Courtesy photo

Dallasites in the mood to give had a worthy place to direct their energy on November 29: the Frost Bank and CultureMap donation drop-off, benefiting Genesis Women's Shelter & Support.

Bags upon bags of coats, hats, gloves, toiletries, and masks were handed over at Pacific Plaza during the two-hour event, and those who donated received a few surprises in return.

If you showed up with five or more items to give you were handed a Frost It Forward card, the idea being that you'd spread optimism and use the money to pay it forward to someone else.

The generous gesture from Frost Bank echoed the Optimism Starts With You mural, which served as the backdrop to the donation event. The mural's artist, Mari Pohlman aka Marpohl, even dropped by with her own items to donate.

Those who attended the donation drive-through also got a head start on entering the social media contest by snapping a selfie by the mural and using #OptForOptimism to enter.

If you'd like a shot at winning a one-night staycation at the Sheraton Dallas Hotel and $100 to spend at downtown Dallas businesses, there's still time. Get your post up before December 31, when we'll pick one lucky winner.

The items received from the event are more important than ever to Genesis Women's Shelter, which provides safety, shelter, and support for women who have experienced domestic violence, and raises awareness regarding its cause, prevalence, and impact.

Genesis was founded in 1984 with a goal to not only shelter and support women who have been victims of domestic violence, but also raise awareness regarding its cause and impact — with a hope to one day completely eradicate domestic violence. In the last year alone, Genesis saw 3,700 women and children at its emergency shelter, transitional housing apartments, and nonresidential counseling office.

Recessions like the one caused by the pandemic, coupled with stay-at-home orders and quarantine measures, can be particularly challenging for women and children trapped in abusive homes. Donations like the ones received here make a huge impact for women and children seeking a safe way out of dangerous situations.

If you missed the event but would still like to contribute to Genesis’ important mission, please make a donation this holiday season.

Everyone who donated five or more items received a Frost It Forward card to help spread optimism.

Courtesy photo
Everyone who donated five or more items received a Frost It Forward card to help spread optimism.
Photo courtesy of Louie Murillo

Festive-fantastic Grapevine home lights up with 1,000 Santas for charity

Here comes Santa Claus

If the Murillo family doesn't capture the top spot on Santa's nice list this year, there's no hope for the rest of us. They have filled their front yard in Grapevine with more than 1,000 lighted Santa decorations as a beacon of awareness for a local nonprofit.

They're calling it, simply, Grapevine Santa House.

The half-acre property is a "Where's Waldo?" maze of Santa statues, which visitors can walk among, snap photos with, and then, they hope, make a donation to Grace Grapevine's Christmas Cottage program. The charity's seasonal initiative provides new, unwrapped gifts to Tarrant County families facing financial hardship.

"I've always been a holiday guy, way over the top," says Louie Murillo, the dad and Santa House head honcho. Anyone who's seen the 20-foot Christmas trees perched atop the the two Chick-fil-A restaurants he owns near Dallas Love Field can attest.

"About a year ago, I bought some Santas on clearance and thought maybe we'd do something with them for a family Christmas card," he says.

Along came COVID-19, and his holiday passion intersected with a desire to help those who were struggling. During his quarantine free-time, he bought a few more Santas online. Then a few more. Then his idea for a Santa House really began to take shape.

"Once we dipped our toe in, we decided to go all out," he says of his family, including kids ages 12 and 14.

His search for Santas took him around Texas and beyond. Murillo even flew to Chicago and drove back a truck loaded with nine reindeer and a sleigh.

By July, one of the home's three attics was stuffed with Santas. Then a game room overflowed with them. By fall, a storage unit was filling up.

To be clear, these aren't just any Santa statues. They're "blow molds," a specific kind of hollow, plastic figure popular in the '50s, '60s, and '70s. They're rarely made now, and considered collectibles, costing anywhere from $30 to $140 apiece.

"How much I've spent is not a number we're gonna discuss nor share with my wife," Murillo says with a laugh. "It definitely got out of hand."

Then there was the matter of lighting it all up. An electrician helped wire the yard with an additional, 14-outlet breaker, and they're hoping a switch to LED lighting helps ease the electricity bill a little.

