The Forgotten Mansions of Fair Park

   That's right, I said Fair Park.

   Fair Park, as in Corny Dogs, Big Tex and 'Oh my God, is my car going to be here when I get back?"

   Many feel that Fair Park is not the safest part of Dallas. But did you know that some of the most beautiful homes in Dallas are neighbors to the Fair Grounds?

   If you take I-45 and exit Martin Luther King Boulevard to get to Fair Park, you might have noticed some rather large older homes on MLK that have been converted to businesses.
   This was my first clue to take a left and see if there might be any other large homes in the area. Much to my surprise, I found a hidden gem, the Park Row - South Boulevard Historic District.

   These two streets were once home to the most prominent Jewish families in Dallas during the first part of the twentieth century. Anchoring this neighborhood was the Temple Emanu-el at the corner of Harwood and South Blvd. A few blocks away sat Forest Avenue High School, the finest and best equipped high school in the city.

   The community was home to some of Dallas' most prominent citizens, like the Sanger Brothers (Sanger - Harris Department Stores) and Linz family (Linz Jewelers). Many of the homes were designed by the most noted architects of the era.

   After World War II, the neighborhood declined rapidly. US - 175 was built, splitting Park Row and South Boulevard in two. Temple Emanu-el moved to a new location in North Dallas. One by one, the Jewish families left for Highland Park and North Dallas.

   Some of the homes were bought by distinguished members of the black community, others became boarding houses, and some were torn down or simply fell into disrepair.

   In the 1970's the city of Dallas designated Park Row - South Boulevard as a historic district. Many of the homes have been restored to their prior elegance. Others have either decayed due to neglect or have simply vanished.

Not all of the homes have been restored.  (below) The lonely front steps to no where are the only clue that a house once sat here.

     Each year, hundreds of thousands visit Fair Park via I-45 , but few realize that these historic homes are just blocks away from the Cotton Bowl exit. (Sadly, the vacant Neo- Classical Temple Emanu-el was torn down in 1972 when I-45 was built) But there are still a few clues that this once was one of Dallas most exclusive neighborhoods.

   The majestic campus of Forest Avenue High School still sits today on Martin Luther King Boulevard, renamed James Madison High. The Linz Mansion on the corner of Ervay and South Boulevard is still there, but operates today as a funeral home and many of the fine homes of Park Row and South Boulevard have survived. Next time you head out to the Fair, take a few minutes to drive through the district and discover a part of Dallas that few State Fair goers have ever seen.

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Missing Art of the Metroplex - Where is 'The Wishing Star'?

This rare photo and caption from the Dallas Times Herald shows a picture of the sculptor and his creation "A Wishing Star". Where is this artwork today? Nobody knows.

   In 1956, the 1000 room Statler Hotel opened in downtown Dallas at a cost of $16 Million. For its time, it was the most modern hotel in the world, introducing such futuristic features as elevator music, central TV reception with a set in every room and the first ballroom with a moveable wall that could divide it into smaller sections. 

  The symbol of this spectacular hotel, featured on all it's literature, was the "Wishing Star"  The symbol was paterned after a piece of original artwork by noted sculpture Jose de Rivera. de Rivera was know for his abstract work that can be seen from Washington D.C.'s Mall to the site of the New York World's Fair.

   By the 1990's the Statler had gone through numerous less than stellar renovations and a name change. It's glory faded, few people remember that this building was once the toast of Dallas. It's final incarnation, the Grand Hotel,   closed in 2001. 
  Sometime during the numerous failed renovations and ownership changes, the scuplture was removed from it's perch on the second floor garden. The trail quickly got murky as recent owners say that the artwork was gone when they purchased the building. The whereabouts of 'The Wishing Star' are unclear to this day. 
   In the Spring of 2011, the Statler was purchased and slated for renovation and reopening. The once grand building will regain it's glory as a mid century masterpiece. It's front yard is the newly created Main Street Garden. All that will be missing from this restoration will be the return of it's once majestic symbol. 

Read More about the history of The Statler Hotel.

Downtown McKinney - What Took Me So Long?

    I have always been a fan of metroplex downtowns . Mesquite, Plano, Irving and Carrolton have all grown past their humble beginnings as a small town. But if you search, you can find their original downtowns. Some are quaint, some have become home to antique shops and a restuarant or two, but few could be called vibrant.

   But vibrant is exactly the word I would choose for downtown McKinney. I am bit embarrassed that I haven't found it before. (It is a pretty for from Fort Worth, where I lived for most of the past many years) But next to downtown Fort Worth, I can't think of another downtown that has this much to offer. I snapped a few pictures Saturday night when I discovered downtown McKinney for the first time.

The old Collin County Courthouse, now home to the McKinney Performing Arts Center

Sauce, one of the many restuarants to offer sidewalk seating
The lobby of the Grand Hotel. Their 2500 Square Foot Ballroom was once the Opera House of McKinney

This block offered 5 restuarants including one that offers live jazz

I love the name of this shop

The Palace Barber Shop. 4 chairs, no waiting. 

People of all ages go to downtown McKinney. It happened to be Prom Night for McKinney High School

Square Burger, a hip joint in an Art Deco building across from the courthouse.

Shopping on the Square, at Gray Living, one of many downtown.