Ever Wondered What Was In Your Cool Urban Loft Before You Moved In?

Converting the city’s long-vacant and historically significant buildings into loft apartments has been in fashion in this town ever since Bennett Miller came to Dallas to help out with his family’s hat business in the ’80s. (More specifics on that later.)

Anyway, it’s a phenomenon we’ve long been fascinated with — and, to that end, we’ve spent some time over the course of these past few weeks putting together the following history of some of Dallas’ most prominent lofts. It’s certainly proved an interesting project to say the least.

I mean, who knew so many people in town called home such places as the home of the first Slurpee machine?

Well, you know it, as of reading this here piece.

Here’s some more information we hope you’ll find of interest.

Name: Continental Lofts.
Address: 3311 Elm Street.
Year Built 1888.
Previous Name(s): Continental Gin Building.

Before leaving his hometown of Mexia where he worked on his father’s gin, Robert Sylvester Munger had already received several patents for improvements to the gin industry. Those included a pneumatic system that moved cotton seed to the gin, a saw cleaner and a saw-sharpening tool. In 1885, Munger moved to Dallas to begin manufacturing his devices under the name of the Munger Improved Cotton Machine & Manufacturing Co., and he used this building as his showroom. In 1900, the company adopted the Continental Gin Co. title and eventually began supplying cotton gin equipment to farmers all over the country until the company closed in 1962.

Name: 509 Elm Street Residencies.
Address: 509 Elm Street.
Year Built 1901.
Previous Name(s): Tenison Building, Manufacturer’s Center Building.

Established in 1865, Tenison Bros. Saddlery grew to become the largest saddle wholesalers in the country. The pink-pressed brick building cost $30,000 to build in 1901. In 1937, the building was occupied by The Folsom Company, which manufactured electrical equipment. Following Folsom’s departure in 1943, women’s sportswear manufacturing company Sidran of Dallas occupied the building for most of the ’40s and ’50s.

Name: The Wilson.
Address: 1623 Main Street.
Year Built 1903.
Previous Name(s): The Wilson Building.

Built in 1903 by rancher J.B. Wilson, this eponymous building was originally designed to house offices for the medical profession as well as the Titche-Goettinger department store, of which Wilson served as treasurer. Upon its completion, it became the state’s first eight-story building. The building’s Beaux Arts-style architecture, which bears some similarities to the Paris Grand Opera House, made it one of the most exquisite buildings in the entire city. When Titche-Goettinger moved to its flagship location in 1929, H.L. Green’s department store became the building’s primary tenant. While Green’s lunch counter became one of the first in the city to integrate in the ’60s, that store eventually moved out in 1997.

Name: Magnolia Station Lofts.
Address: 1607 Lyte Street.
Year Built 1911.
Previous Name(s): Magnolia Station.

Originally, 1607 Lyte Street served as Magnolia Petroleum Company’s first sales and distribution center. After that company merged with Standard Oil New York in 1925, it eventually became Mobil, which would become responsible for Dallas’ omnipresent neon Pegasus visual. This building was later used as a meat packing plant and a paper distribution facility.

Name: Adam Hats Lofts.
Address: 2700 Canton Street.
Year Built 1913.
Previous Name(s): Adam Hats.

This four-story building was designed by Henry Ford’s principle architect John Graham as a production plant for Model T’s. When Ford moved production to another location in 1925, the company maintained this location as a warehouse and showroom. In 1955, the building was acquired by the Dallas-based Miller Brothers Hat Co., which had also recently acquired the New York-based Adam Hats Corporation. That company remained at the location until 1986. Interestingly enough, the large piece of art that now sits in the loft’s atrium formerly served as a chute in the building’s Ford days — one that was used to transport parts down an assembly line. We should also point out that Bennett Miller, whose family owned Miller Brothers, is credited with starting the movement to turn Dallas’ empty historical buildings into loft housing. Among other lofts on this list, Miller is personally responsible for converting the American Beauty Mill and Magnolia Station.

Name: American Beauty Mill Lofts.
Address: 2400 South Ervay Street.
Year Built 1913.
Previous Name(s): Stanard-Tilton Flour Mill, American Beauty Mill.