Some decorations are set up in vignettes, and Murillo's favorite piece isn't actually a Santa. It's a vintage church, an expensive piece he found in Chicago. The display also includes carolers and a nativity, and a sign urges people to tune to a radio station to hear the Christmas story from the Bible.

Murillo reached out to the Grace organization about a partnership at the perfect time. Their need would be higher than ever at a time at the holidays, when fewer gatherings meant fewer opportunities for donations to be collected. Typically, Christmas Cottage serves more than 2,500 individuals and families each holiday season. Families are given a hypothetical “budget” that allows the parents to “purchase” donated toys, home goods, and appliances in a secure, store-like setting.

The Murillos' goal is to raise $15,000 with Santa House, which will help 120 kids. By December 1, just a few days after turning the lights on, they were already at $9,000.

Rather than collecting contributions on site, they're encouraging guests to donate online via a GoFundMe page set up in conjunction with the Santa House.

Among the first visitors to the Santa House was a single mom whose child had been helped by Grace, Murillo says. Mom and daughter enjoyed the lights and then made a donation — they paid the kindness forward.

"It's cool to see real people being helped that are in need," Murillo says. "It's fun just to see kids' excitement. We've all been stuck indoors, not traveling, and this is something to do as a family."

The Santa House lights will go on every night from 5-10 pm through December 27. The home is on a cul-de-sac in the Western Oaks neighborhood, and visitors can park along the street.

The exact location is 3373 Spruce Lane, Grapevine. Follow the Grapevine Santa House Facebook page for updates.

The Murillo family home has become the Grapevine Santa House.

Photo courtesy of Louie Murillo
The Murillo family home has become the Grapevine Santa House.
Photo by SDI Productions/Getty

Drop off supplies and spread optimism at Genesis donation event in downtown Dallas

The Season of Giving

Looking for a way to give back this holiday season? Then mark your calendar for Sunday, November 29, when CultureMap and Frost Bank are hosting a donation drop-off benefiting Genesis Women's Shelter & Support.

Donations will be accepted from 12-2 pm at Pacific Plaza (401 N. Harwood St.) in downtown Dallas, with masks requested if you get out of your car. To help provide safety, shelter, and support for women who have experienced domestic violence, and to raise awareness regarding its cause, prevalence, and impact, bring the following items:

  • Disinfectant spray wipes
  • Antibacterial hand soap
  • Cloth face masks
  • Sports bras in size adult large and medium
  • New gloves and hats in all sizes and ages
  • New coats of all sizes for women and children ages 0-18

When you bring five or more donation items, you'll receive a $10 Frost It Forward card as yet another opportunity to spread generosity and the power of optimism.

Everyone who donates will also get the chance to win a special grand prize: a one-night staycation at the Sheraton Dallas Hotel and $100 to spend at downtown Dallas businesses.

To enter, visit the Optimism Starts With You mural by local artist Marpohl at 400 N. Olive St., on the side of the Sheraton Dallas' parking garage. Snap a photo of the mural and share it on social media using #OptForOptimism. We'll choose a grand prize winner on December 31.

Genesis Women's Shelter & Support was founded in 1984 with a goal to not just help women, but to completely eradicate domestic violence. Last year alone, Genesis saw 3,700 women and children at its emergency shelter, transitional housing apartments, and nonresidential counseling office.

They have formulated their services to address the issue holistically and give each woman the same message: There is help, and there is hope.


Special thanks to Downtown Dallas Inc. for sponsoring the location of the donation drop-off event.

Bring coats, gloves, and new PPE to donate.

Photo by SDI Productions/Getty
Bring coats, gloves, and new PPE to donate.
Photo by Jenifer McNeil Baker

4 new virtual fundraisers to add to Dallas-Fort Worth social diaries this fall

Coronavirus pivot

While the coronavirus pandemic continues to prevent nonprofits from holding large luncheons, galas, and parties, they're still finding creative ways to raise crucial funds.

Some, like the Dallas Symphony Orchestra League, are simply holding scaled-down versions of their events, with strict attendance limits for social distancing. But most are pivoting to virtual formats.

