s overgrowth concealed long ago, obscuring the history of those who were buried there.

Rodney Hawkins, a former CBS News producer and founder of Tiny Hawk Productions, began asking his relatives questions about their ancestry after a family trip during the summer of 2020.

“We are a very fortunate family, we still own over 150 acres in East Texas, and that is very rare in the Black community,” Hawkins says. “I was curious as to how we were able to hold on to that amount of land.”

His relatives didn’t have answers, but they directed him to Old Mount Gillion, which sits deep in the backwoods bordering the family property.

Dallas History

Tales from the Dallas History Archives: Travel Back In Time to 1923

Brandon Murray
By |
It’s opening day for the Majestic Theater nearly 100 years ago, in 1923. From the Interstate Theater Collection, Dallas Public Library

One month into 2023, I find myself pondering the past. What moments will shape history over the next 12 months, and how has the world changed in the past 100 years? Warner Bros. Studios was founded in 1923, the same year the first issue of Time magazine was published. That year, Calvin Coolidge took office as the 30th President of the United States and the International Criminal Police Commission (Interpol) was established with headquarters in Vienna.

What was Dallas like in 1923? 

Take a look at Dallas 100 years ago with this gallery of images from the photograph collections of the Dallas History & Archives Division. There are some heartwarming images, such as a lovely group photograph of women gathered together on the porch of the Salvation Army Young Women’s Boarding House on Corsicana Street near the Cedars. There is a nighttime exterior photo of “Big Time Vaudeville” at the Majestic Theater in its first year of operation, and the Dallas Times Herald held an employee picnic for the now long-gone newspaper.

However, there are sobering images too. Most notably, a photograph of the first parade of Klanswomen, also known as the Order of American Women, held in Texas as they marched down Elm street in Dallas.

Visit the gallery to see our city a full century ago, courtesy the archives of the Dallas Public Library.

Dallas History

A New Documentary Lets Joppa Preservationists Share Their Own History

Todd Jorgenson
By Todd Jorgenson |
Cue & Coda Films

As outsiders chronicled the rich cultural legacy and historic preservation efforts in the Joppa neighborhood of southern Dallas, the residents who live in the community felt like they needed to tell their own story.

So community advocates commissioned documentary filmmaker Curshion Jones for a project celebrating last year’s 150th anniversary of one of the few preserved freedman’s towns in North Texas. Created in conjunction with the South Central Civic League, 150 Years of Resiliency: A Joppa Documentary will have its first public screening this weekend as part of the Denton Black Film Festival.

“There’s been a lot of news coverage. They wanted to tell it from their point of view,” Jones said. “There was no history in terms of tangible things other than just hearing the stories.”

Joppa — which is pronounced and was originally spelled Joppee — was one of more than 30 freedman’s communities formed in North Texas in the decade following the abolition of slavery. Situated between Interstate 45 and the Great Trinity Forest, with railroad tracks on one side and the Trinity River on the other, the neighborhood is known for its “shotgun houses” that date back generations. The land was annexed by the city of Dallas in 1955. Today, there are about 300 homes and a population of less than 1,000.

The Longhorn Ballroom should finally be amplified this spring. Preservation advocates have feared for years that the legendary venue would be torn down. A plan to renovate the property in 2017 ended in bankruptcy and lawsuits.

Then in walked Edwin Cabaniss. He is the person who will bring the music back, the same guy responsible for the sound coming out of the PAs at the Kessler Theater in Oak Cliff and The Heights Theater in Houston. He bought the Longhorn in 2021, about four years after it had been purchased by a different owner who made some improvements but ran out of money and had to declare bankruptcy. The Longhorn was operating for about 18 months, mostly attracting one-off events.

Cabaniss now has $4 million in city subsidies behind him, which will help bring much-needed infrastructure improvements to the area surrounding the ballroom.  

Built for Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys in 1950, the Longhorn is certainly the most historic venue left in Dallas, if not the entire state of Texas. It has played host to too many acts to list, but we can try: Ray Charles, Al Green, Selena, Nat King Cole, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Ray Price, Charley Pride, George Jones, Tammy Wynette, Loretta Lynn, the Sex Pistols, Otis Redding. It was once run by Jack Ruby. But the legacy Cabaniss is following is largely that of operator Dewey Groom, who refused to call the Longhorn a honky-tonk, preferring instead to brand it the “nation’s most unique ballroom.” In addition to the country mainstays, Groom welcomed blues and soul acts in the 1960s and helped book the famous Sex Pistols show in 1978.

