Hundred year old Oak Lawn landmark has been repurposed, preserved and reproduced
When the new Parkland Hospital opens in August, the current Parkland facility will close. The original hospital — a property located at the intersection of Oak Lawn and Maple avenues, known as Old Parkland — hasn’t seen a patient in more than half a century, but has in recent years itself become the patient: rescued, resuscitated and rebuilt to become a new Oak Lawn landmark.
Harlan Crow — a member of the famed family of Dallas developers — is the person largely responsible for returning a moldering building to its former glory. Crow was part of a consortium looking to commercially develop the property. After Parkland moved to its current, soon-to-be-decommissioned location on Harry Hines Boulevard in 1954, Old Parkland went through an identity crisis. The county still owned the land, and repeatedly repurposed the building. During its stint as a halfway house during the 1980s, crime in the area soared. Finally abandoned by the county, it stood empty and deteriorating for a number of years until Crow Holdings, Harlan Crow’s company, purchased it.
Property manager Cathy Golden says Crow thought it would be a shame to lose the historic building to just another commercial development, so he bought out the partners who preferred it razed.
Rather than follow the Dallas tradition of tearing down anything more than 20 years old, Crow was keen on preserving the property, paying close attention to the details.
Crow also did something urban developers rarely do: He added trees, many more than Dallas zoning requires. The building itself, as well as the sculpture garden, is obscured from Maple Avenue as a result of so much greenery.
It’s a rare-for-Dallas preservation effort to pay tribute to one of the city’s oldest properties. Parkland Hospital dates to 1872, when the city hired a doctor to care for its prisoners. In 1894, Dallas acquired 19 acres of land at Maple and Oak Lawn, which was outside Dallas city limits. The original clapboard buildings were replaced with the current building in 1913. The property is now only 9.5 acres — half the land was taken in the 1960s to build the North Dallas Tollway.
In 2006, Crow Holdings began renovation of the original hospital building and moved its corporate headquarters into the building two years later. Other tenants, which include a number of nonprofits, have been moving into the office space as its been completed. They expect the campus to be finished later this year.
Golden says as much architectural detail was preserved as possible. Stairs and railings are original; as much of the leaded glass as possible was preserved; wooden rockers seen in old photographs were reproduced and sit on the front porches of the buildings.
The Nurses’ Quarters, built in 1922, was also preserved and reopened in 2009. Functioning fireplaces and original moldings were restored in that building. Heavy bronze doors and wood floors in the style of the era were added.
One corner of the ceiling above the elevator shaft in the main building remains exposed and in its original condition to show what the molding and brickwork looked like.
As the project progressed, Golden says doctors and nurses who worked at the original hospital donated uniforms, medical equipment and yearbooks. Some of those items are displayed in the lobby.
Once renovation of the original buildings was finished, construction began on the rest of the campus. Most notable is Parkland Hall, with its copper dome at the western corner of the property. The building stands as the informal new entrance to Oak Lawn.
Not visible from the street is the most recent addition. The Pavilion, just inside the gate off Oak Lawn Avenue at the Scottish Rite traffic light, features a rotunda above a three-story building. That building was inspired by Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. (Golden says much of the campus was inspired by Jefferson’s designs for the University of Virginia.)
Parking is mostly underground. Below the parking level under The Pavilion, The Debate Chamber is being built. Modeled after a parliamentary chamber, the oval hall will be used for events such as an annual debate Crow sponsors to engage youth in important issues to Crow Holdings’ annual partners meeting. Golden expects it to be used for a variety of events they haven’t even imagined yet.
The six-story building at the end of Reagan Street is the only building on the campus not owned by Crow Holdings.
Maple Place is owned by TRT Holdings and is the corporate headquarters for its Omni Hotels and Gold’s Gym divisions.
Much of the property pays homage to the “American Experiment” in its monuments, statues, engravings and design. One of the two private restaurants in Parkland Hall, The Green Dragon, is a tribute to Boston’s Green Dragon Tavern, established in 1654. Plans for the invasion of Lexington and Concorde were overheard there at the start of the
American Revolution, prompting the ride of Paul Revere. Books that revolutionaries would have read are commemorated in stone in a garden outside Woodlawn Hall.
A 45-foot bronze column is the central focal point of the campus interior. Topped by Eos, the goddess of dawn, it stands on a granite pedestal with quotes from Jefferson, James Madison, John Locke and Adam Smith engraved on the base.
Across Maple Avenue, Crow is developing two blocks for commercial use, with restaurants that will be housed in traditional Oak Lawn Craftsman-style buildings. One is already built and will house 18th and Vine, a Kansas City barbecue joint. A Mexican restaurant and an Italian Roman tavern are planned with construction for those just begun. New pavers, antique reproduction light poles and monument signs will enhance the neighborhood’s ambiance as the project is completed.
More photos online at DallasVoice.com
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 31, 2015.