Below are the latest Dallas-Fort Worth fundraisers that patrons can join using their favorite electronic device. More upcoming virtual benefits are listed here.

Virtually TITAS Gala, October 6
TITAS' annual performance gala, which normally takes place in person during a full season, will feature all seven U.S. dance companies from the Dallas dance group's 2020-21 season. They include New York's Ballet Hispanico, Aspen/Santa Fe Ballet, Alonzo King LINES Ballet out of San Francisco, and more. The event is free, and donations are accepted. Not only will the gala benefit TITAS, but it will also give the companies an opportunity to present their work to the public at a time when performances are not happening in person. The gala will start at 7 pm, and registration is required here. Once registered, patrons will receive an email with viewing instructions.

Epilepsy Foundation Texas Virtual Dinner Party, October 24
The local Epilepsy Foundation is partnering with Del Frisco's Grille to bring the restaurant home. Participants will pick up a "culinary kit" containing ingredients for a gourmet steak and salmon dinner, salad, side, and bottle of wine. Then, at 6:30 pm, Hell's Kitchen winner, chef Ariel Fox, will join in virtually for private meal preparation instruction. All proceeds benefit the foundation's seizure clinics, school first aid education, and summer camp programs — all of which are offered at no cost to communities. Tickets, $275, can be reserved through the website.

Heart (at Home) for the Homeless benefiting Union Gospel Mission of Tarrant County, November 10
The sixth annual Union Gospel Mission benefit will be presented for guests to enjoy at home. Favorite Fort Worth singer-songwriter Josh Weathers will be the featured entertainer at a virtual, hour-long concert experience that begins at 7 pm. Tickets, $100, can be purchased through the website, and sponsorships are still available. A virtual event admission link will be emailed before the concert, and one admission link will be good for an entire household. Union Gospel Mission provides love, hope, respect, and a new beginning for those experiencing homelessness in Tarrant County.

Lakewood Home Festival Virtual Auction Party, November 13
The 44th Annual Lakewood Home Tour has two parts, neither of them a "traditional" home tour. The weekend of events, November 13-15, starts with a free “Lakewood Live” virtual auction party. A Saturday Night Live-style presentation will include pre-recorded skits, special musical performances, and both live and silent auctions. Guests are encouraged to don their SNL-inspired costumes and party in place. (Party Packs, premium gift baskets filled with a DIY cocktail kit, merchandise, and more, are available for pre-purchase.)

Then, the home tour will proceed as a street-view only event on Saturday and Sunday from 10 am-5 pm. The official home tour guidebook is available online for $20 and is the only way to see interior photographs. So you drive up to a home, flip through the book to read about what's behind the doors, and drive on to the next one. All proceeds go to the Woodrow Wilson feeder pattern of schools; for more information, visit the website.

ReuNight for The Family Place

The 5 newest must-attend virtual fundraisers in Dallas-Fort Worth

Coronavirus pivot

In this year of social distancing and canceled gatherings, many nonprofit galas and luncheons are pivoting creatively to virtual formats. They can still raise crucial funds to continue providing services without risking the health and safety of patrons.

Below are the five latest Dallas-Fort Worth organizations to hold virtual fundraisers — and how to join in the fun without slipping on stilettos.

Wilkinson Center The Spirit of Taos Online Auction, through September 25
The Friends of Wilkinson Center's The Spirit of Taos Online Auction continues through midnight Friday, September 25. While this year’s Spirit of Taos fundraising event has been canceled due to the current health crisis, the community can bid on a curated offering of three auction packages: "The Great Treasure Chest," featuring a cornucopia of gift cards from popular local eateries and stores; "Dreamscape," the ultimate home staycation package; and "Bonanza Extravaganza" featuring coaching, portraiture, and more. Click here to register, bid, or donate. All proceeds go to the Wilkinson Center's mission to transform the lives of Dallas families by providing pathways to self-sufficiency with dignity and respect.

