Historic Landmarks in Dallas

Dallas Texas has quite an interesting past as it seemed to be an area everybody wanted but one that just wanted to run itself. Originally the area was settled by the Caddo Native Americans but that didn’t stop Spain and France from declaring the territory as theirs, simultaneously. Although it then officially become only a Spanish territory and the northern boundary of New Spain. It stayed under Spanish rule until 1821 when Mexico declared itself free and the region became part of Mexico until 1836. For about 10 years Texas was its own country and known as the Republic of Texas, but then became a part of the United States of America.

With such a long and storied history it’s no wonder that the city is full of historic landmarks and interesting pieces of history at every turn.

Old Red Courthouse

The Old Red Courthouse in Dallas was built in 1892 in a Romanesque style complete with turrets and wyverns. The wyverns atop the courthouse may look like gargoyles at first glimpse but they’re actually wyverns which are serpent like but have two legs. Of the original four wyverns two have been removed and reconstructed but two of them are the originals. The clock tower stands 90 feet high and is newly re-installed after almost a century after it was removed for restoration. The courthouse itself originally featured six courtrooms but now only the Hatton W. Sumners Restored Courtroom remains. The grand staircase has completely been restored to its original glory and pieces of it are actually from the original 1892 piece. Make sure to pay close attention to the beautiful stained glass windows or lunettes, few remain but there were once more than 100 of them. The courthouse underwent a huge restoration from 2001 to 2007 and now is ready to greet the public again. The Old Red Courthouse features a museum with local historical artifacts. The first floor is dedicated to special exhibits. The second floor is more interactive with touch screens that invite guests to learn more about Dallas County.

Dealey Plaza Historic District

Unfortunately Dealey Plaza is probably the most well known section of Dallas and its more of an infamous notoriety than anything else. Dealey Plaza is the site of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination and only of only two extant presidential assassination sites in the United States. Dealey Plaza is a city park that was completed in 1940 and named for George Bannerman Dealey, a noted newspaperman and civic leader. The plaza is lined with monuments that pay tribute to a number of local VIPs. The entire plaza is a national historic landmark but the School Book Depository probably draws the most attention. It was on the sixth floor of the school book depository that Lee Harvey Oswald staked out the presidential motorcade before taking that nefarious shot. The sixth and seventh floors of the School Book Depository have now been transformed into the Sixth Floor Museum which pay tribute to President Kennedy. Another noted feature of Dealey Plaza Historic District is the grassy knoll, a small sloping hill that is where witnesses to President Kennedy’s assassination have claimed to see another gunman.

Adolphus Hotel

If you’re visiting the Dallas area then the Adolphus Hotel is a great place to stay as this building is a registered national historic landmark. Built by Adolphus Busch, the founder of Anheuser-Busch, the Adolphus opened in 1912 and is an excellent representation of Beaux Arts style. For quite a while this 22 story building was the tallest structure in the state of Texas at 312 feet. Many famous people have stayed at the Adolphus Hotel and it remains one of the most popular hotels to stay at today. The rooms underwent an $80 million renovation in the 1980s and the update has made the hotel one of the favorite by most noted travel magazines.

Majestic Theatre

The Majestic Theatre is the last remaining and functioning theater in Dallas’s Theater Row and it also is part of the Harwood Historic District. The building was constructed in 1920 and is an excellent example of the Renaissance Revival style which was very popular at the time. The current structure is not the original Majestic, the first one burned down in 1916 and this one was built to replace it. Originally the interior was just as elaborate, if not more so, than the exterior with a baroque design aesthetic, Corinthian columns, roman swags and fretwork and an Italian-style Vermont marble floor with twin marble staircases. The auditorium with its floating cloud sky and mechanically controlled twinkling stars, two balconies, crystal chandeliers and marble fountain made it all that much more impressive to visitors. The Majestic Theatre was turned over to the city in 1976 and in 1977 it became the first Dallas building on the National Register of Historic Places even though it did not reopen to the public until 1983. Today you can catch a live production at the Majestic and enjoy its historic splendor at the same time.

Wilson Building

The historic Wilson Building in downtown Dallas was constructed in 1904 and designed to replicate the Paris Grand Opera House. The hotel was named for J.B. Wilson who interestingly enough died in the Adolphus Hotel, another national historic landmark. The building originally served as home to the Tiche-Goettinger Department Store and served that purpose until 1926 when the department store moved. The building then housed an H.L. Green Store until 1997. It was during this time period, in 1979, when it was added to the National Register of Historic Places. In 1999 the building was transformed into 143 different loft-style apartments and is one of the most popular places to live in the downtown Dallas area.

This is just a brief list of the historic landmarks in Dallas, Texas and there are so many more to explore, some are open to the public and some aren’t so do a little research before you start banging on doors. Also Dallas is divided into historic districts, you may want to organize your exploration of the historic landmarks by district and tackle one area at a time.
Creative Commons License Photo credit: chascar