With the resurgence of Deep Ellum and the recent razing of buildings in downtown Dallas, I’ve been thinking about the old Union Bankers building on Elm Street and Good Latimer and did a little reading on it*.
The building was erected in 1915 and designed by Dallas’ first African American architect, William Sydney Pittman. It was created as the Knights of Pythias Temple, but is now often referred to as the Union Bankers building due to the sign left by its last occupants. From the time it was built until 1939, the building served as a hub for Dallas’ black middle class. It was a place to socialize, engage in culture and community, and do business. It also housed offices for African American doctors, dentists, and lawyers.
In the late 50’s it was acquired, painted white, and turned into an office building for The Union Bankers. It wasn’t long after the decision in the 80’s to turn the building into an historic landmark that the owners decided to leave.
Though the Pythias Temple currently has an owner, it remains unused. I’m not sure who owns the building, or what plans he or she has for it, and it’s certainly not my place to demand something be done. But I can’t help but dream up ideas for this structure that essentially serves as a reminder of Deep Ellum’s roots.
If I owned the building, or had anywhere near enough money to do this, I would like to see it cleaned up (not too much change- just get rid of the rot and crud inside) and make into a music hall/museum. The bottom floor could be a bar/venue at night and the upstairs could serve as a “Deep Ellum specific” museum during the day. Or maybe just a restaurant/museum. I think it would be a great way to get people acquainted with the history of this neighborhood before they venture out into the activities, dining, and nightlife that it offers.
Perhaps if people had the chance to see old pictures of Deep Ellum and read about the musicians and skilled professionals who have lived here and influenced this place, they might be more inclined to preserve the structures and overall feel of the area.
I’m sure plenty of people have their own ideas of what the building could become. What are your opinions? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
If you’re interested in reading a more detailed history of the building and its previous owners, check out this interesting article from the Dallas Observer written in 2007.
*Please feel free to correct me for any inaccuracies in the history. I pulled this information from various online sources.