TeamTait For TeamConnor, September 25
TeamConnor was founded in 2008 while young Connor Cruse was in the midst of his four-year battle with neuroblastoma cancer. Today, Connor’s father, Tait Cruse, is fighting a similar battle. From 6 am until midnight September 25, participants can walk, run, swim, bike, Peloton, jump rope, climb a mountain, or participate in anything athletic to stand against cancer. Participants are encouraged to post photos on social media with the hashtag #TeamTait4TeamConnor. Participants can register at TeamConnor.org. The initiative has already raised about $ 424,000 and is striving to reach a $1 million goal.

Virtual Old Bags Luncheon benefiting National Cowgirl Museum, October 20
Each year since 2013, the Fort Worth museum has partnered with designers to create an auction based around gently used designer purses. Proceeds go to support the museum’s educational efforts. This year the event goes virtual, with the exception of the two-day, paid-only viewing days; the entire event will span six days. Guests that had previously purchased tickets for the luncheon (still available for a $125 donation) may preview the bags in person at the museum on October 18 and 19. On October 20 those original ticket holders will have a full day of early bidding. Oct. 21, 22, and 23 Old Bag’s shopping will open up for anyone to bid. The virtual experience will provide a ‘Buy Now’ option and chances to simply place a competitive bid. For more information and updates, visit the event's Facebook page.

Dine In to Stop Domestic Violence benefiting The Family Place, October 24
Unable to "ReuNight" in-person this year, past co-chairs of the dinner fundraiser are encouraging the community to "U-Night" to support The Family Place and its mission to end family violence. Supporters are invited to dine in on October 24; they'll enjoy a four-course elevated dining experience with wine and a floral arrangement from Grey Gardens Florist within the comfort of home. Dinner will be prepared by the innovative Chef Jordan Swim of Vestals Catering and Front Burners Restaurants. Diners will receive a locally sourced farm-to-table meal featuring a charcuterie board, fall vegetable salad, beef entrée, and dessert. Vegetarian options will also be included upon request. Top donors have the option of hosting an executive chef to prepare the four-course dinner in their home. For more information and registration beginning at $375, visit the website.

Cancer Support Community North Texas' "Paint the Canvas Red" at-home fundraiser, November 14
Cancer Support Community North Texas' inaugural "Paint the Canvas Red" fundraiser is a virtual, hands-on art and wine event that allows people to paint and drink wine from the comfort of their own couches. The idea is to show how the power of art has helped thousands of cancer patients heal and stay mentally healthy — especially during this frightening pandemic. CSCNT will send participants a canvas, wine, and art supplies for the $125 ticket price. The live event will take place from 7-9 pm November 14 and proceeds will provide the ongoing social and emotional support programs and services to all impacted by cancer across DFW.

Photo courtesy of Junior League of Dallas

Dallas Junior League helps restore civil rights legend's historic Fair Park home

Giving back

Despite the COVID-cancellation if its signature 2020 fundraiser, the Junior League of Dallas is taking on a significant new civic cause in honor of its 100th anniversary.

As its Centennial Anniversary project, JLD will help restore the Juanita J. Craft Civil Rights House & Museum, a historic home in Dallas' Fair Park neighborhood, the organization announced September 15. The home was once owned by Juanita J. Craft (1902-1985), one of the leading civil rights figures in Texas and the second Black woman to serve on the Dallas City Council. Her home served as a popular gathering spot for civil rights activists when they came to Dallas, including President Lyndon B. Johnson, Martin Luther King Jr., President Jimmy Carter, musician Duke Ellington, Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, and first lady Eleanor Roosevelt, JLD says.

The Dallas nonprofit will partner with the City of Dallas on its existing effort to restore the home, which is expected to be completed in March 2022, according to a news release. This includes securing the home’s designation as a historic landmark on the Civil Rights Trail, which would be the first in Texas.

“The Juanita Craft House honors a Dallas legend who devoted her life to fighting for civil rights,” Dallas mayor Eric Johnson says in the release. “Our city is better because of Juanita Craft’s actions, her legacy, and the example she set. And we will all be better for a visit to her house when it reopens."

The city has owned and operated Craft's Craftsman Bungalow in the Wheatley Place Historic District since her death in 1985. Longtime efforts to turn the house into an educational museum came to a halt in 2018 when a sprinkler pipe burst in the attic and flooded the home. Repair costs were estimated at more than $1.2 million. Fundraising efforts have been ongoing, but the city has been unable to get across the finish line.

