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 Texas : Towns : Dallas :
Texas Neighborhoods: Number 000003

Dallas' "Deep Ellum" Historical District

A Dallas Counterpart to Memphis' Beale Street
Dallas, Texas

T & P ghost sign, Deep Ellum  District, Dallas Texas
T & P Ghost Sign in the Deep Ellum District near downtown Dallas
Photo Courtesy Stephen Johnson, May 2007
Once known as "Central Track," for it proximity to the downtown depot of the Houston and Texas Central Railroad tracks, the name Ellum was the local pronounciation for Elm (Street).

The neighborhood, which was settled after the Civil War by emancipated slaves, was once considered far from downtown Dallas. The district was once the headquarters for company that manufactured cotton gins (1880s) and later, around 1913, the Ford Motor Company opened the Southwestern Ford Assembly Plant.

In 1916, the Grand Temple of the Black Knights of Pythias was built, which is considered by many to be the first Black professional building in Dallas. Black dentists, doctors and lawyers rented office space here and the building housed the offices of the Express - a weekly newspaper for Dallas' Black community. A rooftop ballroom hosted dances and various gatherings.

By the 1920s Deep Ellum was established as a shopping and entertainment section for Black Dallasites. Cafes, and nightclubs outnumbered pawn shops 2 to 1.

Legendary Blues artists like Blind Lemon Jefferson, "Leadbelly" and "Lightnin'" Hopkins played in the dives and speakeasys of Deep Ellum before they became nationally known.

Innocent domino palors were, more often than not, fronts for gambling houses and the section had it's own red-light district, cementing it's reputation as an unsavory place.

Dring WWII with so many men in the service, Deep Ellum entered into a downward spiral. Postwar prosperity enabled many people (legit and otherwise) who had dreamed of getting out of Deep Ellum to finally escape. The railroad pulled up its rails and demolished the depot and the final blow came when the streetcar service was discontinued in the mid 1950s.

The Uptown Improvement League was formed to breathe life back into the area, but in the late 1960s, heart of Deep Elm (the 2400 Block) was covered by an elevated expressway. Deep Ellum was in an economic coma throughout the 1970s.

In 1983 a plan was unveiled to redevelop the area, taking atvantage of the neighborhood's "naughty reputation" to attract a "Bohemian" atmosphere of nightclubs, cafes, and galleries. Long vacant buildings were renovated to become upscale boutiques for a large and appreciative audience.
Old Gulf Oil Service Station
3400 Commerce Street (Deep Ellum Historical District), Dallas, TX
Photo Courtesy Stephen Johnson, May 2007
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