Thursday, April 17, 2014

Update: Fort Worth's Forgotten Park to Reopen


Note: This Story was originally published in 2011. This past week, the city of Fort Worth announced that they are taking bids to restore and reopen the park, hopefully by 2016. 


   Can you have a city park designed by a prominent landscape architect and have nobody notice when it closes?  The answer is yes, which is easy to understand when you consider that few people have ever noticed that the park even existed. What makes this story so unbelievable is that the park is on a busy downtown corner across the street from the Tarrant County Courthouse.



   Heritage Park was opened on the corner of Belknap and Main in downtown Fort Worth to commemorate the founding of the original military post in 1849. The park, designed by noted architect Lawrence Halprin, opened in 1976. It featured numerous water features intermingled with shaded paths and a cantilevered walkway built over the bluff overlooking the Trinity River.

  But even though the park was located on a busy intersection, it was one with little foot traffic. Few people noticed Heritage Park. And even fewer noticed in 2007 when the park fell into disrepair and was closed.


   It's been three years since the park has closed. But there is little public uproar to reopen the grounds. I contacted the city of Fort Worth and received a reply from Fernando Costa, the Assistant City Manager.  He wrote that the city is working with Downtown Fort Worth Inc. to raise funds to repair and upgrade the park. But in the past three years, little has been done. Meanwhile, the park is slowly being taking over by nature.

The cantilevered walkway can still be seen on the bluff above the Trinity, even though the trees  have begun to block the view. 

The Water Wall behind chain link.

An ironic caption 'The Vision Endures" on the sign outside the park

A Water Wall that includes the map of the original settlement sits behind chain link.

An urban oasis on the other side of the fence.

A diminished view of the park from the Main Street Street Bridge.


Heritage Park on North Main Street at the top of the Trinity River Bridge



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Monday, December 23, 2013

NEW Country 96.3 KSCS' Christmas Gift that keeps on giving



   A few years ago, along with Southwest Airlines, we at 96.3 KSCS started something called "Bring a Lone Star Home."  Each Christmas season, we ask families to tell us about a loved one that can't make it home for the holidays, usually due to lack of finances.

   I love calling the families and surprising them, telling them we are going to bring home their son, daughter, parent, soldier or long lost relative. It is by far the best thing we do each year.

   Today, I received this lovely letter passed, on by Mariah, whose father had a tough year but is coming home for Christmas.  I wanted to share it with you.

Merry Christmas,

Hawkeye


I wanted to share a letter from my paw! Thank you, Hawkeye and Terry!

"GOD is so good. All of us have had the joy of his grace at one time or another.
Today I experienced his grace and blessings again.
When I moved to Ft. Worth years ago , I found a country station that was just awesome.

The station was KSCS RADIO FM in Dallas. My favorite show was the Terry Dorsey show which featured Terry and his sidekick "Hawkeye". Together they were the funniest guys I had ever heard on radio. They played off one another so well!
Several years after my experience with prostate cancer, they announced that Terry was going to be away for a time-he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer. I sent an email to him to offer some encouragement and shared some of my experience with him. He responded back and after his treatment, he returned to our delight!
Any time we've been back, I start looking for reception a hundred miles out.
This morning I was getting ready to leave for my radiation treatment when my phone rang. No name was listed...just an area code 214 number. I didn't recognize the number and was hesitant to answer the phone. Naturally , curiosity got the best of me and I said "hello".
The voice on the other end said "Jon" and I said "yes!" The voice then Identified himself as "Hawkeye" with KSCS Radio. It didn't sound like the guy I remembered and began wondering if this was a prank call. He said he and Terry were calling on behalf of someone named "Mariah" and did I know her. I said she was my daughter. Then Terry ( whose voice I recognized immediately) said that Mariah was on the phone with them and they wanted to wish me a "Merry Christmas". My head was just spinning wondering what was going on!

