Hard Rock Still Rockin'. For Now.
Consider this yet another of Dallas' worst-kept secrets: The CVS pharmacy chain is going to buy up and tear down the Hard Rock Cafe on McKinney Avenue. At least, that's the rumor "swirling" among the restaurant's staff, says John Gogarty, the New Jersey-based publicist for the restaurant-hotel-casino chain, which is in the process of being sold to the Seminole Tribe of Florida. Only, Gogarty says he can't comment on the rumors because there isn't an answer to give at this point.
"I'm not gonna be too much help," he says. "Hard Rock's looking at a number of options in Dallas, but no decisions or announcements have been made." And he says he doesn't know when to expect a decision or announcement. "Yeah, we've been getting it from Cafe folks and message boards. It's swirling around there, but, unfortunately, I can't help you out any more than that."
But we do know someone who can: Preservation Dallas' interim executive director, Katherine Seale.
See, the building's not only home to a cheesy chain of overpriced burgers and tourist-trap tees, but it's also a pretty substantial piece of Dallas' history.
Though it's hard to recall it ever being anything other than the Hard Rock, the building was constructed in 1910 as the McKinney Avenue Baptist Church. It was designed by Charles Bulger, who, with his son Clarence, is responsible for at least 200 churches built in Texas and throughout the Southwest. Indeed, many of the Bulgers' work is well-known in Dallas, even if their names are not: the Gaston Avenue Baptist Church (which became the Criswell College) and the 1907-constructed Praetorian Building at 1607 Main Street, considered the first skyscraper in the Southwest.
A simple Google search for "C.W. Bulger" will reveal his considerable impact everywhere from Austin College in Sherman to a bed and breakfast in Waxahachie to the E.S. Levy Building in Galveston. Bulger also several local properties on the National Register of Historic Places.
In order to avoid a repeat of the Proctor Hall disaster of a few weeks back, Seale has already made appropriate steps to make sure the building isn't demolished behind Preservation Dallas' back. She says this week she called Michael Pumphrey, Dallas' chief planner for preservation, to find out if there were indeed plans in place for the building's demolition. He then called Leif Sandberg in the city's building inspection division to find out if any demolition permits -- "or work permits of any kind" -- had been filed for the address, 2601 McKinney Avenue. None were, but Seale had the city put a hold on the address, as well as the rest of the 2600 block. The hold means that should someone file a demo permit, Preservation Dallas would be notified immediately and given a contact number.
So, for now, the building appears to be safe; after all, the sale to the Seminole Tribe isn't completed, much less any deal with CVS. But should it all begin to suddenly snowball, the building still doesn't have city-designated landmark protection -- and it might not even qualify. "The gold from the dome was removed by the Hard Rock Cafe, actually, and donated to the Ross Avenue Church, which had been burned down," she says. "And nothing from the interior has survived." Nonetheless, at least one person has nominated it to be included in Preservation Dallas' annual list of endangered buildings; deadlines for nominations close February 15.
"The building has been majorly altered," Seale says, "but it's still something people recognize and helps give us a sense of place. If it's demolished, it's one more thing lost that gives us a link to the city, especially when it might be replaced by something like a box-store construction." --Robert Wilonsky