Susan's Blog - Dallas-Fort Worth Weekend Road Trip 2017

Part 1: Dallas

One of the places that we wanted to be sure we visited while living in Texas was Dallas and Fort Worth, since the only place that Tom and I had been was the DFW Airport! The "statistical area" includes Dallas, Fort Worth, and Arlington (DFW or The Metroplex for short). With 7 million people as of the 2015 census estimate, it is the largest metropolitan area in Texas, the largest in the South, and the 4th largest in the US.

In 1839, Warren Angus Ferris surveyed the area around present-day Dallas and in 1841, John Neely Bryan established a permanent settlement near the Trinity River named Dallas. Dallas was formally incorporated as a city in early 1856. It became a business a trading center due to the construction of the railroads, and was a key link between the East and West in the US.

Our first stop within downtown relates back to the permanent settlement that John Neely Bryan established in 1841. Bryan was born in Tennessee and became a lawyer by passing the Tennessee Bar. But around 1833, he moved to Arkansas to become an Indian trader (no idea why really ... ). He visited the Dallas area in 1839 and decided that would be a good spot for a trading post. After returning to Arkansas to settle his affairs there, he returned to Texas in 1841. However, during that time, a treaty had been signed which made a trading post no longer a feasible (or profitable) venture. Instead, he established a permanent settlement there. This small log structure is a reconstructed model of the home he built there to start the settlement of Dallas.

Neely has a long history with the city of Dallas: he served as the postmaster, a storeowner, and a ferry operator. He was instrumental in getting Dallas to be the County seat in 1850 and donated the land for the county courthouse. He went on to be a delegate to the Texas State Democratic Convention in 1853. From then on, it becomes a slightly more jaded history :-) In 1855, he shot a man who insulted his wife and left town, trailing to Colorado and California. Eventually, he returned to Dallas and became actively involved in communities affairs, including becoming one of the directors of the Dallas Bridge Company, which built the first iron bridge across the Trinity River (1871-72). He also stood on the platform at the welcoming ceremonies for the Houston and Texas Central Railway when the first train pulled into town in mid-July 1872. By 1874, his mind was starting to fail and in 1877, he was admitted to the Texas State Lunatic Asylum where he died later that year.

From one rather morbid detail to another one ... One of the things that Dallas is known for (although not a happy thing), is the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Our next stop was Dealey Plaza and the 6th Floor Museum. Both of us knew quite a bit about this, but it was very interesting to actually see the location ... the area is a lot smaller than we expected. The museum went through lots of details including a bit of information about the presidency prior to coming to Dallas, the assassination itself, the investigation directly after with the witnesses, along with the multiple conspiracy theories and additional investigations.

The building to the left, mostly covered by the trees, was the Texas School Book Depository at that time. The window visible on the 2nd to the top floor (not the big tall windows on the top, but 1 level down) is the window from where Oswald shot at the motorcade as it passed by. Mind you ... the trees that you see were NOT that big and so there was a pretty clear view from the window to the motorcade route. Just by chance, Lee Harvey Oswald had gotten a job at the Book Depository in October after returning from Mexico City (Oswald had a very "colorful" life, to say the least ... if you want to read about it, here is a link to the Wikipedia article). This was before the actual route was publicized.

As the motorcade turned left from Houston to Elm street, it passed by the Book Depository. Here is where the details get interesting. Most witnesses recalled hearing 3 shots, although some said 4 and one guy that was trying to sell a book nearby said that there were 15 shots. The "generally accepted" version of the events is from the Warren Commission and even then, it isn't 100% clear. One bullet (either first 1st or 3rd one) is thought to have missed the motorcade and injured a spectator. We saw a documentary on TV a few weeks ago that investigated this and indicated that the first bullet hit a hanging traffic light, then hit a concrete curb, and then grazed the spectator's cheek. Nine months after the shooting, the FBI removed the curb and a spectrographic analysis revealed metallic residue consistent with that of the lead core in Oswald's ammunition. The witness stated that he was struck concurrent with the 2nd shot (which some people take as meaning he was hit by something related to the first shot (a fragment or piece of curb) that by then had struck the light and the curb twice).

In the next two pictures, you can see two white X's on the road (the first just over the trees). As JFK waved to the crows with his right arm raised up, a shot (supposedly the 2nd shot), hit him in the upper back, went through his neck (slightly damaging a spinal vertebra and the top of his right lung) and exited his throat nearly centerline just beneath his larynx, nicking the left side of his suit tie knot. This is the first X on the pavement. At this point, he leaned forward and left. Based on the "single bullet theory" from the Warren Commission, that same bullet then hit Texas Governor Connally (who was seated in front of JFK), entering through his back, exiting through his chest, then hitting his right wrist (shattering it), exiting again through his palm and entering a 3rd time in his left inner thigh (where it remained).

The second X on the road is the fatal shot. As JFK was leaning forward and to the left, the next shot entered the back of the head and exiting out the right front, causing blood and "fragments" (as they called them) to be spread around the interior of the car. From there, the cars sped towards the hospital where JFK was pronounced dead.

A filming of the assassination, called the Zapruder film, shot on a home movie camera became the key part of the investigations. By taking the film frame-by-frame, they were able to isolate a lot of the various movements and timing. Others were taking pictures and/or filming the motorcade, but his film has been called the most complete, and was taken from a really good position. In this picture, you can see the grassy area and the white structures. Zapruder was standing on top of one of the white pillars (not the top of the building), so he was slightly in front of, and higher than, the motorcade itself at the time of the shots. You can google for it and see the full film, including super slow-mo where you can see the fatal bullet hit.

