By Jon Anderson
Correction: In last week’s column, I made a rookie mistake of believing a friend without checking (he’s been flogged and I’ve been humbled). The history of the “21” building at 3883 Turtle Creek is far more interesting than the story I was told about the 21 name reflecting the number of stories. In fact, as pointed out by reader/commenter and 21 resident John Rogers, 21 refers to the number of acres of the original plot. Development began in the 1880s as the site of Holy Trinity University which in the 1940s became Jesuit High School before being sold for the development of “21” and other commercial uses. The building was originally envisioned as low-income HUD housing. But when the original developer was arrested for skimming money from the project, ownership reverted to HUD before changing ownership again and being converted to condos.
On with the show…
The “Sticks” (the Pink Wall)
The Athena and Preston Tower were built in what was considered “the sticks” back in the day. If you’re under 60, you may not have heard of “Behind the Pink Wall.” It was a marketing phrase that made its way into local parlance. Today, the “pink wall” is a low, curvy faded beige brick wall you’d imagine Humpty Dumpty to preside over. It runs along the north side of Northwest Highway from the Athena to Preston Road and rounds the corner heading north for a bit. Locals think of it as a shrine. Practically, it’s a barrier keeping crazy folks from driving into building lobbies (and they do plow into the wall with some frequency).
Both Athena and Preston Tower were to have had two towers each. Preston Tower was to have had a second oppositely-curved tower also facing Northwest Highway. The Athena would have gotten a matching big-box tower as well (which a friend calls the Bob Newhart building). I assume interest wasn’t strong enough to make the second towers viable. By the time condos rolled around, I’m guessing the moment had passed. Today a pair of forgettable low rises occupy the space.