In honor of its 100th year, the JLD will donate a final financial gift to help complete repairs and renovations and reopen the museum to the public.

The specific amount of JLD's financial commitment was not disclosed. However, the organization says, additional funds will be raised by its Centennial Committee to establish ongoing educational programming at the house, along with developing curriculum and fostering partnerships with the African American Museum and Fair Park.

“We have been working closely with the City of Dallas for more than two years to determine how we could help save the Juanita Craft House and restore it as a place for visiting students and others to learn more about Civil Rights history in Dallas," says Margo Goodwin, JLD Centennial co-chair. "The city’s mission was something we wanted to be a part of as an extension of the league’s ongoing diversity and inclusion initiatives. We are eagerly anticipating the reopening of the Juanita Craft House to visitors in early 2022 and to making this a special place for the public to enjoy in the decades to come.”

Junior League of Dallas chooses a special project to support for each milestone anniversary.

“Funds raised for this special anniversary project are above and beyond the existing commitments to the nearly 40 agencies the JLD supports each year with its trained volunteer service commitments and financial support," says Centennial co-chair Andrea Cheek.

Junior League's major annual fundraising event is its beloved Milestones Luncheon. After a blockbuster 2019 luncheon starring actress Keri Russell, the 2020 edition got canceled and re-scheduled for March 26, 2021, at the Hilton Anatole Hotel.

The Juanita J. Craft home is a Dallas landmark.

Photo courtesy of Junior League of Dallas
The Juanita J. Craft home is a Dallas landmark.
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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Texas hot spot hooks No. 1 ranking as best college city in America

Studies Show, Study Here

It might be a bit reductive to call Austin a college town, but that's what makes it so good. It certainly benefits from the creativity and industry of college living, but there's a lot more to do than go to gentrified lunches and cool, underground shows.

Recognizing this special balance, financial website WalletHub has declared Austin the No. 1 college city in the United States for 2023, beating out some obvious contenders like Pittsburgh and Columbus, Ohio.

In addition to being the best city overall, Austin also tops the large cities list, and is one of only two Texas locales represented in the top 10 of any category; the other is College Station, No. 6 on the small list.

The most represented state, perhaps not surprisingly, is Florida, with four cities in the overall top 10. The top 10 college cities for 2023, according to WalletHub, are:

1. Austin
2. Ann Arbor, Michigan
3. Orlando, Florida
4. Gainesville, Florida
5. Tampa, Florida
6. Rexburg, Idaho
7. Provo, Utah
8. Scottsdale, Arizona
9. Miami
10. Raleigh, North Carolina

And how did Austin make the grade? WalletHub looked at key metrics across three categories to determine the rankings.

Austin scored best, No. 12, in the “social environment” category, determined by metrics like students per capita; breweries, cafés, and food trucks per capita; and safety issues like vaccination and crime statistics.

Its ranking at No. 21 in the “academic & economic opportunities" category puts it in the 95th percentile, even above Boston and Cambridge, Massachusetts, famous for their Ivy League prevalence.

And perhaps unsurprising to those who currently reside in Austin, the Capital City ranked worst in "wallet friendliness,” at No. 204 out of 415.

Elsewhere in Texas, El Paso did well on the overall list at No. 36, followed by Houston (No. 64), Dallas (99), Fort Worth (153), and San Antonio (169).

Dallas landed well down the list in every category: wallet friendliness (226), academic & economic opportunities (168), and social environment (147).

Fort Worth fell even farther down the list in the same categories: wallet friendliness (242), academic & economic opportunities (201), and social environment (149).

Notably, cities that tend to fall lower in similar studies ranked relatively well among college towns.

These are the 9 best food and drink events in Dallas this week

This week in gluttony

Christmas spirit is in full swing, with all but one of this week’s events being holiday-themed. Check off pics with Santa for both the family and fur babies; take a Christmas cocktail-making class; sample holiday spirits from around the world; and stroll acres of candlelit walkways while indulging in holiday hors d’oeuvres and drinks – just to name a few. ‘Tis the season.

Tuesday, December 6

Caymus Wine Dinner at Carrabba’s Italian Grill
Decadent four-course meal features pairings with wines from award-winning Caymus. Courses include Stuffed Mushrooms with Shrimp, Rigatoni Al Forno with Chicken, Filet & Scallop Spiedino with Mashed Potatoes, and Crème Brulée, paired with Caymus wines including Cabernet Sauvignon and Conundrum Red Blend. The dinner is $75 starts at 6:30 pm. For the Dallas location, reserve here, and for Plano, reserve here.

Fontodi Wine Dinner at La Stella Cucina Verace
The Dallas Arts District Italian restaurant will host a five-course dinner paired with wines from Fontodi, a producer located in the Chianti Classico region of Tuscany. Courses will include beef carpaccio, butternut squash cappellacci with brown butter and sage, porchetta di Pienza with marble potatoes, Wagyu New York strip tagliata with porcini mushroom and butternut squash, and apple crostata. Dinner begins at 7 pm and is $175 plus tax and gratuity.

Thursday, December 8

Santa Paws at Texican Court Hotel
The Irving hotel invites furry friends and their humans to pop by for photos with Santa and complimentary hot apple cider and s’mores by the fire. Santa will be available for pet photos from 5-7 pm. Also enter to win a “Pups Night Away” overnight stay. Don’t miss the hotel’s pocket tequila bar, Salt, for new holiday cocktails in jolly keepsake glassware.

Reindeer Games Bar Crawl
Here’s a holiday bar crawl that spans beyond just drink specials. Participants get their money’s worth with a night of mini golf, axe throwing, unlimited video games, a chartered “sleigh bus,” and a pizza buffet. Start at Another Round and make stops at Flashback Retro Pub, LoneStar Axe Dallas, and Sylvan Avenue Tavern. Participants will also get a beer or seltzer at each stop. Tickets are $150 per duo, and the crawl will run from 6:15-10:30 pm.

Holiday Spirits Around the World at Hotel Vin
Sample an array of global spirits during this tasting experience at Grapevine’s Hotel Vin. Spirits to be served include Montenegro Italian liqueur, The Dalmore Scottish whiskey, Komo tequila, and Horse Soldier bourbon. Each spirit will be paired with globally-inspired bites. The tasting is $50 and will begin at 7 pm.

Friday, December 9

Cocktails by Candlelight at Old City Park
Candlelight will feature more than 13 acres of holiday cheer with decorated buildings, carolers, craft vendors, and candlelit walkways in Old City Park. Its 50th edition is set to begin on December 10, but adults only can get a sneak peek the night before during Cocktails by Candlelight, which comes with heavy hors d’oeuvres and drinks. Tickets are $100 per person or $175 per couple, and the event begins at 6 pm.

Saturday, December 10

Shaken, Not Stirred, Holiday Cocktail Class at Elm & Good
The modern American restaurant inside the Kimpton Pittman Hotel will host a holiday cocktail class great for groups looking to make spirits bright. Elm & Good’s lead mixologist Indy Acevedo-Fowler will guide guests through creating three cocktails: a cranberry margarita, peppermint espresso martini, and sangria rosa. Guests will also receive a branded take-away gift. The class is $35 and will begin at 2 pm.

Sunday, December 11

Brunch with Santa at the AC Hotel Dallas by the Galleria
Meet the big guy himself while indulging in brunch dishes during this family-friendly Sunday Funday. Tickets are $25 for adults (includes one mimosa) and $15 for kids 3-12. Children will get to meet Santa and take family photos. Brunch will run from 11:30 am-1:30 pm.

Monday, December 12

12 Days of Thompson
The Thompson Hotel Dallas will spread Christmas cheer with 12 days of daily holiday activations. The festivities start Monday with Home Alone, S’mores & Sips, a movie night with cocktails themed after the Christmas classic, a s’mores bar, and movie screening amid downtown views. The price is a $15 charitable donation. Doors opens at 5 pm with the movie to start at 6 pm. Other 12 Days of Thompson events range from a pie-baking class and cookie decorating to brunch with Santa and Holiday High Tea. See the complete calendar of events here.

