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Blast from the Past

When it comes to Big D, we’ve got a lot to be proud of. Size, population and good ol’ Texas pride aside, we could brag about everything from our arts district to our sports teams to our beautiful skyline. It may be 2011, but let’s take a look back. In the beginning of the 20th century—before the Meyerson and the Mavericks and High Five—Dallas had everyone abuzz with its burgeoning downtown, great shopping and soon-to-be respected universities—to name a few. Get to know your city by checking out some of these historical sites for yourself.

Magnolia Hotel
The historical significance:
If you’ve ever strolled the streets of downtown Dallas (and looked up), you’ve no doubt noticed the glowing red horse in the sky. While the Pegasus is not going to swoop down and fly you toward the sun any time soon, it does serve as an icon in our city’s history. Perched atop the beautiful Magnolia Hotel, it’s an endearing landmark—harkening back to 1922 when this boutique hotel opened, remaining for many years the tallest building in Texas. Though the Magnolia has since been dwarfed by much taller skyscrapers, the quaint, historic architecture serves today as a nice getaway—and a reminder of how our city has evolved.
Check it out:
1401 Commerce St., Dallas
214/915-6500; magnoliahoteldallas.com

Southern Methodist University
The historical significance:
It’s ranked ahead of the formation of the Dallas Cowboys in terms of historical importance to our city (wait, is there anything more important than that?). That’s right. According to a committee of scholars, the founding of Southern Methodist University in 1911 established authority in philosophical, cultural and civic matters in our young city—and it will always be “Dallas’ university.” The SMU cornerstone rests at Dallas Hall—come see a piece of history for yourself.
6425 Boaz Lane, Dallas
214/768-2000; smu.edu

Neiman Marcus Building
The historical significance:
On very rare occasions, shopping and history do mix! Though the original store—put up by legendary trio Herbert Marcus Sr., sister Carrie Marcus Neiman, and her husband Albert L. Neiman—in 1907 was originally located between Elm and Murphy Streets, the namesake building was destined to become the ultimate Dallas shopping landmark on the corner of Main Street when it opened its doors in 1914 . Today the ubiquitous department store is now home to Missoni and Manolo Blahnik but its clientele certainly goes beyond oil barons and their wives.
1618 Main St., Dallas
214/741-6911; neimanmarcus.com

The Houston Street Viaduct on the Trinity River
The historical significance:
It’s hard to imagine the Trinity River as a dangerous force of nature, but its flooding in 1908 killed eleven people, took the homes of 4,000 others, and destroyed more than $5 million worth of property. After the flood, George Dealey and other city leaders called for a state-of-the-art bridge to connect Oak Cliff and Dallas. Now referred to as the Houston Street Viaduct, the original Oak Cliff Viaduct was completed in 1912 at a cost of $600,000. At the time, it was the longest concrete structure in the world, stretching over the river for approximately a mile.
South Houston Street and Riverfront Blvd., Dallas

McKinney Post Office Building
The historical significance:
Built exactly 100 years ago, the 1911 McKinney post office has undergone a sparkling renovation and now serves as the North Texas History Center. Visit the Italianate style building Tuesday through Saturday to view painted Civil War murals, Native-American artifacts, and antique farm tools. Hands-on activities will also keep the little ones entertained.
300 E. Virginia St., McKinney
For more information, call the North Texas History Center, 972/542-9457;thenthc.org

Woodmen of the World Building
The historical significance:
Back in 1911 the building was first built with the intention of housing “fraternal organizations” upstairs on the second floor. Just a floor below you would find a general store—complete with a printing press where newspapers were produced. As time passed the building evolved into several different establishments, from grocer to barbershop to feed supply store. Today, the old structure now houses a casual T-shirt shop.
111 and 113 W. Main St., Allen
For more information call the Allen Heritage Guild, 972/727-2772;allenheritage.org

Interurban Railway Museum
The historical significance:
For anyone who was around Plano in the early 20th century, the rollicking, clicking and clacking of trains was an everyday occurrence. Rail transportation powered by steam mobilized agrarian settlers in 1872, but in 1908 the second generation of electricity-powered rail transportation all but guaranteed the survival and growth of this small community. Located in downtown Plano, the Texas Electric Railway Station served as a hub, bringing people, goods and news together. Today you can view displays, pictures and artifacts—and even tour Car 360.
901 E. 15th St., Plano
972/941-2117

Frisco Railroad Depot
The historical significance:
If you’ve lived in Collin County for at least a few months, then surely you’ve driven down Preston Road at some point. What you may not know is that it used to be called Preston Trail, years ago when this area was used for cattle drives north from Austin. When the St. Louis-San Francisco Railway began making stops in the area in 1902, watering holes were dug along the way for the steam engines, and a community grew around this train stop. In 1904, residents chose the name Frisco City for their town, later shortened to Frisco. The original depot was torn down in 1965, but you can stop by the reconstruction and say that you’ve set foot on the birthplace of your town.
6499 Paige St., Frisco
972/292-5101; friscoheritage.org