Deep Ellum was formed roughly 145 years ago, which is also the same wait time to get a table at Pecan Lodge. While the area has gone through many changes, Deep Ellum has consistently maintained itself as a destination for artists, musicians and anyone looking to have a good time. In a history that spans nearly a century and a half, there’s bound to be details that have slipped by even the most avid Ellum aficionado. With that in mind, here are five things you might not have known about Deep Ellum.
The Grateful Dead Has a Song About Deep Ellum
If you’re already saying, “Who?” just stop and ask your parents. They’re a famous band and have songs long enough to start and raise a family with before they’re over. The Grateful Dead performed a version of a song called “Deep Elum Blues” that made reference to the extensive blues history of Ellum. In the first half of the 20th century, Ellum was host to famous jazz musicians Blind Lemon Jefferson, Blind Willie Johnson, and other artists with presumably better vision. A version of the lyrics to Deep Elum Blues are, “If you go down to Deep Ellum put your money in your shoes…” Obviously times have changed to where that advice is no longer needed, but it does provide insight into how Ellum was perceived in the 1920s. The song can be found with multiple spellings of Ellum, as Deep Ellum was originally called ‘Deep Elm,’ but the common mispronunciation of Ellum stuck.
Guy Fieri Eats Ellum
There’s no shortage of places to grab a bite, and there’s also no shortage of eateries that close down in the area. While you’ve been reading this two restaurants just closed down. That’s why it’s surprising that Guy Fieri and his show Diners Drive-Ins & Dives
have not only featured four restaurants in Deep Ellum, but that all four are still open for business. Now to be fair, not all four were necessarily featured when they were in Deep Ellum, but Twisted Root, Cane Rosso, Pecan Lodge, and Pepe’s & Mito’s Mexican Cafe are thriving in their locations. At the rate of his visits, the odds are increasing to meet Fieri while eating at your favorite Ellum restaurant whether you want to or not. Once you feel his presence behind you, it’ll be too late, and you’ll find yourself whisked away to the cold emptiness of flavor town.
Deep Ellum Has a Church of Scientology
Have you been waking up lately with that not quite clear feeling? Has your E-meter broken and you need to purchase a replacement? Do you call the film Battlefield Earth
a documentary? If so you’re in luck, because on Murray Street, you can go to the Deep Ellum Life Improvement Center. During business hours the spiritually in-need can go to receive individual counseling and life improvement courses from a Scientology representative. Open since January 2013, its Yelp review is at 3 and a half stars, which sounds bad until you compare it with any Applebee's score. Deep Ellum has always been known as multicultural, and you can’t spell culture without cult.
The Traveling Man
courtesy of Traveling Man Facebook page
It’s not easy to miss the giant robot as you enter Deep Ellum. Serving as the area’s Big Tex, it’s welcoming smile makes it an ambassador to the newcomers, a physical representation of the artistic community that makes their home in Deep Ellum. What you might not know is there’s an entire story to go along with the musical robot. Known as the Traveling Man, artist Brad Oldham made a series of the structures to replace murals lost to the construction of the DART rail system. The folktale of the Traveling Man is that an old steam train buried underneath an elm tree came to life when gin was accidentally spilled on the elm tree’s roots. In the hands of Pixar this would have already been three movies and a ride at Disneyland.
Deep Ellum Has Active Historic Landmarks
Not everything in Deep Ellum has turned into mixology bars where you watch a bartender play with fruit. There are parts of the neighborhood still opening their doors more than a hundred years later, such as the Sons of Hermann Hall building on Elm Street. Built in 1910, Sons of Hermann Hall has welcomed generations of music lovers to see their favorite bands in the ballroom or grab a drink in the front bar. For you cinephiles, the ballroom was where the art film Robocop
shot it’s scenes for the police station. (Seriously, go ask your parents.) It’s probably one of the few Dallas Historic Landmarks you can be drunk in and not be asked to leave. Go to the hall for a concert, stay to find one of the ghosts that rumor says haunts the century old structure.