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The View From Atop 508 Park Avenue, Where, Very Soon, the Past Will Meet the Present

On top of 508 Park Avenue, from left: Alan Govenar, Carol J. Adams, Pat Bywaters and Buddy Jordan
On top of 508 Park Avenue, from left: Alan Govenar, Carol J. Adams, Pat Bywaters and Buddy Jordan

Thursday afternoon I met historian Alan Govenar at 508 Park Avenue, future site of the Museum of Street Culture. He was not alone: Joining him were developer Buddy Jordan, chair of the 508 Park Committee and a man who's been pursuing the building for close to 20 years; Pat Bywaters, grandson of famed Dallas Nine member Jerry Bywaters and the project's "taskmaster"; and Carol Adams, author and activist and wife of First Presbyterian's Reverend Dr. Bruce Buchanan. They had but one request -- that I take no photos of the inside of the building, not yet. Fair enough; it still looks more or less like this anyway, sans the boxes.

They walked me through the building constructed out of marble in the 1920s to store movies for Warner Bros. Pictures -- all five floors, who knew. (Though one is just a small room, a sort-of office with a separate bathroom.) Then, they laid out their plans for the building.

On the first floor: two art galleries for permanent exhibitions, with interactive exhibits documenting 508 Park's past as a film-storage facility and Brunswick Records' branch office; a cafe; a gift shop; a separate gallery for traveling exhibitions; and a green room that will connect to the outdoor amphitheater that will replace next-door 1900 Young. On the second floor: art studios and office space. On the third: a recording studio next to the corner in which Robert Johnson, Bob Wills and dozens of others recorded in the late 1930s; a sort-of shrine set up in that corner space, memorializing those who one stood in the spot; and an open space for meetings or, say, weddings.

On the four floor is a beautiful space unseen from the street -- a modest-sized brick enclosure illuminated by sunlight streaming in from the giant original windows. A door opens to the roof, a giant space they will transform into a deck and garden space. All four point to something I never knew existed: the words "Warner Bros. Pictures" still painted on the top of the building, as you can see below. The stairwell, still mostly original, will also serve as museum space -- a sort of living time line as you travel upwards.

After all these years, you can still see for whom the building was built: "Warner Bros. Pictures."
After all these years, you can still see for whom the building was built: "Warner Bros. Pictures."

Demolition of 1900 Young is expected to begin in March, April at the latest; that is when construction inside 508 Park Avenue will also begin, the say. No doubt there will a ceremony of some kind to commemorate the occasion -- the resurrection of such a historic site. In June, to mark the 75h anniversary of Johnson's two-day recording sessions in the building, Govenar hopes to host a conference. So far, critic and historian Elijah Wald, author of the book Escaping the Delta: Robert Johnson and the Invention of the Blues, has agreed to attend: "We'll learn something from him," says Govenar.

There is no opening date scheduled. But June 19, 2013, they say, is a date they will aim for.

When 1900 Young is razed, it will be replaced by the outdoor amphitheater.
When 1900 Young is razed, it will be replaced by the outdoor amphitheater.
At some point, in the not too distant future, this view of downtown will be available to everyone.
At some point, in the not too distant future, this view of downtown will be available to everyone.
Jordan, Govenar, Adams and Bywaters, beneath the Warner Bros. logo
Jordan, Govenar, Adams and Bywaters, beneath the Warner Bros. logo

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