Historic Preservation recently ran across a collection of City Photographer prints in our storage and have made them available on our Flickr site. According to John Slate with the Dallas Municipal Archives, the City of Dallas had a staff photographer beginning in the early 1940s through the early 1980s. The position was eliminated due to severe job cuts associated with the statewide economic downturn and never refilled, but the images left behind give invaluable insight to the growth and change around Dallas during the 20th century.
Very few of the prints we found were dated. Many appear to be from the 1960s-1970s, with a few that are possibly older. They represent a dynamic time in Dallas history before the rapid growth of suburbs drew people away from the urban core. During these decades, many Dallasites still shopped at the downtown department stores and frequented various entertainment venues.
Structures that exist today served as landmarks that helped us identify many of the locations depicted in the images. Nevertheless, a few are still mysteries to us. In addition to this unique opportunity to look back at both existing and long-gone Dallas landmarks, we were fascinated by the number of business signs visible in the photographs. Some are well known establishments that were photographed extensively; others were not as well documented and may have existed for only a short time.
Check out our TOP FIVE favorite photos below, or view all of our scanned City Photographer prints here!
Historic Preservation Staff’s Top 5:
1300 Block of Commerce Street (Downtown Dallas)
This image shows the 1300 block of Commerce Street. The photographer is standing between the Magnolia Building and the Adolphus Hotel (1321 Commerce St) looking southwest. The buildings on the left side of the photograph were demolished for the Southwestern Bell (AT&T) complex. View the street today in Google Streetview.
We especially love the image of the Colony Club sign, a storied burlesque venue open from 1939 to 1973 and operated by Abe Weinstein. Jack Ruby apparently envied the success of the Colony Club and opened his own competing bar next door in 1960.
Other business signs visible in the photo include:
Hertz Rent a Car
Horse Shoe Bar
1500 Block of Commerce Street (Downtown Dallas)
This photo was taken a few blocks east from the previous photo. Several city of Dallas Landmark buildings are visible, including the Santa Fe Building No. 1 (constructed in 1924) and the Dallas Power and Light Building (portion shown was constructed in 1931), both on the left. The Southland Life Building and the Baker Hotel next door was demolished to make way for the Southwestern Bell (now AT&T) complex. The Magnolia Building is visible on the right. See the block today in Google Streetview.
Visible business signs include:
Dallas Power and Light Co.
S[illegible] Turf Bar
1800 Block Main Street (Downtown Dallas)
This photo shows the 1800-1900 blocks of Main Street and was taken in front of the Main Street side of the Titche-Geottinger building (now UNT). The buildings on the right side of the street between the Titche-Goettinger Building and the Wilson Building (barely visible) were demolished to make way for the Comerica Bank Tower. The photograph was taken in 1960, and was one of the few dated photographs in the set. View the block today in Google Streetview.
A remarkable number of business signs appear in the photo, including:
Busch & Sons Jewelers
Danny’s Shoe Repairing
Doc’s News Stand
Dreyfuss & Sons
Empire State Bank
Harper & Co Photography (aka Harper Studio)
Presbyterian Book Store
Texas State Grill
Zinke’s Shoe Repair
Zip One Hour Cleaners
[Illegible] Health Food Center
350 N. Ervay (Downtown Dallas)
This photograph was taken at the intersection of North Ervay Street and Pacific Avenue. The Spanish Revival style building on the left was demolished to make way for Thanksgiving Square. View the block today in Google Streetview.
Visible business signs include:
W.H. White Loans
The Idle Rich Lounge (Downtown Dallas)
The Idle Rich Lounge was originally constructed by Desco Tile and is an eclectic expression of Spanish Revival architecture. Architexas is now located in this building. According to Architexas Senior Historic Preservation Specialist Jay Firsching, the first and second floors have beautiful tile, columns, fireplaces and other samples of the tile sold by Desco. After Desco closed, the Idle Rich Lounge operated out of the building until the 1980s. View the building today in Google Streetview.
View the entire set of our scanned City Photographer prints here!
Don’t miss our related post: Rediscovered Slides of 1970s and 80s Dallas
NOTE: The Dallas Municipal Archives maintains the largest collection of City Photographer files. You can view a list of their collection here. Some files/photographs may be available online via the Portal to Texas History. Contact the Dallas Municipal Archives for more information.