The Many Influences of Dallas Architecture

The Many Influences of Dallas Architecture
Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge | Image by WFAA

The story of Texas architecture stretches back to a time long before Dallas existed on the map. Some of the earliest known forms of Texas architecture date back to the Native American tribes settling around the Red River area.

These tribes, notably the Caddo group, created dome-like structures reinforced with wood and covered in straw, which resembled a wide and bulging teepee. Large, earthen structures resembling Mississippi-style mounds were built for ceremonial purposes and burials.

The next layer of Texas architecture came with the arrival of the Spanish, often characterized by the mission outposts as famously preserved in San Antonio. Even as Texas won its independence, it was not until after the Republic of Texas became a part of the United States of America that Dallas began to take shape.

In 1839, a Tennessee lawyer named John Neely Bryan first came to the area that would become modern-day Dallas and decided to establish a more permanent settlement two years later. Over the next century and a half, Dallas would transform from a small collection of cabins to a populous metroplex hosting a variety of architectural styles.

One of Dallas’ oldest and most beloved buildings, known as “Old Red,” served as the 1892 Dallas County Courthouse. In castle-like styling, Old Red features a clock tower, four decorative wyverns, and a grand staircase with intricate star engravings.

The building, which sits on Houston Street, has undergone numerous renovations, which will soon bring the courthouse back into use as the new home of the Texas Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Perhaps the most infamous building in Downtown Dallas is the Southern Rock Island Plow Company, also known as the Texas Schoolbook Depository. Originally built in 1898, the seven-floor red Romanesque building was the location that Lee Harvey Oswald chose for his 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Today, the symbolic structure provides a portal to the West End, which features many 20th-century historic landmarks. The Texas Schoolbook Depository itself is one of Dallas’s oldest surviving buildings in the business district.

Next comes the Wilson Building, which was built in 1904 by J. B. Wilson, a wealthy Dallas cattleman. Modeled after the Paris Opera House in the traditional French Renaissance style, the Wilson Building attracted artisans from across the world during its construction.

Its twelve stories are ornamented with thatched columns and arches, which propelled the building to be the tallest in Dallas for five years. On the corner of Main Street, the Wilson Building is considered one of the finest commercial buildings in the Western states.

In modern Dallas, one of the most distinctive architectural features is the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge in the center of Dallas. Spanning the Trinity River, the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge was designed by architect and engineer Santiago Calatrava.

Calatrava, originally from Spain, is world-renowned for his famous works, such as the World Trade Center Transportation Hub and the Milwaukee Art Museum. The most eye-catching feature of the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge is the 400-foot-tall arch that suspends the pylons holding up the bridge floor. Construction started on the project in 2007, and it opened in 2012.

Modern and aging, grand and minimal, the architecture in Dallas is different from any other city in its variety. Unlike other places, such as London with its predominantly Victorian and Romanesque buildings as its best-known works, Dallas serves as a melting pot for many different styles.

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