Tanya Ragan, president of Wildcat Management, outside the Purse Building, which is available to tour Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The recently opened showroom has activated a long stagnant corner of the Historic West End.

The last time we told our readers about the re-do of the Historic Purse Building located at Elm and Record streets in downtown Dallas’ West End, Tanya Ragan and her firm, Wildcat Management, had just started the demolition process. Fast forward to yesterday, when Candy and I stopped into the Purse Building showroom to chat with Ragan about this building’s incredible transformation. 

The building — once a furniture warehouse and, in its previous use, an office building for the county — has revealed its stunning character as the process of restoration has uncovered, layer by layer, the beauty of what lies beneath the patina of neglect. Of course, we know that Ragan has accomplished other historic adaptive reuse projects, including the full-scale, brick-by-brick relocation of the Liberty State Bank building in the Dallas Farmers Market neighborhood. This building — and this neighborhood, even — is a study in comparison, though, as the building readies itself for tenants. 

For the full conversation with Ragan and exclusive new photos of the building’s incredible texture throughout its five available floors, jump!

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Tenth Street

Tenth Street Historic District (photo courtesy City of Dallas)

One of the only remaining intact Freedman’s Towns in the entire country, the Tenth Street Historic District in Oak Cliff’s importance to the community that still has roots there — as well as to the city — is something historians and preservationists feel they can’t stress enough.

The folk and period homes within the district were built in the late 19th and 20th centuries, with the city of Dallas tabulating 257 homes, four commercial buildings, three institutional buildings, and one cemetery within its boundaries.

“Just as Colonial Williamsburg tells the story of American Independence by immersing the visitor in and interpreting the built heritage of the era, so might a restored Tenth Street Freedman’s Town — on the very doorstep of one of the top public high schools in the nation — bring the story of African American Independence to life,” says the website Tenth Street Life. “Historic Tenth Street may well be the last, best chance in the nation to let the land the freedmen bought and paid for and the homes, businesses, and institutions they built on it with their own hands speak for themselves.”

It is believed that the first residents of the freedman’s town were slaves freed after the Civil War ended, many former slaves of Dallas cotton farmer William Brown Miller. A church was built in 1880, and a school opened six years later. More people arrived when T.L. Marsalis platted the neighborhood four years after that.

Restoring the district is the nation’s (and Dallas’) best and last opportunity to potentially create a history lesson that is immersive and riveting, telling the stories and dreams of the generations of Black families in Dallas as they gained their freedom, even through the dangerous and violent Reconstruction era, and beyond during the Jim Crow era, living to establish businesses that are still here today, acquiring land of their own, and building property ownership and wealth. (more…)

blue house

[Editor’s note: Merry Christmas! This week, we’re taking time off to focus on our loved ones, so we are sharing some of our favorite stories from this year. Keep an eye out for our top features from the archives as we rest and get ready for a brilliant 2019! Cheers, from Candy and the entire staff at CandysDirt.com!]

Bethany: It never ceases to fascinate me, how entire homes are moved from one spot to another – and what has long been known as the Blue House in the Cedars was a very painstakingly precious undertaking. I had the chance to talk to the man who will be restoring the home to its former glory, and get a better idea of what it takes to bring a long-neglected beauty back to life.

It took a bit, but the Blue House is almost completely safe now.

Almost, because windy weather has held up the removal process, so it sits on two lots — its original on Griffin, and the new lot at Beaumont and Browder.

It may take a while for the entire house to make the trek over to the new location, Dallas developer Mark Martinek told me last week.

We’re still moving it,” he said. “It’s kind of half on the original location, half on the new location.” (more…)

Victorian[Editor’s note: Merry Christmas! This week, we’re taking time off to focus on our loved ones, so we are sharing some of our favorite stories from this year. Keep an eye out for our top features from the archives as we rest and get ready for a brilliant 2019! Cheers, from Candy and the entire staff at CandysDirt.com!]

Bethany: When I saw the listing for this house, I knew it had to have a story. And when I met Patricia Simon, who painstakingly restored this Queen Anne Victorian with her husband Kyle, she had a treasure trove of information about the history, which is intermingled with Dallas’s own rich history. I also found it fascinating to see how they were able to combine modern sensibilities and desires with the period-specific aspects of the home.

When orthodontist Patricia Simon isn’t straightening the teeth of Lakewood residents, she tends to be restoring Dallas homes, including her home in the Peak Suburban Addition Historic District she restored with her husband, Kyle.

When the two finished their home, they turned their attention to an aging 1902 Queen Anne Victorian on Moreland Avenue that had become the victim of years of deferred maintenance and the march of time.

