In June 2010 we told you the remarkable tale of a rather unremarkable-looking building that stands at 4526 Leland Avenue, near the intersection of Hatcher Street and S. Central Expressway in South Dallas. It came to our attention because its owner, Vanessa Baker, was seeking landmark status for the property -- property, we were told, that long ago was known as the Good Samaritan Hospital, a community almshouse founded by a German immigrant named Martha Schultze and her husband. After that, owners James and Bertha Baker -- Vanessa's parents -- opened in the old hospital the Baker Residential Hotel, which, according to city documents, "could possibly be the first licensed residential hotel for African-Americans in Dallas." It would operate as such until 2006.
We told you in 2010 of Baker's plans to rehab the building and reopen it as "a community theater for neighborhood kids." Those efforts remain very much in place after all this time: On New Year's Eve Roy Appleton wrote a piece about Vanessa and Bertha's intention to "return the building to community service, perhaps with spaces for meetings, tutoring, play rehearsals, a writing laboratory or a catering kitchen, in addition to Vanessa's quarters." To do so, though, they are hoping for official city landmark designation, to help with securing historic tax exemptions. They want to fund the overhaul through a nonprofit called Good Samaritan at the Baker Estate.
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On Wednesday the city council will vote to approve its historic status, which the City Plan Commission approved in November after it passed through Landmark. On the other side is a riveting read: Landmark's official history of the building and its owners, compiled after city staffers combed through the archives and talked with those who knew of its storied past. It's also loaded with pages' worth of old photos like the one seen above. A truly remarkable treasure trove.