Hawkeye said that he understood that I had been going through some difficult times and they just wanted to help out at Christmas. At this point I'm wondering where this whole thing was going! Then he told Mariah to say hello which she did and we just said "I love you!" By this time, my emotions were rolling along at warp speed....my eyes were full with tears....not "sad"' tear drops but "I miss you" drops ! Terry spoke up and said that each year at Christmas they try and help someone come home who possibly might not be able to do it. They had a contest on that topic and Mariah had WON!!! Then Hawkeye said they were so impressed with Mariah's letter as to why her dad should come home that "Jon we are going to fly you home to Ft Worth for Christmas.!! I was just sputtering at all this! Believe me, it took everything I had to keep from bawling like a baby!!! Finally they just said that they hoped this would be a Christmas we would remember forever. No problem there son!!
So, I just wanted to share this blessing with you. Thank you Sis for thinking of me and making the trip home to Ft Worth possible...and now I'm thinkin, there really must be a Santa Clause too!!"

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

An End To Fort Worth's Most Beautiful Building?

The massive columns of the downtown Fort Worth Post Office, located at Lancaster and Commerce


 This afternoon, I went to the downtown Fort Worth Post Office to mail my Christmas packages. For me, it is a yearly tradition to use the old Main Office, even though there is a Post Office just a few blocks from my house.
   Why do I bother? Mainly it's an excuse to visit one of the city's architectural gems, and I have made it part of my annual yuletide tradition. Sadly, the Post Service is thinking of moving the downtown branch  to smaller quarters. It no longer needs the massive building, which once served as the main postal center for Fort Worth when it was built in 1931.
    The city of Fort Worth has expressed an interest in buying the building and making into a new City Hall, but the economics of the purchase may not be in its favor.
   I realize that this may be the last year I'll be able to stop there during the Christmas season and I wanted to take a few pictures, for those who've never thought to mail a letter in this palace like structure

One of two main entrances, the art deco touches reflect the style of 1931


Massive marble columns great visitor in the entry portal


Notice the details ceiling


The rows of PO Boxes and continuation of the green marble


The strange detail on a lamp inside the lobby 


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Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders' Only Male Cheerleader

Did you ever hear the story about the only man to cheer with the Dallas Cowboy Cheeleaders?  ESPN produced a short film about Barry Bremen, the Great Impostor, who became notorious in the 1970s and 80s for dressing as professional athletes and getting on field during major sporting events.

   One of Barry's most notorious stunts was cheering with the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders. Barry lost 23 pounds off his 6'5" frame, had a custom made uniform and snuck in Texas Stadium on December 16, 1979. After shedding his street clothes and getting in one cheer, he was accosted by team security and taken off the field. The Cowboys hit him with a $5000 lawsuit and tried to have him banned for life from future games. 

 The short piece below tells the story of how it all started (and ended) for The Great Impostor.



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Monday, November 4, 2013

What's the Story Behind this Giant Hat?


   I recently noticed this giant bowler hat sitting in a field across from downtown Dallas. As public art goes, this is a pretty cool piece. But how did it end up there? And why?


   The hat was created by artist Keith Turman, commissioned for Timothy Oulton's furniture store on Central and Knox Street. However, the store didn't have the proper permit for the giant hat and it was never installed.

The Timothy Oulton Logo, featuring the Bowler Hat


   Upon suggestion, Turman donated the unused work to the Cedars neighborhood in Dallas, home to a variety of artists and studios. Today, when driving eastbound on I-30 thru downtown, you can get a short glimpse of the Bowler when you look south of the Convention Center. It's best to see it when driving thru the Cedars at the corner of Ervay and Griffin Street.

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Monday, October 28, 2013

The Case of the Missing 3 Ton Sculpture

NOTE: This post originally ran in my San Antonio Uncovered Blog. We got so much positive response that I thought I would post this story here also.



   One might wonder, how could a three ton sculpture go missing, disappearing from the 1968 World Fair's site? That was a question that many were asking after Hemisfair closed.

