July 13, 8212

A Speakeasy Appetite for Architecture

A Speakeasy Appetite for Architecture

Jason Mellard, AIA, from Corgan, provides us this report on last week’s DCFA Appetite for Architecture program.

Walking into The Mason Bar, I was directed downstairs through a purposefully non-descript passageway into a re-created Prohibition Era speakeasy. Dark wood paneling, dimmed sconces and bold period wallcovering set the mood for an intriguing history of The Mason Bar and State-Thomas historic neighborhood.

Built in the 1920s as a church, the 45’x45’ square building housing The Mason Bar was purchased by the Freemasons in 1952 to become the first ethnically integrated lodge in Texas. FDR, Eisenhower and other dignitaries campaigned in the lodge to create alliances with the influential Dallasites. Promoter and restaurateur Brandt Wood transformed the structure into The Mason Bar restaurant and bar this February, in the heart of Dallas’s first suburb: the State-Thomas neighborhood.

Judy Hearst, a neighborhood activist involved with the revitalization of the area over the last several decades was with us and provided stories on State-Thomas’ history. George Bannerman Dealy was one of the prominent citizens who commuted to downtown from the State-Thomas neighborhood, named after the Thomas family who purchased the original 40 acres of farmland. In 1986, Hearst and a team of invested residents petitioned the city to designate the neighborhood as a historic district to protect the homes from a frenzy of speculative development.

The present new urbanist development was master planned by RTKL in 1986 and set a precedent in the Sunbelt for walkable, mixed-use design. It could be done! Eric Dohrer from RTKL shared the story of the process and how this first tax increment financing (TIF) district in Dallas proved that public-private partnerships can be a successful model for Dallas development. 2,700 residential units were created in State-Thomas over the life of the 20 year TIF, which expired in 2003.

All in all, a great evening. Food and speakeasy cocktails as we had the chance to learn more about one of the city’s most historic and vibrant neighborhoods. Keep an eye out for the next Appetite for Architecture program… 

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