Wrecking ball escape

Posted on 08 Jan 2009 at 10:51am
By Howard Lewis Russell

Old Parkland gets nursed back to health thanks to Trammell Crow


MORE THAN A FEW STITCHES: The old Parkland Hospital on Maple and Oak Lawn is being transformed into a crowning development achievement. (ARNOLD WAYNE JONES/Dallas Voice)

As anyone venturing out lately in the neighborhood knows, it is rapidly a-changin’. Cedar Springs’ lively rainbow strip — with the jarring disappearance of its Crossroads Market coffee shop and Tom Thumb grocery store cornerstones, as well as that iconic bastion of gaydom, the 4242 Cedar Springs apartment complex adjacent to Kroger — is these days barely recognizable from what it was just a year ago.

And though condo-gentrification’s alarming pace may be creeping in ever-more stealthily everywhere one looks, there is at least one dazzling escapee to such bulldozing "progression" that gives cheerful solace to our fabulous neighborhood spirit amidst the wrecking balls. Not everything gets torn down.

Forlorn, forgotten and overlooked for years, the Old Parkland Hospital complex, at the intersection of Maple and Oak Lawn avenues, had been hunkered behind a gnarled grove of old post oaks, abandoned and rotting, since 1974. Her 35 years of being ignored in a spooky corner had taken a savage toll on the once grand queen, flanked within spitting distance of her banishment by no less than a half-dozen of our neighborhood nightlife’s finest haunts: The Grapevine, Pekers, Illusions and the recently lamented Brick and Buddies II, to name a smattering.

The site of Dallas’ public hospital from 1894 to 1954 — when "Old" Parkland was replaced by "New" Parkland down the road on Harry Hines Boulevard — the discarded old dame entered a declining, debauched phase in which she was forebodingly rechristened the "Woodlawn Detention Center." For her remaining 20 pathetic years prior to 1974′s total abandonment, she harbored every assorted ignominy of horror film stage setting disrepute — at various times: a tuberculosis ward, a minimum-security jail, a rape crisis center, a makeshift homeless shelter and a psychiatric "treatment" institution.

Old Parkland had become, in kind lingo, a snake pit.

Then, at pit’s bottom, fully 15 years following her utter neglect, something miraculous happened: In 1989, the preservation panel of Dallas’ Landmark Commission bequeathed "landmark status" upon the former beauty at the very nadir of her agonizing death throes. From then forward, it was a matter of finding someone with deep enough pockets, very deep, and visionary enough to see this ghastly wreck as not only capable of being restored to her former razzle-dazzle, but worthy to surpass it, even. Enter then a new century and a fresh hope.
Enter Trammell Crow, and his enterprises.

A sublime hybrid of classic revival and Georgian pavilion styled real estate, Old Parkland, now the home headquarters of Crow Holdings, has been given a facelift worthy of a legendary movie star and, in fact, looks far grander better than she did even when brand new in 1913 (the year when her current limestone and brick edifice replaced 1894′s former wooden structure). Meanwhile, the former Nurses Quarters next to the hospital is receiving its final sprucing, and construction of a majestic, brand new building on the 6-acre site, Woodlawn Hall, is now nearing completion as well.

"Old" Parkland’s lawns have been lovingly landscaped, the red masonry brickwork all splendidly re-pointed, and her new bronze lion’s-head fountains spew forth water from their mouths as if roaring, "We’re here for the neighborhood, we’re proud, we belong and we’re beautiful. We’re here to stay."

This article appeared in the Defining Homes magazine presented by Dallas Voice on October 9, 2009.

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