For Those Wondering Why There Are Crews Working at Old Dallas High School Today ...

Earlier today, via The Twitter, reader Joe Roberts submitted this: "Workers are pulling boards off windows at the old Dallas High School building at Pearl Station. Any clue as to why?" Why, no, Joe. But I have heard in recent days that crews have been gutting the century-old structure -- stripping every last piece of whatnot and you-name-it out of Otto Lang and Frank Witchell's building, the first public high school built in the city. Maybe it has something to do with that? A sign of progress, perhaps? Doubtful. Very doubtful. But let's find out.

When I pulled into the parking lot about an hour ago, workers were returning from lunch. So I asked one nice gentleman in a hard hat why so many windows were exposed. He said it was no big deal -- workers, under orders from the owner, were just replacing rotted-out boards with freshly painted ones intended to better match the building's exterior. He also confirmed what glimpses into the building revealed: Everything's been removed -- every last ceiling tile, chalkboard, and brass hand rail. "It's a hull," he said -- a musty, foul-smelling shell.

Earlier this year we recounted the battle over the building, which California real estate investor Robert Yu bought from the Dallas Independent School District in 1998 for $6.1 million. He'd intended to tear it down and build a mall, but the city stepped in and had it designated a historic landmark. At which point there was legal action, resulting in a court order that Yu must maintain the property up to code.

Yu's reps say he wants to sell, but that's unlikely -- those who know the man, who's never returned one of our dozens of phone calls, say he intends to let it rot for generations just to stick it to the city for halting the teardown.

So, no. Nothing's happening except some wood's being replaced, and what remained of the guts have been yanked out. Oh -- and they are putting in a working toilet per the city's demand it be kept up to code.

For a long while, I stood in front of Dallas High School this afternoon. Riders waiting for the train at the Pearl Station were watching the workers. I started taking some photos. One woman asked me what they were up to. She seemed hopeful. I told her what was going on. "Oh," she said, deflated. "That's a shame."

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky

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