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It's official. Deep Ellum is on the National Register of Historic Places

Deep Ellum is thataway.
Jerome Weeks
/
KERA News
This 12-year-old neon sign on Good-Latimer Expressway lets you know where it's at.

Deep Ellum is 150 years old this year— and is finally on the National Register of Historic Places.

TheDeep Ellum Foundationmade the application — guided by Preservation Dallas and with the financial support of the Summerlee Foundationas well as the City of Dallas. The historic preservation consulting firm HHM & Associates, Inc. crafted the application. In January, the Texas Historical Commission's State Board of Reviewapproved the nomination.

All of this process took nearly three years. One reason it took so long, said Stephanie Hudiburg, executive director of the Deep Ellum Foundation, is that the district includes 268 buildings. No one knew how many were unchanged enough to even qualify as historic.

There are more than 90,000 properties on the National Registry,more than 20 landmark historic districts in Dallas alone. But being listed only deems a site worthy of preservation; it does not guarantee protection. That's determined by state or local ordinances.

Deep Ellum is an area that's seen many of its distinctive, single-story, older, red-brick buildings — the kind of places where Blind Lemon Jefferson and T-Bone Walker played — get bulldozed for new restaurants and swanky new high-rises. So preservation's an issue.

But Hudiburg said the national registration can still have an important effect.

Deep Ellum mural
Jerome Weeks
/
KERA News
Deep Ellum mural

"If people do want to keep up their buildings," she said, "they are eligible now for federal grants to be able to protect those buildings."

New exhibitions

In addition to the national registration, the foundation announced two historic exhibitions opening in the fall, in partnership with Documentary Arts. One of these will be permanent, dedicated to showcasing the history of Deep Ellum in the '20s and '30s, notably its music - with a listening room and original 78 rpm recordings. The temporary exhibition will focus on the graphic works of commercial artist Louis Paeth who designed, among many other things, the ads that promoted early blues artists, notably Blind Lemon Jefferson.

Got a tip? Email Jerome Weeks atjweeks@kera.org. You can follow him on Twitter @dazeandweex.

Art&Seek is made possible through the generosity of our members. If you find this reporting valuable, consider making a tax-deductible gift today. Thank you.

Jerome Weeks is the Art&Seek producer-reporter for KERA. A professional critic for more than two decades, he was the book columnist for The Dallas Morning News for ten years and the paper’s theater critic for ten years before that. His writing has appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, Los Angeles Times, Newsday, American Theatre and Men’s Vogue magazines.