Different Dallas, Different Historic School and a Much Different Solution

Only Tuesday we wondered how much longer the Dallas Independent School District -- and, for that matter, the city and its code enforcement officers -- would allow the boarded-up 107-year-old Davy Crockett School in East Dallas to fall to pieces. The district no longer has offices there; it hasn't been a school since 1989; and it has turned into a canvas for graffiti artists. And, for now, there are no plans in place for future use. Which is why several Friends have suggested the district at least try to sell it, since DISD isn't in the preservation business. Far from it: The board of trustees fought to keep Adamson from becoming a city-designated property, and tonight it will vote to combat any attempts to designate Oak Cliff Christian Church, which the Old Oak Cliff Conservation League is trying to sell by August lest DISD raze the structure.

So, then, funny thing: Yesterday I found this story out of Dallas City, Illinois, where the school district is trying to sell a ca. 1895 school building known as "the castle." The district acknowledges it can't afford to keep the place up to code and hopes grants available to owners of historic property will entice would-be buyers. Says that district's superintendent, "We saw the expense was going to far outweigh the benefits of continuing to own the property and try to maintain it." Ding, ding and ding.

DISD's higher-ups don't want get into what may or may not happen with Crockett, but former Dallas City Council member and current Arts District director Veletta Lill says DISD can just declare Crockett surplus property and just give it away to a nonprofit. (It's right there in the Texas Constitution, matter of fact.) And, she tells Unfair Park, at one point there was a discussion between the district and Central Dallas Ministries about "creating seniors housing" in the building, but that fell apart some time ago.

"It's an important building in a historic neighborhood, but with the right set of circumstances it could still be adapted for seniors housing," she says. "It has been done in other cities and other states, and with the right financing package, including historic tax credits and housing tax credits and a donation by the school district, this could be a win-win. It would also require the neighborhood approve it, but they tend to be supportive of seniors housing."

I spoke again with Katherine Seale, exec director of Preservation Dallas, who says that, as a matter of fact, Crockett
comes up once a year when PD puts together its most-endangered list. And, she reminds, before the building was historically designated, the district had, in fact, tried to tear it down.

"The community has tried to be patient with DISD while they try to determine how to manage their assets," says Lill, "but our current frustration is they don't seem to be able to make decisions about some of those assets. This has become a liability for the district and the neighborhood."

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky