Downtown News

New architectural walking tours of downtown Dallas sneak into off-limits spots

New walking tours of downtown Dallas sneak into off-limits spots

Wilson building
Postcard of Wilson Building in downtown Dallas. Courtesy photo

A new company gives Dallas residents and tourists a chance to see downtown Dallas with a new perspective: through the lens of architecture.

Called Architectural Walking Tours of Downtown Dallas, it's a venture launched by Jay Cantrell, an architecture teacher and resident of downtown since 2005. Cantrell, who already is noted for his architectural sketches, decided he wanted to highlight via a walking tour some of the extraordinary buildings that shape the architectural landscape of the Central Downtown Business district.

"I started about a month ago, and it was really grass-roots at the beginning, in that I was doing it for friends," he says. "People started asking me, so I created a page on Facebook and began marketing them."

He's only been doing them a month and he's already hearing from people "all over."

"It was my goal to do something different in terms of architecture and history instead of trivia and pop culture," he says. "I've always loved the architecture in the neighborhood. Downtown has some beautiful buildings. I talk about structures and the nature of construction and the experience of architecture that goes beyond styles."

"I used to teach an intro class and I would give similar info to beginning students," he says. "I just incorporate all the stuff I used to do as a teacher into the tours."

He also gets into areas people might not know about or have access to. "I get them into the basements and the rooftops," he says. "After living down here, I have a few connections."

His primary area has been central downtown, which includes the Kirby building, the Adolphus, the Joule, and the Wilson.

"I also do another on the east section of downtown that focuses on the buildings around Main Street Garden," he says. "That includes the Statler, the 1900 Elm building by George Dahl, and the Hotel Indigo. It's one of our few Spanish colonial buildings downtown. A lot of people are surprised by all the hand carving that building has. This was before they had tools like lasers."

The tours are on Saturdays and Sundays, and cost $20, with groups ranging from 3 to 15 people. They can run anywhere from 90 minutes to 3 hours, depending on the group — and the after-party. "After one tour, we went to the Press Box Grill, so obviously that ran a little longer," he says.