   Such was the case of Asteriskos,  a piece of modern art that was commissioned from New York sculpture Tony Smith by the Cato family for the fair. After Hemisfair closed, the piece, which sat between the Arena and the Convention Center, disappeared. It took a year for the piece to be rediscovered. Unfortunately, it was no longer intact.

   It seemed that Asteriskos was carted off after the fair by city workers who did not realize that it was art. It was blow torched into smaller pieces, fitted with wooden lids and turned into tool boxes and ice chests for afterwork beer parties at the Zarzmora Public Works Yard.

   The Cato family generously commissioned a replica from the artists and donated it to the city's McNay Art Institute where it sits today.

    For the rest of the world it is art. For us San Antonians, it is a beer party waiting to happen.

Asteriskos II today



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Thursday, October 3, 2013

Fire Strikes Former Scientology Mansion

UPDATE:  A few days after the fire, I decided to return to the former Scientology Mansion on Buckner Road to see if there was any hope of saving the abandoned building. See if you can come to the same conclusion I did.


Before the fire. The mansion, built in the 1940's, had also been a Bed and Breakfast, a Wedding chapel and a private home. It had been vacant for the last few years


The mansion during the fire



The mansion today







THE ORIGINAL POST:


   This afternoon, the former Scientology Headquarters in East Dallas caught on fire.  Ironically, the vacant mansion sat on the edge of the Ash Creek neighborhood just of Buckner Road. The building was for sale in a neighborhood of modest homes and obviously in need of some repairs. It had been on the market for quite a few months.

   Here are a few photos I snapped of the fire
 







 The amount of firefighters on scene was staggering 





You can see two of the ladder trucks pumping water into the house. The one on the left is actually parked a block behind the mansion



Dallas Firefighters with oxygen tanks after leaving the house



 You can see some of the damage as the roof on the north wing is totally gone




Streams of water being dumped inside the mansion


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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Katy Trail Extension - Further Along Than You Thought

   Dallas has one of the most extensive bike and jogging trail systems in the U.S. One of the most exciting developments in recent years have been plans to extend the popular Katy Trail to White Rock Lake.


   The plan is to build a bridge over Mockingbird Lane and then have the trail mostly follow the Dart line from Mockingbird Station to White Rock Station on the north side of the lake.
Rendering of the Katy trail Bridge over Mockingbird Ave.

      There has only been a small bit of work done at Mockingbird Lane. It will be the last piece of the trails extention to be completed.  Most people, including myself, would probably be surprised how much work has already been done.

      I noticed a few days ago that a portion of the trail that follows Northwest Highway towards the White Rock Dart Station had already been finished and striped.

This final portion of the Katy Trail Extension runs parallel to Northwest Highway.  It follows the path of an old alley which some homes still use to access their garages.  I wonder how this is going to work.
   I decided to walk the new portion of the trail and follow to where it disappeared from view of Northwest Highway motorist. I discovered that a significant portion of the extension is already finished.

The Katy extension headed north toward Northwest Highway
Standing in the same spot, looking south


   What's interesting is that the trail will follow the Dart Green line from Mockingbird Station until it reaches the as of now undeveloped Union Pacific Trail. A tall ramp will be built to bring the trail down to the rail line. It appears that for now the trail will go north to Northwest Highway, then east to the Dart Station. From there, you take another trail south to the lake. 
   

Pylons being built for a ramp that will lower the trail to the Union Pacific Trail, which is owned by DART

Sadly,  I'm not the only person to discover this portion of the Katy Trail Extension. A tagger has already ruined a portion of the trial. 


   Unlike the original portion of the Katy Trail, this section of the Extension is very secluded. Even though the trail bisects two neighborhoods, it's set considerably lower and gives you a feeling of being out in the country.   
    We are still a few years away from the Extension being completed. The bridge over Mockingbird will be the final piece. In the meantime, joggers and cyclist will still have a considerable amount of trails to discover. 



