Friday, March 21, 2014

A Spring Evening in Downtown Dallas

My wife's birthday is on Tuesday, but we decided to go out for dinner Friday night, since trying to do something during the week can be tough.  With a little extra time to kill thanks to my office closing a little early on Fridays, we decided to take a walk around downtown Dallas to work up an appetite before heading to dinner on the edge of Uptown.  Downtown used to be a place best avoided unless you had business there, especially after 5:00, but the city has done a good job of cleaning the area up and making downtown a place people actually want to visit.  Learn more about our pleasant stroll on a beautiful Friday evening after the jump.

This time of year (from mid-March to late April) is one of the few times of year where the weather in Dallas is actually pleasant, and as the picture above shows, this day was no exception.  My office is at Thanksgiving Tower, on the corner of Elm and Akard Streets, and we decided to start by walking down Elm towards Dealey Plaza on the west end of downtown.  On the way, you can catch a couple of glimpses of the glimmering Fountain Place skyscraper, a distinctive piece of the Dallas skyline.
A few blocks to the west is the Old Red Courthouse, the old Dallas County courthouse built in 1892 (the county courthouse is now located in a nondescript office building a couple of blocks away).  The building today houses a museum highlighting the history of Dallas County.  Also in the park across the street is the John Neely Bryan log cabin.  Bryan is considered the founder of the city of Dallas, though apparently, whether or not he actually lived in the cabin is a topic of debate.

One block west is Dealey Plaza.  Dealey Plaza was originally constructed as a city park by the Works Progress Administration in 1940, but of course, the world knows the plaza for a much more sinister reason - the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.  Amazingly, in all the years I've lived in Dallas, and for that matter, worked downtown, I've never been down here.  On the east end of Dealey Plaza is a small monument built to commemorate the construction of the park.
Also visible from here are a small flower garden, and a frontal view of the Old Red Courthouse.

Looking west from Dealey Plaza, you can see the historic triple underpass, where Commerce, Main, and Elm Streets pass under the railroad tracks and Stemmons Freeway.

"X" marks the spot - an X was originally placed in this spot on Elm Street by the Dallas Police Department in November 1963, to mark where President Kennedy was struck (the street has been repaved multiple times since then, but the X has been replaced each time).

Reunion Tower and the Hyatt Regency Hotel in the background.  A sports arena, Reunion Arena, used to be located next to Reunion Tower, but has since been torn down.  Why the name "Reunion", you might ask?  In 1855, a group of French, Belgian, and Swiss settlers founded a community called "La Reunion" about 3 miles away along the Trinity River.  It was originally intended as a socialist utopian colony, but 5 years later, it withered away and was incorporated by Dallas.

A closer view of the triple underpass.
Looking back to the east at the Dallas County Records Building and the Old Red Courthouse.  The office building behind the Records Building is Bank of America Tower, currently the tallest building in Dallas.

A map of the area, in front of the Texas Schoolbook Depository, now the Sixth Floor Museum (I couldn't get a good shot of the building itself due to sun angles at this hour).

The famous, or infamous, Grassy Knoll, to the east of Elm Street and just southwest of the Texas Schoolbook Depository.  Also known as the source of Kramer's "Back, and to the left!" joke in Seinfeld's spoof of the movie "JFK".  The current road sign is not the original that was located here in 1963.  That sign was removed under mysterious circumstances shortly after the assassination - but oddly enough, neither the FBI, the Dallas Police, the Dallas streets department, or TxDOT acknowledge removing the sign, or where it ended up (an effort was made to locate the sign to add it to a historical exhibit for the 50th anniversary of the JFK assassination).

One last view of Dealey Plaza and Old Red.

With that, we only had about 35 minutes until our dinner reservations, so we started heading back east towards Uptown.  On the way, you pass through the West End Historic District.  Several old warehouse buildings have been converted to new uses, mostly restaurants.  This is a popular area before and after Stars and Mavericks games, since the American Airlines Center is only about a 10 minute walk away.

Our last stop before dinner was downtown's newest addition, Klyde Warren Park, unique in that it was built as a deck park on top of Woodall Rogers Freeway below.  I thought the park was something of a boondoggle when it was first planned, but it's actually turned out to be popular attraction for both office workers and downtown visitors.

Given the park's proximity to several office buildings and the Arts District, the park has become a magnet for food trucks.
I'd bet this fountain is a popular place for kids to play during the summer, but not so much on a 75 degree spring day.  Meanwhile, some salsa lessons were about to start in the covered area.

We finally made it to dinner after that, but from our window seat, we could see an old trolley car pass by.  DART (Dallas Area Rapid Transit) has refurbished some old streetcars to run up and down McKinney Avenue in Uptown.  These are the very same streetcars that used to ply Dallas' streets before the freeways were built in the 1950s.  They're free to ride, and come in handy if you want to go restaurant and/or bar hopping.  Just beware, the streetcars have no A/C, which can be a bit of a drawback when it's hot outside.

So you might be wondering at this point, why am I showcasing my own city in a travel blog.  Well, no doubt some of you reading this blog will find yourself in Dallas, either on business or visiting family, so hopefully this will come in handy.  But I think it's also useful to remember that even if you're a world traveler, there's some very cool stuff to see in the places we live in, which often don't cost a dime to see, except maybe for a bus ticket or a few bucks for parking.  I serve this up as a reminder not to forget to look local once in awhile.

1 comment:

  1. I love this, some fantastic photos of my hold hometown where I grew up.

    Truth be told, every time I do return home, I'm continually impressed by the number of changes that have taken place in the area. I remember back to the Laura Miller days, there were so many campaign efforts attempting to revitalize the downtown area. The closing of the West End market place was truly sad to see, but I'm happy to hear that some of the warehouses are being converted back into residential property, and hence finding some use.

    I also am impressed by how successful Klyde Warren Park has been. For fathers day, I went with my folks to LARK on the Park for a beer tasting and pairing with food. It was in June, it's should go if you enjoy beer. And the doggie parks and the food trucks make me happy!

    You have such a wealth of information for all things Dallas and all of its historical architectural sites. Your posts should be shared to a wider audience.