The Endangered List

The top 6 endangered sites Preservation Dallas hopes to save in 2016

The top 6 endangered sites Preservation Dallas hopes to save in 2016

Elbow Room in Dallas
The Elbow Room has made the endangered list.  Photo by Michael Cagle

Preservation Dallas has released its 2016 list of most endangered historic places in Dallas, and it ranges from downtown to important homes in the Park Cities. They are places that are important to the diverse history of our city and are tied to their neighborhoods and communities.

David Preziosi, executive director of Preservation Dallas, calls the list a "roadmap," stating that "we must work diligently to protect the places on the list, as they are important to the history and fabric of Dallas, for once they are gone, they are lost forever."

The list includes the following:

Historic buildings along the proposed DART D2 Line
DART is proposing a second rail line through downtown Dallas, one that will impact numerous historic buildings along the proposed route. The locally preferred alternative for the line is proposed to go through the Downtown Dallas National Register of Historic Places Historic District, the City of Dallas Harwood Historic District, and the West End National Register of Historic Places Historic District.

Historic properties like the Aloft Hotel, SoCo Lofts, Lone Star Gas Lofts, Statler Hilton, Continental Building, First Presbyterian Church, Scottish Rite Temple, Knights of Pythias building, and more will be impacted.

The line will also impact Deep Ellum, further cutting it off from the rest of downtown. More than $350 million in redevelopment of historic properties would be impacted by noise and vibrations from construction and running trains, removal of access to buildings for services and garages, and even potential demolition of portions of historic structures.

Preservation Dallas recommends burying the new line in a subway so that the historic buildings along the line can be preserved.

Elbow Room
This simple, elegant, workhorse of a brick building was constructed around 1933 and first housed Royal Cleaners. It was gone within a year, followed by the California Flower Shop. Businesses came and left the 1,824-square-foot building every few years; at times it stood vacant.

Berta's Cafe opened there about 1940 and survived until about 1957. Other short-lived restaurants followed, including Mozelle's and Grill Thirty-Ten.

Around 1964, the little brick building became home to the Thirty-Ten Lounge, drawing its name from both the address and the cafe. It was followed in 1968 by Cabaret Lounge and, finally, in 1998, by the Elbow Room.

The Elbow Room is one of the last remaining historic commercial buildings on that block of Gaston and is threatened with being purchased or acquired by eminent domain by the Texas A&M University System. They would like to demolish the building to build a new clinical education building for its dental school.

Historic buildings at Fair Park
Fair Park is one of Dallas' most important and beloved historic sites. From its beginnings in 1886, it has grown in size and importance, becoming home to the annual Texas State Fair, the 1936 Texas Centennial Exposition, and the 1937 Pan American Exposition.

The buildings and landscape of Fair Park were redesigned for the Texas Centennial in 1936 by a group of architects and designers led by Dallas architect George Dahl. It is now the nation's largest collection of Art Deco exposition architecture and public art. In 1904, Fair Park became part of the Dallas Public Park system.

Fair Park was granted National Historic Landmark status in 1986 and is only one of two such sites in Dallas, the other being Dealey Plaza. Deferred maintenance due to lack of resources has taken its toll. Roofs are leaking, plumbing and electrical systems need to be updated, and the HVAC improved.

The Fair Park Texas Foundation has identified the numerous needs of the buildings and have committed to raising $100 million for Fair Park to match bond fund money; however, the city needs to secure the needed bond money in upcoming bond elections.

Penson House, 3756 Armstrong Ave. in Highland Park
The Penson House was designed by O'Neil Ford, and built in 1954 for Jack and Nancy Penson. It is one of Ford's largest residential projects and was designed in one of his favorite styles, Texas Regionalism.

The exterior and interior of the 9,800-square-foot home remains close to the original design, with the exception of a second-story addition, master bath expansion, and enclosure of a rear porch.

The house will be going up for auction. With its the impressive lot on a corner, proximity to the Turtle Creek tributary, and Davis Park across the street, this lot is very valuable — and one that is in jeopardy of being torn down for redevelopment if it doesn't go to a bidder who appreciates the house, especially as Highland Park does not have any mechanism to protect historic buildings.

Polar Bear, 1207 N. Zang Blvd.
The small but unique building with a whimsical façade across from Lake Cliff Park is commonly know as the Polar Bear for its association with its longest tenant the Polar Bear Ice Cream shop. The structure was originally built in the early 1930s; its first two tenants were the U.S. Sandwich Shop and the Schell Grill.

In 1946, the Polar Bear Ice Cream shop opened in the building. Most people associate the cool "frosty" design with Polar Bear thinking it was designed to look like a glacier or an igloo, most fitting for an ice cream shop.

The area surrounding the park and the nearby historic Bankhead Highway (which ran down Houston Street to Zang Boulevard) had many such small restaurants including Pig Stand #2, A&W Root Beer Stand, and Pig 'n Whistle Restaurant, all of which were supported by the 1950s teenage car culture.

The building has been vacant since 2014. A wind storm in early 2015 blew down a portion of the unique parapet. The land the building sits on is zoned for eight-story mixed use and could face pressure from development and increasing land values in Oak Cliff.

Williams House, 3805 McFarlin Blvd.
The Williams house was designed by architect David R. Williams in 1932 for University Park Mayor Elbert Williams. David R. Williams is considered the father of the Texas Regionalism style, and the Williams house is considered the premiere example of the style.

The home was Williams' last residential project of its type and contains all his hallmarks including hand carved interior woodwork by Lynn Ford (O'Neil Ford's brother), a mural painting by Jerry Bywaters, and abundant lone star ornamentation.

The house has had only two owners in its lifetime; its exterior and interiors are remarkably intact, with original details and layout. It appears almost exactly as it did when built. The house occupies 1.15 acres of University Park property. The particular plat of land it sits on is exceptionally valuable because it runs along the Turtle Creek shoreline, as well abutting the Dallas County Club golf course.

This house is the most important example of the Texas Regionalism style and will come up for auction soon. With such a valuable piece of property, it's ripe for tear down and rebuilding as there are no protections in University Park for historic buildings.