Cabaniss says the first shows will be announced “soon.” Spring is two months away.

He has released a YouTube video showing construction, appropriately set to Johnny Cash’s “Sixteen Tons,” which shows sparks flying from metalwork, new wood framing, and a 6,000-pound, 60-foot steel beam coming in through the side of the building. The Longhorn will be booked by Cabaniss’ independent agency, Kessler Presents. At 23,000 square feet and 2,000 capacity, the ballroom dwarfs Cabaniss’ other ventures, the Kessler (350 capacity) and the Heights Theater (500).

He sees the Longhorn as an extension for the bands that regularly play those venues before outgrowing them.

“We take great pride that many artists build their fan bases at the Kessler Theater and then graduate to bigger rooms,” Cabaniss wrote in a statement. He was out of town this week and unavailable for an interview. “With the addition of the Longhorn Ballroom, we can continue to grow with them.”

The city of Dallas, meanwhile, sees preserving and improving the space as a spark.

Dallas History

The Dallas Historical Society Celebrates 100 Years of Collecting the City’s Artifacts

Catherine Wendlandt
By |
Since 1938, the Dallas Historical Society has been housed at the Hall of State in Fair Park. Rob Wythe/Wythe Photography Studio

George Bannerman Dealey thought any city worth its salt needed a historical society. It was 1922, and the founder and longtime publisher of the Dallas Morning News noticed many of Dallas’ founders were beginning to die, leaving behind few public records of their lives. So, Dealey held a dinner with around 100 of the city’s most prominent residents, and the Dallas Historical Society was born. Today, it remains headquartered in the legendary Hall of State in Fair Park.

Now, more than 100 years later, the Dallas Historical Society is celebrating its centennial with a year of festivities. The team started planning last spring, executive director Karl Chiao says. Since then, the society opened a 336-square-foot interactive diorama of the Battle of the Alamo in late March 2022. For last year’s State Fair of Texas, it launched a “100 Years, 100 Stories” exhibit chronicling Texas history. Instead of the annual Dallas History Makers Luncheon, it held a gala last November. On January 19, the Society will host an open house at the Hall of State, its permanent location. On April 23, it will put on a community celebration at Klyde Warren Park. 

Like other Texas cities, Dallas has a penchant for knocking down old buildings and paving over the past, but the Dallas Historical Society is working to fight that.

“Our goal is to preserve as much history as possible,” says Chiao. But what sets his nonprofit apart from other local organizations, like Preservation Dallas and Old City Park (formerly Dallas Heritage Village), which work to protect buildings, is that the Dallas Historical Society collects artifacts. Over the past 100 years, it has accumulated a massive archive with more than 3 million items. Think the first edition of the Dallas Morning News, old family bibles, directories, and early phonebooks.

Deep Ellum

Deep Ellum Is Celebrating 150 Years in 2023

Catherine Wendlandt
By |
Kristi and Scot Redman

No one really knows when Deep Ellum was formally established. “There wasn’t a day that somebody stuck a flag in the ground and said, ‘I hereby say this is Deep Ellum,’” says Stephanie Hudiburg, the executive director of the Deep Ellum Foundation.  

But we do know when the Texas & Pacific Railroad crossed the Houston & Texas Central Railroad: early 1873, 150 years ago. Because of the neighborhood’s proximity to the railroad and the local cotton industry, the area quickly became an industrial hub of warehouses, buildings, and factories.  

The Deep Ellum Foundation has begun celebrating those 150 years, when the neighborhood was born of the commercial boom.  

“To hit this important milestone from one of Dallas’ most important historic neighborhoods is really pretty exciting,” Hudiburg says. The organization has planned events throughout the year to mark the moment.  

Today, there are cracks in the sidewalks leading up to Deep Ellum’s shiny paper goods stores and ice cream shops. Artists poke in and out of studios, walking past neon signs, or setting up shop in a Saturday street market. Panhandlers wait outside packed parking lots. Weekends see folks standing in long lines for barbecue or concerts happening in century-old brick buildings. The neighborhood has a bustling, small-town feel, but new skyrise developments on its outskirts hint at the big city outside. 

