Dallas Hall

Dallas Hall

Don’t reinvent the wheel, er, rotunda.

Dallas Hall is the architectural “face” of Southern Methodist University (SMU), with its rotunda featured in the school’s logo and practically every official video. But what many may not realize is that the 1915 building is modeled after the library at the University of Virginia, designed by Thomas Jefferson and inspired by the Pantheon in Rome. Dallas Hall was so-named in honor of the city’s financial contribution, and has housed everything from the expected offices and classrooms to a soda fountain, bookstore, and even a “secret” apartment rumored to have been for the university’s first football coach. The first and oldest building on SMU’s campus, Dallas Hall continues to be used for both student’s convocations and graduations.


For more information, visit: https://www.smu.edu/Dedman/About/Facilities

El Castile

El Castile

The land of at least one castle.

As the county seat, Decatur, Texas, boasts an impressive courthouse, but it was the Victorian mansion overlooking the sleepy town that caught my attention. Popularly known as El Castile, the home was built in 1883 by cattle rancher Daniel Waggoner and restored in 1931 by his son William Thomas (W.T.). Historians and photographers alike consider this one of the most significant (and more importantly, significantly intact) examples of period architecture in Texas. It’s easy to see why: the limestone, ironwork, and ornate cupola, or tower, are (apparently) not to be outdone by the grand staircase, stained glass, and marble bathrooms inside. Oh, and if you’re thinking to yourself that you’ve seen this mansion before, chances are you have: El Castile was the inspiration for the iconic “Reata” mansion in 1956’s Elizabeth Taylor and James Dean western film, Giant.


For more information, visit: http://www.wisehistory.com/waggoner_mansion.html

Hyatt Regency Dallas

Hyatt Regency Dallas

Clouds can make – or break – a picture.

Don’t let Reunion Tower distract you from the beauty that is Hyatt Regency Dallas. Built in 1979, the varied-level glass exterior (30 stories at its tallest point) has been described by architecture enthusiasts as “futuristic” and “glittery.” A 2013 hotel renovation included updates to the over 1,000 guest rooms and also incorporated nods to the city’s (and property’s) history. Like other properties I’ve featured, the Hyatt Regency was once a pop culture icon, featured in the opening credits of television series Dallas.


For more information, visit: https://www.hyatt.com/en-US/hotel/texas/hyatt-regency-dallas/dfwrd

Thurber Smokestack

Thurber Smokestack

The company giveth and the company taketh away.

The thought of a company owning a town (and all the schools, grocers, banks, and churches therein) sounds like the makings of a good Steven Seagal movie. But in 1903, Thurber, Texas, made history as the first city in the United States to be an entirely “closed shop,” or unionized, company town. Thurber had been established by Texas and Pacific Coal Company in 1888 as part of the company’s coal mining operations in the area, although the town’s historical impact is most felt from its brick plant, the products of which which line the streets of the Fort Worth Stockyards and Austin’s Congress Avenue. With the transition from coal to oil in locomotive engines, the mines closed in 1921 and the brick plant a decade later. The boomtown quickly became a ghost town, with Texas and Pacific selling off homes and businesses for the lumber. Although the remaining architecture continues to dwindle with each passing year, the 1908 brick smokestack (part of Thurber’s coal power plant) remains visible to passers-by on Interstate 20.


For more information, visit: http://www.thurbertexas.com/history/

Old Red Courthouse

Old Red Courthouse

If at first you don’t get it right, try again. (And again.)

The 19th century wasn’t very nice to courthouses. The wood timbers that made up the frames were already susceptible to fires; add oil lamps and arson, and you’ve got yourself a combustible situation. Many historical courthouses have been at least partially (if not entirely) rebuilt, including Texas’ Dallas County Courthouse. Affectionately known as “Old Red,” the red sandstone building pictured was completed in 1892 in the Romanesque Revival architectural style. It was the fifth courthouse constructed on the site, with both the 1872 and 1881 structures succumbing to fire. A larger, more modern courthouse was built on an adjacent lot in 1966, and in 2007, Old Red was repurposed as a museum showcasing Dallas’ political and socioeconomic history.


For more information, visit: https://www.oldred.org/

Pioneer Cemetery

Pioneer Cemetery

I love stumbling across history in my own backyard.

Did you know that there’s a centuries-old cemetery in the middle of downtown Dallas? (Yeah, me neither.) Directly adjacent to City Hall and the Convention Center, what is now known as Pioneer Cemetery is actually the combination of four burial grounds dating back as early as 1849. I literally stumbled across this piece of forgotten history when wandering around the city one Saturday at dusk. As you can see from the photo, Dallas’ modern skyscrapers loom over the final resting places of many of Dallas early leaders, war heroes, lodge members, and unassuming settlers alike.


For more information, visit: https://dallascityhall.com/departments/sustainabledevelopment/historicpreservation/Pages/Pioneer-Cemetery.aspx

The Schluter House

The Schluter House

This bright home has a dark history.

So does the town. Jefferson, located about 20 miles west of the Louisiana border, is considered one of the most haunted places in Texas, and for good reason. A northerner named George W. Smith and at least two of the four freed slaves traveling with him were murdered by a local mob following the end of the Civil War. Accounts vary, but local history has it that one of the freed slaves escaped and was pursued to an outbuilding on the Schluter property, where he was later hung. The Colonial-style mansion on the site was built in 1856 by one of the first six settlers in Jefferson, F.A. Schluter. Although privately owned, the home is a featured stop on the Historic Jefferson Ghost Walk.


For more information, visit: http://jeffersonghostwalk.com/