“It’s one of the few original Victorians left in the neighborhood,” she said one Sunday as she surveyed the completed work. “There are other old Victorians here, but many of them — not all — were moved here from other places.”

When the two began, they started by trying to suss out the original floor plan. There had been a couple of additions. When they purchased the home, it had been a single family dwelling, but still retained some of the changes from when it had been multifamily housing.

“In the thirties and forties, there was a housing shortage,” Simon explained. At one point, this was divided into four apartments, and those changes were still there.

“It was probably a boarding house,” she added.

The two also began determining what could be saved, and what would need to be replaced.  “I think it’s a nod to the past, but we also realize you have to live in the present,” Simon said of what emerged as they worked. (more…)

VictorianWhen orthodontist Patricia Simon isn’t straightening the teeth of Lakewood residents, she tends to be restoring Dallas homes, including her home in the Peak Suburban Addition Historic District she restored with her husband, Kyle.

When the two finished their home, they turned their attention to an aging 1902 Queen Anne Victorian on Moreland Avenue that had become the victim of years of deferred maintenance and the march of time.

“It’s one of the few original Victorians left in the neighborhood,” she said one Sunday as she surveyed the completed work. “There are other old Victorians here, but many of them — not all — were moved here from other places.”

When the two began, they started by trying to suss out the original floor plan. There had been a couple of additions. When they purchased the home, it had been a single family dwelling, but still retained some of the changes from when it had been multifamily housing.

“In the thirties and forties, there was a housing shortage,” Simon explained. At one point, this was divided into four apartments, and those changes were still there.

“It was probably a boarding house,” she added.

The two also began determining what could be saved, and what would need to be replaced.  “I think it’s a nod to the past, but we also realize you have to live in the present,” Simon said of what emerged as they worked. (more…)

blue house

The Blue House has begun its trek seven blocks away to a new lot, after years of neglect and a couple of years of hard work by preservationists (Photos courtesy Preservation Dallas).

It took a bit, but the Blue House is almost completely safe now.

Almost, because windy weather has held up the removal process, so it sits on two lots — its original on Griffin, and the new lot at Beaumont and Browder.

It may take a while for the entire house to make the trek over to the new location, Dallas developer Mark Martinek told me last week.

We’re still moving it,” he said. “It’s kind of half on the original location, half on the new location.” (more…)

neighborhoods

This railroad section house in the Dallas Heritage Village is home to an exhibit by the Dallas Mexican American Historical League, as railroad work attracted many workers of Tejano or Mexican heritage. The exhibit is part of “Neighborhoods We Called Home” — a unique collaboration. (Photos courtesy Dallas Heritage Village).

A new Dallas Heritage Village is hosting a collaborative look at the historic neighborhoods that supported the African American, Hispanic, and Jewish communities in Dallas.

The Dallas Jewish Historical Society, the Dallas Mexican American Historical League, and Remembering Black Dallas Inc. worked together to provide a look at the “Neighborhoods We Called Home,” delving as far back as early 1900s Dallas.

Each organization has curated oral histories, family memorabilia, art, fashions, and artifacts from their communities, and those collections are installed in corresponding structures at the village. Volunteers from each organization will also be on hand to act as docents for their exhibits. (more…)

14 - Exterior Final #1

It was first built in 1958 as the home of the Relief and Annuity Board of the Baptist General Convention. The building has a 15-story tower and a three-story side structure with a rooftop deck. It has all the hallmarks of a midcentury office building — sleek, striking, floor-to-ceiling marble panels in the lobby, panels on the facade, and aluminum windows throughout.

I had no idea about the history the first time I toured one of the penthouses at 511 N. Akard. One of the original owners, Andrew Foster, was getting ready to put his unit on the market. He took time to explain to me how the building was redeveloped by CitySquare into CityWalk@Akard.

12 - Interior Studio Apartment

CityWalk@Akard features 200 affordable housing units for the formerly homeless.

It’s a mixed-use building, and one of the primary uses is 200 apartments functioning as permanent supportive housing for the formerly homeless. The first three stories are office and commercial, housing CitySquare’s support services for CityWalk@Akard’s tenants as well as offices for UNT Dallas, and on top of the building are six penthouse units with unique, two-story floorplans.

According to John Greenan, executive director of Central Dallas Community Development Corporation, the project was essentially a gut rehab for floors four through 15. Main contractors included Key Construction, Central Dallas CDC, Brent A. Brown Associates, and WKMC Architects.

For tomorrow’s tour (You have your tickets, right? If not, go ahead and buy them here.) four of the six top-floor penthouse units will be open, including two owned by Greenan and his wife. the third floor common areas, including the open-air deck, will be open, too.

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