Thursday, September 13, 2012

Redos of Old Dallas Landmarks in Days Gone by Usually Wound Up As a Mess

Demolition crews are busy down on Main Street tearing apart Dallas’ first skyscraper. 

When the old Praetorian Building opened in 1907, it was the tallest tower in the Southwest with (gasp) 15 floors. Folks paid a quarter just to go up on the top floor and take a look.
More impressive than the staggering height was the outside of the $800,000 office building. Every inch of the Praetorian Building’s exterior was covered in classical architectural details — granite pillars, terra cotta detailing, gold ornamentation and such.
The old building was stripped to its bare bones and covered in a “modern” facade of yellow and white checkerboards. After the building sat empty for more than a decade, the current owners decided the only thing they could do was tear the mess down.
Downtown’s once beautiful Cotton Exchange building on St. Paul Street — designed by legendary local architects Lang & Witchell — also got a 1950s full metal jacket that covered up all its fine brick and stone exterior. In the 1990s, investors knocked it down to make room for a parking lot.

And the even older Cotton Exchange on Akard Street had the same remodeling treatment. It’s gone, too.

Other downtown buildings that had mid-century makeovers have been left sad derelicts.

The century-old Butler Building across from Dallas City Hall lost its original Romanesque-style facade to a dreadful 1960 redo. After several failed redevelopment plans, it’s still vacant.

The old 1025 Elm Building — built as an office tower for the Texas & Pacific Railway — languished for years after a 1959 remodeling saddled it with a forgettable metal and glass skin. It’s finally being converted into a Hilton hotel.
They were trying to compete with all the new developments,” Doty said. “You had property owners downtown trying to modernize their buildings and make them look new and sleek.”
Alas, today’s new and sleek lasts for only a flash, then we are left with something far less.

Steve Brown
Real Estate Editor
Dallas Morning News