Anyone Wanna Buy a 111-Year-Old Downtown Building? Good Location With Great History.

Built in 1900, 1516 Elm Street has been on and off the market for years; about six years back, it was even offered as part of a package that included 807 Elm, which is coming down any second now. The for-lease sign has been a constant, but every so often it trades hands; not long ago, matter of fact, it became part of the Montreal-based Rosenberg Family Foundation. But it's for sale once more: A listing appeared on LoopNet on Tuesday, with an asking price of $999,000 -- far more than its Dallas Central Appraisal District market value.

Michael Turner's handling the sale now, and he told me yesterday the building's been "shelled out" in recent months. "It's ready for a re-do," he says. "It'd make great loft apartments." (Over here you'll find a small rendering of how the place might look after an extreme makeover.) Turner says he's been trying to sell to Joule owner Tim Headington, who's been snapping up property all around the so-called Elm Street Fire Corridor. "I've called, sent e-mails, and no response," Turner says. "Why don't you call him and ask him why he doesn't buy it."

Maybe Turner oughta play up its history: After doing a little digging, I discovered that 'round the turn of the century 1516 Elm was known as the Oram Building -- so named, confirms Carol Roark, manager of the Dallas Public Library's Texas & Dallas History Division, for none other than John M. Oram, whose unparalleled history as a local inventor occupies almost two full pages of the third volume of A History of Texas and Texans, published in 1914.

The book refers to Oram as "a genius" whose countless contributions demand that his name "should long be honored in his home state."

For instance, in 1878 Oram was responsible for constructing and installing the very first telephone line in Dallas -- which, says the history book, ran from his home on Cottage Street (now Federal) to the very site on Elm Street where the for-sale building now stands. Oram, a jeweler for whom the street is named, would go on to invent myriad phone gadgets and gewgaws bought by the American Bell Telephone Company on his way to becoming the city's official electrician. Says the book, Oram "also used the first electric light ever seen in Dallas."

In 1900 he built what the book calls "one of the first 'skyscrapers' in Dallas," the five-story building at 1516 Elm. Two years later, Roark says, records show that a "major fire" swept through the building causing $12,000 worth of damage. But only a few years later, 1516 Elm became the first home of the W.A. Green department store, which would eventually move into the Wilson Building by the 1930s.

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky