I took the DART train downtown to a Beer Festival and made my train on time. Because of this, I was an hour early and sat down in Klyde Warren to hang out and wait until the festival opened. The sun was near setting and the sky was glowing – the skyscrapers sharp and elegant.
Looking at the collection of crystal towers, my attention was drawn toward six in particular. Thinking about why these meant something to me; I realized I had watched these (and many others) while they were built. I worked in Downtown Dallas in the early eighties – for a couple years in the Kirby Building (now converted into condominiums) and for a couple more in the historic Dallas Cotton Exchange (I loved that building – unfortunately, it was dynamited in 1994 to make room for a parking garage for the 1st Baptist Church).
The early eighties were a time of frantic building in Texas, especially in downtown Dallas. The giant construction crane was considered the state bird. This all came to a spectacular stop in the Savings and Loan crash of the late eighties – but at the time nobody could see that disaster coming.
I was young and a recent immigrant to the big city and was absolutely fascinated with watching the towers going up. In those pre-internet days detailed news was unavailable to the unwashed masses – so the construction was always a surprise to me. Since it would take, say, two years or more to build these it was like a slow-motion reveal, a mystery unveiled piece by piece, day by day.
A block would be cleared and then a gigantic hole slowly carved deep down into the chalky bedrock. Then the steel, concrete, or combination skeleton would rise, floor by floor, emerging from the scurrying crowds of hard-hatted workers like a living thing.
Finally, the skin would be hung and, only then, would the real shape and color of the building revealed. It was never really what it looked like while it as going up – the architects played with shapes and forms, adding extra corners and geometric sleights of hand. The final form was always a gigantic pleasant surprise.
Those were exciting, innocent days. Now, looking at the buildings bring back those memories. I can see, in my imagination, beyond the glass and stone cladding to the hidden skeleton of these skyscrapers, remember when the supporting framework was fresh and exposed.
The three towers to the east
The Chase Tower
2200 Ross – 1987 – I recently took photos of a helicopter making a delivery here.
People call this one the building with a hole in it. On the 40th floor is a skylobby that offers good views of the Uptown area of the city – I haven’t visited this, but would like to. I watched it get started but was working out in Garland before it was finished. The skyscraper was designed by SOM and is 738 feet tall with 55 stories, making it the 4th tallest building in Dallas.
San Jacinto Tower
2121 San Jacinto – 1982
This is the tan triple building in the center. I watched this one go up in detail. While it was being built it was not obvious that it would have that unique, triple structure – the effect was made with add-ons at the end. The building is 456 feet tall and is 33 stories, making it the 20th tallest building in Dallas.
Trammell Crow Center
2001 Ross – 1985
This one was really cool to watch. It was very close to where I worked and was clearly visible outside a window near my cube. Although I left downtown before it opened, I did see all the visible construction right in front of my eyes. The skyscraper is Post Modern in styling and is 686 feet tall with 50 stories. The Trammel Crow Center is the 6th tallest building in Dallas and is named after its principal tenant.
To the west are three more:
500 N. Akard – 1984
This triangular building went up on the site of the old YMCA – I watched them implode that building. It has a cool upper-crust restaurant (Dakota’s) in the basement – you go into an elevator sticking up in the sidewalk to get down to it. Lincoln Plaza is 579 feet high with 45 stories, and is the 13th tallest building in Dallas.
These last two flank Thanksgiving Square – one of my favorite spots back in the day. It’s getting a little run-down and forgotten now – but in the early 80’s it was the place to hang out for lunch on a warm spring day.
1601 Bryan – 1983
This is another building that I watched with interest – it ended up looking a lot different than I thought. I.M. Pei & Partners designed this 49 story building located on the north side of Thanksgiving Square. On top of the tower is a triangular communications tower that is modeled after the Eiffel Tower — only smaller and three sided. Energy Plaza is the 9th tallest building in Dallas and with a height of 629 feet.
1601 Elm – 1982
The rearmost of these three is Thanksgiving Tower. This was was almost finished when I started working in Dallas – I was there when it opened. This 50 story all glass skyscraper faces into Thanksgiving Square. Thanksgiving Tower is 645 feet high and is the 8th tallest building in Dallas. If you look at it you can see the the distinctive reflection of Republic Center Tower – a skyscraper that has been there since 1954 – ancient by Dallas Standards.