When Downtown Was the Place to Be

Posted by    |    July 28th, 2010 at 9:20 am

Throughout the late 1800s and early 1900s, retail establishments in Dallas were located mainly in the downtown central business district, along Main, Elm, St. Paul, Austin, and Lamar Streets.  The real estate mostly encompassed large, multi-story buildings with street front parking.

Early examples in Dallas include Sanger Brothers Dry Goods, Titche-Goettinger, A. Harris & Company, Volk Brothers and others. 

The following information comes from the Highland Park Village nomination form to become a National Historic Landmark (see the document for sources) and describes the typical location and real estate uses for these retailers:

Brothers Alex and Philip Sanger opened Sanger Brothers Dry Goods in Dallas in 1889.  The brothers… expanded the business to encompass several buildings along Elm, Austin, Main and Lamar.  The principal building was designed… in 1910 and remained the headquarters for the business until 1966 when the company was consolidated with A. Harris & Company. 

Sanger Brothers Dry Goods Store in Dallas

The Titche-Goettinger Department Store, formed in 1902 by Max Goettinger and Edward Titche, opened in the relatively new Wilson Building…  The store later moved to the expanded Wilson Building in 1911.  In 1928 the company began construction on a new location at Main, Elm and St. Paul Streets.  During construction in 1929, however, it was sold to Lew Hahn (Hahn Company) before the building was completed.  The Depression affected the breadth of the retail marketing during Hahn’s ownership changing the market from an upper income clientele to a middle income one.  The store’s competitive edge was largely lost to Neiman Marcus.  The company continued its support for and commitment to downtown retailing until the 1960s.

A. Harris & Company, first begun in the 1890s, opened its first major downtown location on the first five floors of the Busch-Kirby Building at 1501 Main in 1913.  The store largely catered to middle and upper income customers along the major retail avenue of downtown Dallas.  The company expanded several times at this location to accommodate changes in retailing.  In 1961 Federated Stores purchased the store and later merged it with Sanger Brothers at a new downtown location in 1965-66.

The Volk Brothers Company began about 1891 in Dallas as a small shoe store under the direction of George and Leonard Volk.  After several expansions, the company purchased its first major location in the retail center of downtown at 1206 Elm Street in 1912.  In June 1921, George Volk purchased the land at 1806-1810 Elm for a new larger store.  A new store was constructed downtown in 1930 and remained in operation until 1970.

So downtown was the place to be, at least for middle- and upper-income shoppers.  That is, until a couple of folks got an idea that launched the creation of the first “modern” shopping center…stay tuned.

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  1. Jeff Hinson says:

    great article. i would love to see you take each family business and go deeper into their histories. Love the pics. They provide perspective.

    If i recall, Elm was the place for movie theaters in Dallas. Another chapter?

  2. Jack Bradshaw says:

    I love the rich history of downtown Dallas. Please keep it coming!