Editor’s note: This content originally appeared in a 2020 e-newsletter.
Contrary to popular sentiment, Dallas doesn’t tear down all of its most important historic buildings. Take the Knights of Pythias Temple at Elm and Good Latimer, built in 1916 for the Grand Lodge of the Colored Knights of Pythias. It was the first major building in Dallas financed by Black-owned banks and designed by a Black architect. The architect, William Sydney Pittman, was a Tuskegee Institute graduate and happened to be married to Booker T. Washington’s daughter Portia. The building held three stories of office space for Black-owned businesses, including our city’s first Black surgeon and dentist. The City of Dallas granted it landmark status in 1989. It sat vacant for years after a bank tenant moved out in the mid-1990s. But now the temple is back to its original Dallas-glam glory as The Pittman Hotel, whose name pays tribute to the architect. It’s a preservation achievement to be proud of. (AIA Dallas)
THE BACK STORY
True crime: One of the most well-known events of the true-crime genre happened in West Dallas in 1976. Dallas Police officer Robert Wood was shot during a traffic stop near what was then a Burger King at 3415 Hampton Road. Errol Morris’ 1988 documentary about the case not only exonerated the man wrongfully convicted of capital murder in that case, it also ushered in a now-classic style of documentary filmmaking. (More)
DEEP ELLUM BLUES
Name a more iconic bluesman than Robert Johnson. We’ll wait. On June 19-20, 1937, the Mississippi native recorded 13 tracks at 508 Park Ave. in Downtown Dallas, including “Hellhound on My Trail,” “Love in Vain” and “Me and the Devil Blues.” Johnson is as mysterious as Jesus. There are three known photos of him. He left 29 songs. And he died a little more than a year after his Dallas sessions at age 27. Johnson’s triple threat of songwriting, singing and guitar-playing, put down for posterity here in D-town, reshaped music forever. (Central Track)
Preservation Dallas began efforts to save 508 Park in 2009. It was constructed as the Warner Brothers Exchange Building in 1930. Producer Don Law set up Brunswick Records there, and it was open for only a couple of years but also recorded Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys, among other recordings that stood the test of time. The Stewpot and Presbyterian Dallas have been working to renovate the building and the adjacent Encore Park for several years. (Culture Map)