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A Look Into the Dallas Historical Society's Archives

by Jerome Weeks 20 May 2011 6:00 AM

It’s a perfectly ordinary building in a perfectly ordinary warehouse-and-office park. But inside, you can find a land grant from King Charles IV of Spain and blueprints of the Texas Centennial. Plus an original Dr Pepper soda fountain.


Curator Alan Olson leads Dallas Historical society members through a tour of the archives

It’s just another warehouse-and-office park off Forest Lane in Dallas. But KERA’s Jerome Weeks reports that one ordinary-looking building there is home to the spurs worn by General Santa Anna and the Mexican battle flag that flew at the Battle of San Jacinto.

KERA radio story:

Expanded online story:

It’s often said that Dallas has no history. But the Dallas Historical Society’s archives contain some 3 million items. The Society’s offices are in the Hall of State in Fair Park, but we’re in the archives – next door to a machine shop and down the street from a charter school. Inside this air-conditioned warehouse are 12,000 square feet of furniture, paintings, books and documents. Parts of an original Dr Pepper soda fountain sit in one corner. In a drawer are the blueprints for the Texas Centennial celebration in 1936.

[sliding drawer sound]

Curator Alan Olson pulls out plans for a Fair Park building that doesn’t exist anymore.

Olson: “This was the federal Negro building. It was called the Hall of Negro Life. But it’s some of the only records of that building’s existence ‘cuz it was torn down pretty quickly.”

[sounds of footsteps, murmuring and rummaging under some of this]

Nowadays, only researchers and society members comb through the material. Recently, they learned the significance of an old church bell from World War II.

Olson: “When the Texas Army National Guard were training, they would use the bell to call them in for church, mess or mail call. [sound of bell tolling]”

Storage capacity is limited at the Hall of State in Fair Park, so the Society moved its archives into this rented, temporary facility – five years ago. Olson says the society is fundraising to find a permanent home.

But the public will get to see some of the Society’s holdings in an exhibition on Texas history during this fall’s State Fair. The Society just announced the show at the Hall of the State will feature some of its items. These will include the only copy of the Juneteenth order, the 1865 proclamation that freed Texas’ slaves.

And yes, Santa Anna’s spurs.

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