Okay, well, now after the somewhat morbid part of this blog .. we move on to other things! Just around the corner is the Old Red Courthouse building, which now houses the Old Red Museum. It was built in 1890 in the Romanesque revivalist style. The red sandstone that makes up the majority of the building came from nearby Pecos, Texas while the blue granite which is also present comes from Arkansas. One of the things to see within the building are the stained glass windows (we did *not* go see them because we didn't want to pay the admission to go through the museum itself).

This is the Reunion Tower, which was finished in 1978. At 561 feet tall, it was one of the tallest structures in Dallas. The top of the building is surrounded by a superstructure constructed like a geodesic dome that has over 250 lights placed at all the joints. It makes for a dazzling sight at night, which we were lucky enough to see driving back from dinner.

From there, we grabbed a DART (Dallas Area Rapid Transit) train over to the Dallas Heritage Village. Dallas Heritage Village is home to a collection of 19th century pioneer and Victorian homes and commercial buildings in Texas, which have all been moved from somewhere else in North Central Texas. It got started when the original City Park was in decline due to being cut off from the main part of Dallas by the creation of Interstate 30. At about the same time, a historic plantation home was getting ready to be torn down. A group of women were determined to save this home give the park new life. They disassembled the house, moved it, and rebuilt it in the park, becoming the first of 21 buildings moved here. Now, it is like a tiny little old-West town, with a little "main street". We'll come back to these buildings later....

This is what started it all ... the Millermore house. In 1855, William Brown Miller started building this house. He was a farmer from Missouri who had moved here in 1847. He had started with a basic log house and gradually, had enough money to build this plantation home. Construction stopped for a time in 1856 when his wife died. In addition, he used milled lumber from East Texas, which took 8 weeks to be shipped across Texas. It was finally finished in 1862. The balcony above the door and the 2-story porch were added in 1912 by their daughter, Minnie.

This is a really interesting piece of history. The Brent Place dates back to 1876 and is an example of a house that was purchased "from a catalog". After the railroad arrived, you could pick a house from a catalog and have all of the required pieces shipped to you via rail, including the paint! Everything was pre-cut and ready to assemble, paint, and move in. This is known as Carpenter Gothic style, which takes Gothic Revival features like a steep gabled roof, decorative trim, and dormers, and adds in wood framing and batten siding.

This Farmstead home was built in 1845 and is very typical of the "dog drop" style. It has 2 rooms separated by a central breezeway, which provided natural ventilation. In 1852, the 2nd floor was added, along with 2 back rooms.

While I didn't take any pictures of the outside, I did get Tom sitting at an old desk from inside of the Renner School. This school building, built in 1888, is very typical of those constructed around that time. As you walk in, there are pegs for you to put coats and/or lunch pails on. Then a single, open room with desks. In the summer, the windows were all opened to provide ventilation and in the winter, heat came from a simple wood-fired stove situated in the middle of the room.

This lovely little Queen Anne style house belonged to David Colonel George, who worked his way from general store employee to owner of his own hardware store. In 1900, he hired a local carpenter to build this home for his new bride. The detailed trim work was made possible due to the invention and refinement of the electric scroll saw. This enabled mass-production of these types of decorative trim pieces that were then priced so that the middle class could afford them.

Down the main street were several typical stores and a bank building. Saloons existed in every town as immigrants from Europe made their way to the West and brought with them their recipes and traditions, including beer. In 1901, Dallas had some 200-odd saloons (1 for every 200 citizens). Saloons like this would serve local beer as well as imported beer (like Budweiser from St. Louis) and distilled spirits. We headed inside to split an ice-cold Root Beer and got to listen to some local musicians.

There are many other buildings in the Village, but we didn't take pictures of all of them ... we wanted to leave a bit for our blog-readers to visit the Heritage Village themselves!

We then walked across Interstate 30, through the Farmer's Market area, and walked by the Majestic Theater. Designed by John Eberson, the Majestic Theatre was constructed in 1920 as a vaudeville house. It is built in a Renaissance Revival style and seated 2,800 when it opened in 1921. The interior lobby and auditorium was of baroque design with decorative detailing consisting of Corinthian columns, egg-and-dart molding, cartouches, and Roman swags and fretwork. The lobby contained a magnificent black-and-white Italian-style Vermont marble floor and twin marble staircases. The auditorium featured a ceiling "sky" of floating clouds and mechanically controlled twinkling stars. It changed to purely a movie theater and then it was restored to be used as a performing arts center in 1976. The number of seats was reduced to a little over 1500 to enlarge the orchestra pit.

The Adolphus Hotel was opened in 1912. Built by the founder of the Anheuser-Busch company, it features a Beaux Arts style and was designed and constructed to establish the first grand and posh hotel in Dallas. Between 1912 an 1950, it underwent a series of expansions until it had a total of 1,200 rooms. During the 1980s, the Adolphus underwent a renovation, enlarging and modernizing the already-luxurious guestrooms but shrinking the total number of guestrooms to 428 to make the rooms more spacious. The Adolphus has been the host of many respected leaders of business, government and entertainment, including presidents, from Warren G. Harding to George H. W. Bush. Elizabeth II and Prince Philip also stayed at the hotel in 1991.

Around the corner from City Hall is Pioneer Plaza, which is home to a bronze sculpture of longhorns on a cattle drive. The cattle drive depicts the old Shawnee trail, which was the first route used to drive Texas longhorns through the state, destined for northern areas of the country, until it was replaced by the Chisholm Trail, which bypassed Dallas. There are 49 longhorns standing about 6 feet tall and are extremely detailed. There are three bronze statues of cowboys herding the group along a stream amid native landscaping.

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