NO MAN CONTRIBUTED more to the wholesome enjoyment of outdoor, summertime night life in Dallas than Charles A. Mangold, an exceedingly genial gentleman of Germanic extraction who arrived from his native Cincinnati in 1885 and greatly enriched the traditions of his adopted city before his death nearly half a century later. A founder of the Dallas park system, he was a member of the first city park board created in 1904. Mangold’s first fifteen years in Dallas were devoted mainly to establishing the wholesale firm of Swope & Mangold, the successful enterprise from which stemmed much of his dedication to civic and cultural projects.
In 1899 Mangold proposed a gala civic event that was launched wtih much enthusiasm. Known as the Grand Order of the Kaliphs, it staged a series of entertainments for several seasons during the annual State Fair of Texas. These included a grand ball, with the crowning of the festive queen, and an elaborate, nighttime parade of illuminated floats. One of its first Kaliphs was E. H. R. Green. “The Kaliphs made Dallas the most talked-of city in the South last fall,” according to Hugh Nugent Fitzgerald, Dallas newspaperman.
In 1904 Mangold, as a member of the famed German choral group, the Frohsinn Singing Society, brought the Silver Anniversary of the Texas State Saengerbund—or League of Singing Societies—to Dallas. This was a magnificent cultural prize to capture for his city, especially as Mangold engaged some of the most famous of available musical artists to assist in the public performances. The 1904 Saengerfest brought to Dallas the world-famous operatic and concert stage star Marcella Sembrich, along with other performers. The Chicago Symphony, with Adolph Rosenbecker as conductor, was also heard in the three-day program of concerts.
Hard on the heels of “the greatest Saengerf est in the history of the Southwest,” Mangold offered a complete change of pace in the next year to provide Dallas during its 1905 State Fair with the “most successful horse race meeting in Southern history.” This was the judgment of C. A. Keating, president of the State Fair that year, who told newspapermen that “to Mr. Mangold is due the entire credit,” for the success of the race meeting which was the “cleanest and best conducted ever held in the South.”
In the opening years of the century Mangold bought 50.3 acres at Zang Boulevard and Colorado in Oak Cliff and converted them into Lake Cliff Park, which soon became what a Dallas historian, Philip Lindsley, described as “the most pretentious summer amusement enterprise in the Southwest.” It was noted especially, Lindsley added, “for its great beauty, the high class of its amusements and the substantial character of its improvements.” At the top of its attractions was the Lake Cliff Casino, an attractive, breeze-swept opera house on the lake, which became immortally associated with the lovely and talented Ada Meade, reigning star of the operetta and musical comedy stage. Heading her own Ada Meade Opera Company, she and her troupe played repeatedly at the casino and for the entire summer season of 1908.
The year 1908 was doubly memorable in the lives of Charley Mangold and his fellow citizens of Dallas, for in April the disastrous Trinity River flood struck Dallas, severing Oak Cliff from the older part of the city for days. Mangold was the first to propose a high-level, all-weather viaduct to prevent repetition of this disaster—the genesis of the Houston Street viaduct completed four years later as the longest concrete structure of its kind in the world.
July of 1908 also brought one of the first and most important national conventions to Dallas, that of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks. Mangold was not only an Elk but a very important one, having served as Exalted Ruler of the Dallas Lodge.
The famous Elks Arch of steel at the corner of Main and Akard was a major feature of reception planning. But Mangold, by arrangement with Miss Meade, was responsible for what most convention viewers remembered about Dallas. This was an elaborate production of Floradora by the Ada Meade Opera Company at Lake Cliff Casino, with Miss Meade in the central role of Dolores and the Elks colors of white and purple featured in the special costumes for the production. “Night after night as the Floradora Sextette came tripping on, the girls in white dresses and white hats trimmed with purple,” it was said, “the Elks simply stood up in their chairs and yelled.”
In 1918 Mangold joined with W. W. Morton to build the Jefferson Hotel on Ferris Plaza in downtown Dallas and Cliff Towers overlooking Lake Cliff Park, the first high-rise apartment hotel west of the river.