In the 1850s, Dallasite Sarah Horton Cockrell ran a grist mill that was purchased by Stanard-Tilton Milling Co. of St. Louis in 1892 to help expand its brand of flour into the South. It was just one of many shrewd business moves made by Cockrell, who was Dallas’ — and arguably Texas’ — first millionaire. When she died in 1892, it’s estimated that she owned 25 percent of Downtown. Following the devastating flooding of the Trinity River in 1908, the company began construction on this site as an attempt to redevelop the city’s industrial sector. By the 1940s, the mill accounted for 20 percent of the state’s total milling capacity at the time. In 1963, the Minneapolis-based Peavy Milling Company acquired the building in order to manufacture its American Beauty brand of flour, which was sold exclusively in Texas.

Name: The Kirby Residences on Main.
Address: 1509 Main Street.
Year Built 1913.
Previous Name(s): The Busch Building, The Kirby Building.

St. Louis beer magnate Adolphus Busch constructed this building just a year after opening his nearby Adolphus Hotel. Nicknamed “The Old Girl,” the building was one of the first in the country built in the Gothic-Revival style. Notable tenants include the A. Harris department store and Great Southern Insurance Co. Its current name comes from Houston businessman John H. Kirby, who bought the building in 1919 and re-named it after himself in 1922.

Name: 3200 Main Street.
Address: 3200 Main Street.
Year Built 1913.
Previous Name(s): Interstate Forwarding Company Warehouse.

On his last day in office, President William Howard Taft passed an act that reorganized the U.S. Customs Service and named Dallas one of the country’s new ports of entry. Construction on this completely fireproof building that would serve as the city’s first Customs warehouse began in April 2013, roughly a month after earning the new designation, and was completed that August. The builders were so confident that their completely wood-free building would be fireproof that they didn’t take any fire insurance out on the building. In 1920, IFCW outgrew the site and relocated to a larger facility. Since 1989, the building has housed the Undermain Theatre.

Name: Southside on Lamar Lofts.
Address: 1409 Lamar Street.
Year Built 1908.
Previous Name(s): Sears Roebuck & Co. Catalogue Merchandise Center.

So many of Sears Roebuck and Co.’s orders in the early 1900s were coming from Texas that the company decided to open a distribution center in Dallas in 1906 — though, initially, orders processed in Dallas were still being filled in Chicago. Still, it was the first Sears Roebuck operation located outside of Chicago. In 1908, Sears built a catalog and merchandise distribution plant in Dallas capable of fulfilling orders. In 1910, the company opened the Dallas Mail Order Plant near the corner of Lamar and Arnold streets. The warehouse eventually grew to over 1.5 million square feet before it was closed in 1993.

Name: Interurban Building Apartments.
Address: 1500 Jackson Street.
Year Built 1916.
Previous Name(s): Dallas Interurban Terminal Building, Continental Trailways.

The Texas Electric Railway was an interurban railroad that operated between Dallas, Denison, Coriscana, Waxahachie and Waco, while using over 200 miles of tracks. Yhe Dallas Interurban Terminal Building served as the system’s Dallas depot. The nine-story building could accommodate 35 trains at once. When interubans began dying out in the ’50s thanks to the growing popularity of buses and cars, the building became the office for the Trailways Bus Co. In 1987, Greyhound bought out Trailways and vacated the building.

Name: Farm & Ranch Lofts.
Address: 3306 Main Street.
Year Built 1920.
Previous Name(s): Texas Farm and Ranch Building, The Holland Building.

In 1883, Franklin Holland, who served two terms as Dallas’ mayor starting in 1895, began publishing his Texas Farm and Ranch magazine. And, from 1920 to 1950, this building served as the headquarters for Holland’s publishing company. At the height of the publication’s popularity in the ’30s, it boasted a circulation of a million-plus readers in 20 states. The building’s proximity to several railroads is credited with helping Holland bring in bulk paper orders and ship his magazine to the masses. Interestingly, Holland played a significant role in the early days of the State Fair and also sponsored the children’s agricultural clubs that eventually became 4-H.

Name: Murray Lofts.
Address: 3401 Commerce Street.
Year Built 1921.
Previous Name(s): Dallas Tent and Awning Building, The Murray Building.

