Dallas’ GAY NINETIES, Brought 300 Saloons

The GAY NINETIES. The name was given the decade after it was over . . . but for Dallas the opening years, at least, lived up to the name. In fact, for the first and only time, Dallas, with 38,067 citi­zens, was the largest city in Texas, edging out San Antonio, and put­ting Houston at a bad third. As the Nineties opened, Dallas had 300 saloons (including beer halls) and 572 streets. Some (Columbia, Wal­nut, Calhoun) were closed and abandoned for rail yards. Most of the new ones stretched north and east. One new prestige area was out at Wolfe and Maple, on the northwest corner where the Maple Terrace Hotel stands. There the Dilley family mansion, which cost the aston­ishing sum of $40,000 to build, was finished in 1890 and created a swirl of imitation with its Gothic turrets, circular windows, and shingle-style porticoes. Very shortly Maple, Fairmount (named for the Philadelphia park where the Centennial Exposition of 1876 had been held), Cedar Springs, and Routh were lined with expensive houses.

The Mint, 1 od 300 Dallas Saloons

The Mint, 1 of 300 Dallas Saloons

East Dallas was annexed on April 13, 1890, and its city hall, on the corner of Gaston and College, became a school. Dallas was not wholly urban. Trades Day, or First Monday, was held monthly at Chenoweth Brothers feed storage barn and Dallas’s largest wagon yard, at Houston and Commerce, the site today of the Terminal Annex. Farmers, horse traders, mule breeders—and boys—spilled into the alleys and jammed the streets around the site.

In the fall of 1891 the first Dallas football game was played in Oak Cliff Park. Dallas versus Fort Worth again, with Dallas winning. Shortly after this the baseball park was renamed Trinity Park and moved up nearer the banks of the river between the streetcar lines. It remained here for seventy years.

The race for finest hotel honors was won handily when, on Octo­ber 9, 1893, Tom Field opened his Oriental Hotel with 200 sump­tuous (by contemporary witness) rooms, across from City Hall at Akard and Commerce. Fully electrified, including elevators, the Oriental became undisputed social center of Dallas for the next eighteen years. At the same time a new industry was introduced when the Fleming & Sons paper mill in east Oak Cliff began turning out the first pulp paper in Texas.

Additional early Dallas history can be found here.  Courtesy Dallas The Deciding Years-A Historical Portrait by A. C. Greene.