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Sunday, July 7, 2013

Missing Signs of the Metroplex

A Look At Some Notable Signs That Have Disappeared from Our Landscape

7th Street Theatre Marquee - Fort Worth


   Sadly, I am surprised how quickly Fort Worth has forgotten this West Side landmark. The family owned theatre was closed and demolished in 2002. The family owned theater was known for running first run movies a few weeks after their premier at a discounted price. The ticket taker, projectionist and the concession stand operator were all of the same family, often the same person. 

  I always found it funny how I would often arrive at 6:55 for the 7:00 showing, only to find the movie had already started, so the family could get home early. (There was also a clock in the lobby that would indicate it was only 6:55)

  The theatre closed after a family tragedy in 2001 and never reopened. The property was bought by the FPA Foundation, who tore down the theatre despite local protests. The Foundation saved the marquee and promised that it would be used in any future development.

STATUS: Unknown

    The status of the FPA Foundation is unknown, so the location of the ownership of the sign is also in question. The 7th Street / University intersection has gone through massive redevelopment. A tall building with Eddie V's Restaurant sits at the location of the old theatre. The marquee has yet to be used in any of the new projects in the area and there seems to be little call to bring it back. 


The Alamo Plaza Hotel Court Sign


   This sign sat in front of North Oak Cliff's Alamo Plaza Hotel Courts since the 1940's. At one time, the chain motel on Fort Worth Ave was a delightful stop before entering downtown Dallas. When it closed in 2007, it was hardly a gem


   In December of 2010, the motel met the wrecking ball to make room for a new development called Sylvan Thirty, which would feature loft apartments, retail and a grocery store. The developer promised that the iconic sign which was left standing would be part of the development.

   Sadly, the sign was removed in April of 2013 from the site even thought the developer promised Preservation Dallas, the city staff and the Dallas Morning News that the sign would remain.

STATUS: Questionable

   After the sign was removed there was considerable uproar. The developer put up a website asking for suggestions with what to do with the the sign.

"We’d like for you to submit ideas for the sign’s future. We’re open to using it somewhere on our property, repurposing it, moving it somewhere else in West Dallas, donating it…nothing is off the table and all submitted ideas will be considered"

   The website has also added this disclaimer:

"To be clear, we have plans in development for using the sign on our site, which was our original intention. However, community members have come forward suggesting that we allow it to be used as public art to represent West Dallas and the Fort Worth Avenue corridor. As we’ve said before, we’re open to all ideas."

   According to the site, the deadline for suggestions has come and gone. No announcemnet has been made about the sign's future


Casa Linda Pegasus atop the Mobile Station


   One of the most iconic buildings in the Casa Linda Shopping Center in East Dallas was the Mobile Station that sat on the Northeast corner of Buckner and Garland Road. The station was torn down in 2003 and replaced with a bank .

STATUS - Saved

   The iconic sign which originally was displayed at the 1939 World's Fair was saved and is now on display ay the Museum in the Old Red Courthouse.



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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

My Accidental Discovery - the Twelve Hills Nature Center.

   One afternoon while wandering the city, I came across a surprising nature center in the middle of an Oak Cliff neighborhood. After a little research, I learned that the Twelve Hills Nature Center was created by the neighborhood with the help of area businesses on a plot of land that once was the abandoned Twelve Hills Apartment complex. 

   The apartments, as often are the case, started out a safe and friendly place to live. In its final days, the buildings became crime ridden and in disrepair. In 1992, the 500 unit, 20 acre complex was torn down and the city, county and DISD took over the land in lieu of unpaid taxes. A portion of the land was used for the new Rosemont Elementary. Another section was was sold to a developer, who turned over 5 acres to the neighborhood to be used as a nature center.

   The center was completed with $260,000 in donations


   


The entrance plaza to 12 Hills Nature Center


The main trail at the neighborhood nature center



The Modern Homes of the Kessler Woods Neighborhood looks out onto 12 Hills.



One of Oak Cliff's best kept secrets, Kessler Woods, was built next to the nature center

The trails give a glimpse to what came before, bricks and concrete from the old apartment complex peek out






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