In the 1880’s, French immigrant Emil Ducourt came to Dallas and shortly thereafter started his tent and awning company. A few years later, Ducourt — possibly by accident — drank a bottle of chloroform while he was drunk and died. His wife Mary, who is responsible for growing the Dallas Tent and Awning Company into the largest tent and awning maker south of Kansas City, became one of Dallas’ first successful female business owners. Over the years, the company grew and changed hands a few times, while additionally starting to manufacture mattresses, wagon covers, automobile tops, overalls and canopies that could be rented out for weddings. In 1922, the company’s then-owner, Charles Foord moved the business to this Commerce Street location, where it stayed until 1939. Then, in 1945, The Murray Company, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of gin machinery, bought the building. Among the company’s innovations: an all-steel, high-speed airblast gin; the Murray elevating system; an all-steel, self-cleaning, fireproof condenser; an improved airline cleaner; and the Hancock Cotton Picker.

Name: 2220 Canton Lofts.
Address: 2220 Canton Street.
Year Built 1925.
Previous Name(s): Olive and Myers Building, RLM Building.

William S. Myers and Horace E. Spalti came to Texas from Iowa at the turn of the century and soon started up Olive & Myers Manufacturing Company. In 1903, they started construction on what would eventually become a 350,000-square-foot, eight-square-block complex featuring furniture and mattress factories, warehouses and a barn. The company relocated to Athens, Texas, in the ’50s, eventually merging with Curtis Mathes. In 1956, Stockton Manufacturing, a sportswear maker, bought the building from Olive & Meyer. At the time, Stockton was one of the largest sportswear manufacturers in the Southwest, employing roughly 1,000 people. In 1973, the company changed its name to RLM Fashion Industries.

Name: The Davis Building.
Address: 1309 Main Street.
Year Built 1926.
Previous Name(s): The Republican National Bank, The Davis Building.

This Classic Revival-style building was originally built for the Republic National Bank. It was acquired by Dallas businessman Wirt Davis in 1954 following the bank’s relocation. Exterior shots of the building were used by the 1990 film Touch and Die as the “Western Morning News” headquarters where Martin Sheen’s character worked.

Name: SoCo Urban Lofts.
Address: 1122 Jackson Street.
Year Built 1926.
Previous Name(s): Santa Fe Warehouse No. 2.

Originally, this was one of four buildings constructed for the Sante Fe Railroad. A steamless locomotive that operated in an underground tunnel connected the four buildings. Notable tenants from Building No. 2 include the University Club, WFAA Radio and the Garment Center. The two-story penthouse was designed for the University Club and its 600 members. The building was vacant and boarded up in the 1980s. While Santa Fe No. 3 was eventually demolished, Buildings 1, 2 and 4 still remain standing.

Name: Mitchell Lofts.
Address: 3800 Commerce Street.
Year Built 1928.
Previous Name(s): The Mitchell Building.

Like the Continental Gin and Murray companies before him, a moisture reduction device manufactured by John E. Mitchell’s company also revolutionized the cotton gin industry in Dallas. During World War II, The Mitchell Company produced half a million anti-aircraft projectiles at this location, and, later, began making aftermarket AC units for cars. Perhaps the company’s biggest contribution, however, came in the ’50s when it invented the country’s first ICEE machine for a Dairy Queen in Kansas City. In the ’60s, Mitchell’s machine was licensed by 7-Eleven to make its Slurpees. In the ’70s, it was one of these Slurpee machines that gave Dallas restaurateur Mariano Martinez the idea for the world’s first frozen margarita machine, too.

Name: 1900 Elm Street.
Address: 1900 Elm Street.
Year Built 1929.
Previous Name(s): Titche-Goettinger Building.

In 1929, Edward Titche and Max Goettinger moved their department store to this new, seven-story location and sold their company to Hahn Stores. A few years later, the company was reorganized into the Allied Company, which, by the ’60s, owned more than 90 stores throughout the country. In 1978, the Titche stores were re-branded as Joske’s, after one of the company’s San Antonio stores. In 1987, the company was acquired by Dillard’s and the Dallas store at 1900 Elm Street was closed for good.

Name: Parry Avenue Lofts.
Address: 3809 Parry Avenue.
Year Built 1929.
Previous Name(s): Goodyear Building.

Four years after the Ohio-based Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company first flew its iconic blimp, it opened a Dallas plant in this space that remained until 1957.

Name: 4140 Commerce Lofts.
Address: 4140 Commerce Street.
Year Built 1929.
Previous Name(s): B.F. Goodrich Building.