On a number of occasions, I’ve had the pleasure of visiting the Old Parkland campus, not far from downtown, which has to be one of the most interesting office parks in the country. The managers of the place would probably prefer I didn’t even call it an “office park.” There’s all the art. There’s the fact that they won’t rent to law firms. There’s the fourth-largest bell in the country, which I wrote about last year.

So when James Dolan pitched us a story about the place’s previous life as a halfway house where he worked, it sounded like a fascinating piece of Dallas history that belonged in the pages of D Magazine. His story was published in our December issue, and we put it online today.

Dallas History

Psychotherapy Dates with Inmates at Old Parkland

James Dolan
By James Dolan |
old parkland
Michael Hirshon

Cinching my tie, I cleared my mind and stepped into the main reception area of the Alcoholism Treatment and Recovery Center, 3949 Maple Avenue. The room was a block of smoke. I gagged and wanted to run but couldn’t because I needed a job. 

Located in what was the old Parkland Hospital nursing school quarters at Maple and Oak Lawn, the once-grand room in August 1981 was furnished with fallen couches and chairs that might have come from front yards on bulk trash day. Men who seemed to be ghosts of who they once were milled around, smoking, smoking, smoking, reading day-old papers or beaten copies of LIFE or Look. For this I worked and went to school, indebted myself.

At the semicircular reception desk sat three older guys in worn clothing. Their baggy faces, like those of clowns without makeup in a third-rate circus, each sprouted a lit cigarette. They were answering phones and yelling at men across the room. They seemed too busy to notice me.

“Excuse me,” I said, clearing my already irritated throat. “I have an interview with Earl Osborn?” 

One man said, “Who can I tell Mr. Osborn is here?” 

Weirdly formal for this setting, no?

“Jim Dolan,” I said. “I’m here to interview for the counseling position?” 

The guy grabbed a filthy avocado-green receiver and into it bellowed, “Earl, yer guy is here!” He set the receiver in its cradle and asked if I’d like a cup of coffee. When I declined, he turned back to the other two as if I’d never existed.

Clyde Barrow’s family once owned a service station in West Dallas, at 1221 Singleton Blvd., in a neighborhood called the Devil’s Back Porch. That structure stood until April, when it was hastily bulldozed before the city’s Landmark Commission could intervene.

Given the long lead times of a monthly magazine, I didn’t know how or whether D Magazine could address the matter. (Although Bethany Erickson wrote about it for our website.) But then an artist who has written for us, Laray Polk, alerted me to the fact that another artist in town, Michelle Mackey, had spent years studying and painting and thinking about the Barrow service station. Which is how I came to find myself in Michelle’s studio back in May, looking at some of her work and talking about how she might do something in the pages of the magazine.

The result is a story titled “These Walls Could Talk,” illustrated, in part, with Michelle’s paintings of the Barrow service station. It published in our November issue and went online today.

We waited till this month to publish the story because Michelle has an exhibition of new paintings inspired by Enchanted Rock titled “Beyond Measure” at the Holly Johnson Gallery, in the Design District. It will be up through February 11, but the opening is this Saturday, November 19, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Go here for more details. A taste from the press release:

Dallas History

Tales from the Dallas History Archives: When Royalty Came to North Texas

Brandon Murray
By |
Prince Rainier III, of the tiny principality of Monaco (left), is greeted by Neiman Marcus Co. president Stanley Marcus (center) after flying into Dallas to open Neiman Marcus' Fete des Fleurs in 1971. From the Clint Grant Collection, Dallas Public Library

On September 8, the United Kingdom’s Queen Elizabeth II died at the age of 96. Her reign of 70 years and 214 days was the longest of any British monarch. As the world honored her passing, and the beginning of the reign of her son, King Charles III, I searched through the archives of the Dallas Public Library and discovered that Texas, and Dallas for that matter, was no stranger to the House of Windsor and other royal lines. 

Members of royalty who have visited Dallas in decades past include King Charles III, when he held the title of Prince of Wales, and other members of the British royal family and Prince Rainier of Monaco.  

The attached gallery of images depicts royalty who came to Dallas, as seen through the photograph collections of the Dallas History & Archives Division. The royal titles of those depicted in these photographs correspond to the titles held when the photograph was taken.

Dallas Public Library has many other images related to life in Dallas in years past. You can learn more by searching through the library’s online catalog. Go to “Advanced” and use the “Limit By” option to select “Digital Archive” then type in your topic.