Dedicated volunteers extract Spaghetti Warehouse trolley from Dallas' West End

Trolley News

Thanks to a dedicated team of conservation-minded folks, the vintage trolley from the Spaghetti Warehouse in Dallas' West End has been moved to a temporary new home: in a warehouse at Orr-Reed Architectural Co., the salvage store just south of downtown Dallas, which will provide a safe space for the vehicle while it undergoes a restoration.

A permanent home is still TBD, but Orr-Reed will be housing the trolley for at least the next 12 months.

The trolley was one of the original streetcars that ran through East Dallas nearly a century ago. It surged to fame in 2019 when Spaghetti Warehouse closed after 47 years, and the company held a giant auction of its extensive collection of memorabilia.

The streetcar got a bid from an anonymous buyer, but that buyer bailed once they encountered the difficulties of removing the trolley from the location.

The trolley was donated to the Junius Heights Historic District, a neighborhood association in Old East Dallas who wanted to save the trolley because of its role in the original streetcar program that was key to the establishment of Junius Heights.

Orr-Reed is providing the space and backup manpower for free.

"The first time it went on the auction block, I wanted to buy it because I'm obsessed with keeping the city’s history," says Orr-Reed owner Hannah Hargrove. "Dallas is known for tearing things down and replacing it with bigger and better things, but 'bigger and better' only lasts 50 years. Since we have the space, we wanted to be helpful in providing the trolley's next chapter of life."

spaghetti warehouse trolley A team unloads the Spaghetti Warehouse trolley into a warehouse at Orr-Reed.Johann Huebschmann

The move
JD Middleton, who builds out restaurants and bars for his "day job," oversaw a team of volunteers who broke the trolley down into pieces and transported it to the new location.

"My buddy JJ Velez and I saw it in the news, we both had a personal connection," Middleton says. "My grandfather drove the trolley, it's possible he drove that one, while JJ had seen it when he was a little kid, after the Christmas parade in downtown Dallas."

With another friend, Randy Lasiter, assisting, they volunteered to do it on a 100 percent volunteer basis. For the past six months, they've been going there in the early morning, before heading to their regular job sites.

"We do a lot of crazy things for customer requests, and this was right up our alley," Middleton says.

This entailed cutting the exterior into parts: removing the front and back "nose pieces," breaking down the body of the trolley into panels, then splitting up the chassis foundation — like a vertebrae that they cut up, to be reassembled by a welder.

Middleton says that Uncle Dan’s Pawn Shop donated saw blades and trailers and other equipment, as did Frida's Social Club on McKinney Avenue, who provided a big trailer and truck to haul it over to Orr-Reed.

Middleton assembled a group of friends who spent four hours on December 3, loading the trolley piece-by-piece onto trailers, then unloading it at Orr-Reed. He's also volunteered to help restore it.

"There's some rusting on the inside, it's like an old Ford Model-T that's been sitting in a garage," he says. "We'll get it sand-blasted and primed and painted, then put it back together again."

Their work is saving the Junius Heights Historic District hundreds of thousands of dollars.

"It's like an art project for us, and we're getting the opportunity to help take care of history," Middleton says. "JJ ate there when he was a little kid, and he'd like to take his kid to see it when it's finished. That’s why we're doing it."

Spaghetti Warehouse trolley Spaghetti Warehouse trolley, in pieces.Johann Huebschmann

The new home
The Junius Heights group does not yet have a permanent home for the trolley, nor a plan for how it will be managed or maintained. Details details.

For now, it resides in Orr-Reed's "dry house" — a warehouse they've used for overflow and for items that need to be kept out of the elements such as big furniture items, casement windows, and things that cannot get wet.

Hargrove and her staff built shelving and redesigned the warehouse to make it work.

"It'll definitely affect our day-to-day routine — there's a giant cumbersome trolley that's taking up space — but it’s worth it," Hargrove says. "If we hadn't done it, they would have had to spend a lot of money on storing it rather than restoring it. I'm a keeper of history, it’s my duty, although I've never done anything on this scale."

"We're not doing it for the money, we're doing it because someone has to," she says. "I feel like I'm doing the right thing."