Though the Goodyear Tire & Rubber and B.F. Goodrich companies were the No.’s 1 and 4 tire companies in the country at the time, their respective plants were permitted six months apart, designed by the same architect and were connected to one another by a one-story masonry ell. Goodrich vacated its space in 1946, and the buildings were acquired by H.B. Wolf clothing company in 1964. The latter remained at the space for three decades before it was turned into lofts in 2000.

Name: The Lofts at Thanksgiving Square.
Address: 400 North Ervay Street.
Year Built 1930.
Previous Name(s): U.S. Post Office & Courthouse.

From 1930 to 1971, this was the main downtown post office and a federal courthouse. During that time, many, many historically significant events took place inside these walls. The main courtroom, for instance, is where Bonnie and Clyde’s parents, other family and friends were tried and sentenced for harboring fugitives. And, in 1970, Sarah T. Hughes was part of a three-judge panel that first heard the case of Roe v. Wade. For her part, Hughes is tied to several historical footnotes. For instance? She swore in Lyndon B. Johnson as President of the United States aboard Air Force One, and she to this date remains the only woman to have ever administered the Presidential Oath of Office. That feat was made possible by President John F. Kennedy, who just two years earlier appointed Hughes to the U.S. District Court, which also made her the first woman to serve as a federal district judge in Texas. The building’s Kennedy ties don’t end there: According to the Warren Commission, at least, this is also the place where Lee Harvey Oswald purchased the money order he used to order the rifle he would later use to assassinate Kennedy.

Name: DPL Flats.
Address: 1506 Commerce Street.
Year Built 1931.
Previous Name(s): Dallas Power and Light Building.

Originally, this building housed Dallas Power and Light, which eventually became TXU Energy. Perhaps the most interesting thing about this building is the claim that it’s the first electrically-welded building west of the Mississippi.

Name: The Merc.
Address: 1704 Main Street.
Year Built 1943.
Previous Name(s): Mercantile Bank Building.

This, the only major skyscraper in the country constructed during WWII, was built by Dallas businessman R.L. Thornton to house his Mercantile National Bank. Four years later, a 115-foot illuminated tower, used by KERA for its radio broadcasts, was added above the clock. In 1958, the tower was replaced by an updated version that would change colors to denote different weather conditions. For a decade, the 31-story building was the tallest in Dallas, though these days it’s just the 27th. Other than the bank, other notable tenants include the Dallas Texans, who headquartered there until relocating to Kansas City in 1962 and becoming the Chiefs.

Name: Third Rail Lofts
Address: 1414 Elm Street.
Year Built 1946.
Previous Name(s): The Mayfair Building.

Dallas architect George Dahl designed this building for the Mayfair Department Store. It was the 79th store the chain opened in the Southwest, and it remained open until the ’70s. Dahl also designed the Neiman Marcus Building at 1618 Main Street, the Titche-Goettinger Building at 1900 Elm Street, the Volk Brothers Buildings, Philipson’s Fashions and 32 stores for Sears Roebuck.

Name: Mosaic.
Address: 1509 Pacific Avenue.
Year Built 1952.
Previous Name(s): Fidelity Union Life Insurance Building, Fidelity Union Tower, Mayflower Building.

This 21-story building and its 31-story add-on were built by the Fidelity Union Life Insurance Company in 1952 and 1960, respectively. When this building initially opened, it was regarded as the largest life-insurance headquarters building in the South and saw roughly 340 employees using the facility on a daily basis. Fidelity left the building in 1985, and the building’s other primary tenant, TXU, followed suit in 1992.

Name: Gables Republic Tower.
Address: 300 North Ervay Street.
Year Built 1954.
Previous Name(s): Republic National Bank Building, Republic Center Tower I.

Started as the Guaranty Bank & Trust in 1920 with just $100,000 in capital, Republic National Bank’s assets had grown to $60 million by 1954, making it the largest bank in Texas. The bank funded this aluminum-sided building primarily with its own profits, and, upon its completion, the 36-story building dethroned The Merc as the new tallest building in Dallas. These days, it’s just the 21st tallest in town. The architecturally inclined will tell you how much of an extravagance the building’s column-free lobby is — as if the 3,000 square feet of pure gold leaf used to decorate that same space wouldn’t have done the same. Also, the building’s elevators — which travel at a rate of 1,400 feet per minute — are still among the fastest in the nation.

Texas State Historical Association Handbook.
Texas/Dallas History & Archives, Dallas Public Library.
Texas Historical Commission.

Cover photo of the Mercantile by Luis Tamayo, via WikiCommons.

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