Preserving Our History: The Dallas Historical Society And The Hall of State

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Dallas Historical Society
Photo by Jim Olvera

Today we’re exploring the Hall of State and the Dallas Historical Society. When I began these historic preservation posts, it was with multiple intentions.

I primarily want to educate readers about why historic homes should be preserved. Featuring great homes for sale and explaining how they have been updated, without losing their character, is also important. But I also want to bring you historic buildings, such as the Hall of State in Dallas’ historic Fair Park, tell you their stories, and hopefully engage you to dig deeper on your own, or become further involved in historic preservation organizations.

The Hall of State has always held a special place in my heart. When I first moved to Dallas, I was a photography stylist. Stylists are asked to do challenging things by creative directors and photographers and expected to deliver on their requests immediately. So, when I was told, “Karen, find us a place that will double as the United Nations,” I leapt into action.

Dallas Historical Society
Photos: Dallas Historical Society

Living in East Dallas, I was familiar with Fair Park almost from the moment I moved here. I figured it was a good place to start as it had big imposing buildings. I didn’t realize I’d hit it out of the park when I walked into the Grand Hall of the Hall of State Building. If you have not seen it in person, photos do not do it justice. It’s an awe-inspiring room. It was a perfect stand-in for the United Nations, and I scored plenty of points for finding it.

Dallas Historical Society

Fast forward to my D Magazine years of styling fashion, and I was invited to a grand black-tie event there. At night, The Grand Hall is simply magical. And of course, it’s a brilliant place to watch the annual Fair Park fireworks display.

An Art Deco Masterpiece

This Art Deco masterpiece was designed by Houston architect Donald Barthelme for the Texas Centennial Exposition in 1936 to commemorate the history of Texas.

The Dallas Historical Society website offers the following wonderful details:

At $1.2 million, it was the most expensive structure per square foot ever built in Texas at the time.  The focal point of the building is the magnificent Great Hall (also known as the Hall of Six Flags) with Joseph Renier’s gold medallion, cathedral-like 46-foot sky-lighted ceilings, and mosaic tiles, Eugene Savage’s Byzantine-style murals, and George Davidson’s hand-stenciled ceiling.  Additionally, there are four rooms in the two wings of the building, each with distinctive interiors that are dedicated to the economic, environmental, and cultural differences of the geographic regions (North, South, East, and West) of Texas. These rooms include magnificent murals, statues, and carvings depicting various lives in Texas’ history by renowned artists such as Tom Lea, Olin Travis, Arthur Starr Niendorff, Eugene Savage, and James Owen Mahoney, Jr.

As I said, it’s magical. But it would not be as magical if it were not for the Dallas Historical Society, which keeps it running like a well-oiled machine and preserves our history in engaging ways for all ages.
Dallas Historical Society

Preserving Our History

The Dallas Historical Society was founded in 1922 and they have been stewards of the Hall of State since 1938. They are a truly phenomenal group of dedicated preservationists. In addition to the obvious uses of the hall for photoshoots, weddings, and parties, the organization hosts educational programs serving 15,000 students a year. Their oral history collection must be second to none. If you want to know about the music scene that began in Deep Ellum, civil rights, women’s history, or a myriad of other topics, this is the place. There are teacher resources, homeschooling programs, and specialty programs that have included a Fair Park Sensory-Friendly Morning and Girls in Politics!

It makes me want to be a kid again.
Dallas Historical Society

Special Exhibits

You don’t have to be a kid to take advantage of the Hall of State and all that the Dallas Historical Society offers. There is a collection of nearly 3 million items that help to make history relevant. Exhibits have included Texas Cinema, Historic American Pop, The Battle of San Jacinto, and a pertinent exhibition on A Shared Border. If you are a dedicated researcher, make an appointment to browse the G. B Dealey Library.

Public programs include an entertaining series of regular events. I particularly like the Pour Yourself into History evenings. Who wouldn’t want to learn about Dallas’s history over cocktails? I can assure you I’m going to become a regular! There is a free Brown Bag Lecture Series with topics that are guaranteed to pique interest. Take, for instance, Secret Dallas: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure. And you thought history was boring? Never! There are evening lectures, historic city tours, and special events. Be sure to mark your calendars for the upcoming High Tea in The Great Hall. It’s a great way to kick off holiday celebrations or entertain out of town guests.

 

I’m thrilled to report that the City of Dallas realizes what a gem they have and their 2017 bond package funded renovations to ensure the building is restored to its 1936 glory in late 2020.

If you are interested in Dallas history, take advantage of all the Dallas Historical Society has on offer and pay a visit to one of the most incredible buildings in town!


Karen Eubank is the owner of Eubank Staging and Design. She has been an award-winning professional home stager and writer for over 25 years. Karen teaches the popular Staging to Sell class and is the creator of the online course, The Beginners Guide to Buying Wholesale. Her love of all dogs, international travel, good chocolate, great champagne, and historic homes knows no bounds. Her father was a spy, so she keeps secrets very well!

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Karen Eubank

Karen is the owner of Eubank Staging and Design. She has been an award-winning professional home stager for more than 25 years and a professional writer for over 20 years. Karen is the mother of a son who’s studying for his masters at The New England Conservatory of Music. An ardent animal lover, she doesn’t mind one bit if your fur baby jumps right into her lap.

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