Ahead of this Saturday’s Preservation Dallas Architectural Tour, I’m counting down the days, featuring my favorites as we get closer to the event. Yesterday I chatted about the Parks Estate, an iconic East Dallas building that was carefully restored after it was converted to a YMCA in 1957. Today we look at Parkland Hospital and Nurses Quarters.
If you want to see some incredible historic architecture this weekend, go and buy your tickets to the Preservation Dallas Spring Architectural Tour today. Tickets are $35 for Preservation Dallas members and $50 for non-members.
Me? I got a personal tour with some communications and facilities staff last week, walking the route you’ll be tracing if you’re smart and buy a ticket to the tour. Now, I moved to Dallas in 2005, just ahead of Crow Holdings’ purchase of the Parkland Hospital campus. I really had no personal or historical context of the estate, just that it was really old and used to be the county hospital.
It was a very big deal for people in preservation circles, as a public building was about to be sold to a private entity. All of the foofaraw surrounding the sale of the building was lost on me. That was in 2006.
But this historic Dallas landmark has such an incredible story behind it, and I feel a little silly that I didn’t take notice before. It was my very first time touring Parkland Hospital last week, which is now headquarters for Crow Holdings. The building, from the front, looks just like it did when it was built in 1913. Most Dallasites will recognize the front and its characteristic two-story portico. The brick facade and cast stone pillars, rails, and plinths were all carefully restored. It’s truly a magnificent feat, considering the state of the building when Crow Holdings bought it.
Looks more like Detroit architectural ruins porn, doesn’t it? And yet, this whole campus was sitting fallow in the middle of a very busy area of Uptown. While the whole area reeked of opportunity, Crow Holdings stayed true to their word and not only completely restored the main hospital and Nurses Quarters, but also made sure that the buildings constructed on the campus would complement the existing historic structures in both style and period-appropriate design.
The results are breathtaking. Good, Fulton, and Farrell added onto the back of the main building, encasing the rear H-shaped wings of the hospital with a modern, two-story, atrium style addition that has a glass curtain wall shaded by a brise soleil of tubular metal dropping down from the roof. It’s a stark contrast from the exterior of the historic building, which has brick cladding, cast stone plinths, and dentil designs tracing the roofline. It feels very much like a Greek revival, but inside it is far more formal than what you’d expect a former municipal building to project.
When you enter the main hospital building from the front, take note of the outstanding brick and stonework inside the portico — this is the original brick from the building, just re-grouted and cleaned. Inside the lobby, gaze upward to see the interior columns and balconies, all of which have original stone and ironwork. Just across from the front doors are glass cases, inside which you can find incredible relics from the hospital’s heyday. A nurse’s uniform, a yearbook, several photos and even antique medical implements are all arranged inside so you can get a better feel for just how the building once operated. There’s even an old time capsule in there, as well as several photos of day-to-day life at the hospital
While the main building is a work of art in itself, it is also home to several fantastic paintings and sculptures, including pieces by Auguste Rodin, which litter the campus.
As you make your way through the modern addition, look behind you to see just how the architects merged the old and new into one cohesive interior design. Outside, the modern addition takes on an altogether different feel. Beyond the patio, you can get a clear view of the whole Parkland Campus, with the modern buildings to the west.
As you travel throughout the campus, make sure to watch where you step — several plaques line the walkways, calling out points of interest. Leaving the main building, take a right toward the stone fireplace, which was constructed of granite blocks from Upstate New York, but managed to make its way to the Parkland Campus via Berlin.
Now, when you’re touring the Nurses’ Quarters, go ahead and take a deep breath before you enter the rear of the building. Now, think back to what it would have been like to be a trained nurse, living on the Parkland Hospital campus, back in 1922, when the building was first constructed. Now open the doors and be transported. There is no real way to tell you how amazed I was by the long, cozy hallway lined with hanging lamps. It almost felt as if I was traveling down a portal, perhaps facing a ritual initiation. Portraits line the hallway, too, giving you the feeling of elders watching over your shoulders as you pass through.
At the end of the hallway is a two-story rotunda, anchored on one side by a double fireplace. Behind that deliciously warm fire is another bastion of treasures in the library nook. Look down and see the signatures of notable political figures and celebrities, including George W. Bush and Mitt Romney. In the glass-encased shelves you can spot all sorts of curios, including a piece of the curtain from the Ford Theater found in the hands of Abraham Lincoln after his assassination.
As you exit the Nurses Quarters, don’t miss the opportunity to check out “The American Experiment at Old Parkland,” which is something of a living historical exhibit outside the complementary structures on the west side of campus. It consists of several sculptures and carvings paying tribute to our country’s Founding Fathers. The works, some of which are quotes embedded into the sides of the buildings, are intended to serve as reminders of the ideals on which our country was founded — limited government, individual rights, and the rule of law.
You can’t ignore the central sculpture in the roundabout — Eos, the winged goddess of the dawn, sitting atop a 40-foot obelisk with figures of the Enlightenment who inspired our Founding Fathers. Tributes include Adam Smith, John Locke, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison.
It’s such a tremendous treasure, seeing how the old buildings mix so well with the new construction, some of which was finished just last year!
See it for yourself with new eyes on Saturday during the Preservation Dallas Spring Architectural Tour. Buy tickets right here.