December 17-27, 1994: Christmas in North Carolina
November 19, 1994: My 48th Birthday Party
Return to the Index for 1994


November 26, 1994
Frank and Joe Visit Dallas

 

It is quite a treat to be able to see these guys twice in the same month. This weekend, they had come up to Ft. Worth to visit with Frank's family, and on Saturday the two of them came over to Dallas to spend some time with Fred and I.

 

At Pioneer Plaza: The Longhorns

Dallas likes to think of itself as a "Western" city since it sits on what was once the Western frontier. But truth be told, the only cowboys you are ever likely to see in Dallas (aside from the footballers) will be of the "urban" variety. Residents of Fort Worth like to crow that "Fort Worth is where the West begins; Dallas is where the East peters out."

So it is a bit unusual that one of the centerpieces of downtown Dallas is Pioneer Plaza and its longhorn sculptures.


Pioneer Plaza is a public park located in the Convention Center District of downtown, about four blocks away from Dealey Plaza to the east. Next to Dealey Plaza, it is the most visited tourist site in downtown (not counting the American Airlines Center that was built four years ago six blocks north of the Depository). Adjacent to the plaza is the Pioneer Park Cemetery which features the Confederate War Memorial. Together, they are the largest public open space in the Dallas central business district.

The land on which the plaza sits, once railroad and warehouse property, was originally cleared for the failed Griffin Square development, which was to have featured a new hotel and a 55-story office tower. The cleared land sat unused for some time before real estate developer Trammell Crow got the idea for a public park. Hed had for some time wanted an iconic "Western" sculpture in the city of Dallas (not, apparently, listening to the citizens of Fort Worth) and assembled a group to donate the sculptures.

The $9 million project was begun in 1992 on the 4.2 acres donated by the City of Dallas; $4.8 million of the cost came from private funds raised from individuals and local businesses. Local artists sued to stop the project and claimed that it was historically inaccurate for the city, but the project was not derailed and the plaza opened earlier this year.

Today the park is maintained by the adjacent Dallas Convention Center (formerly Reunion Arena) and is the second most visited tourist attraction in downtown Dallas. As a work in progress, an additional steer is occasionally added to the herd.


Myself, Frank and Joe at "The Longhorns"

The large sculpture commemorates nineteenth century cattle drives that took place along the Shawnee Trail, the earliest and easternmost route by which Texas longhorn cattle were taken to northern railheads. The trail passed through Austin, Waco, and Dallas until the Chisolm Trail siphoned off most of the traffic in 1867.

The 49 bronze steers and 3 trail riders sculptures were created by artist Robert Summers of Glen Rose, Texas. Each steer is larger-than-life at six feet high; all together the sculpture is the largest bronze monument of its kind in the world. Set along an artificial ridge and past a man-made limestone cliff, native landscaping with a flowing stream and waterfall help create the dramatic effect.

I've read some criticisms of the whole sculpture, including one that says this cowboy is dressed wrong, has the wrong saddle, and wouldn't be caught dead in the awkward position in which he's been placed.

I think that Frank and Joe were suitably impressed with the sculpture and the setting, but I know that they and us understood the inappropriateness of the sculpture for downtown Dallas- as opposed to downtown Fort Worth. We were aware of the historical "stretching of the truth" that the sculpture represents


Joe Wells, myself, and Frank Roberts with a Trail Rider

This sculpture is similar to "The Mustangs" out in Las Colinas. As I mentioned above, there is some historical controversy, but the sculptures are quite handsome, and they and the small park they are in add some flavor to what is an otherwise blah downtown.


Frank Roberts, Joe Wells and Fred

You can see here that the sculptures are larger than life size, and that we are standing on the top of a small hill. The longhorns and cowboys trail down the hill and cross an artificial stream near the bottom. The day was overcast, and occasionally it sprinkled a bit.

Here are a couple more pictures that we took this afterrnoon at Pioneer Park:


One of the Longhorn Sculptures

You can also see some of the new fake rocks in the background. I know it's probably impossible to fix, but the one thing that I find disconcerting about the cattle sculptures is that none of them is "cattle colored." I've seen longhorns in lots of different colors, but this metallic finish isn't one of them.


Me, Joe Wells and Frank Roberts at Pioneer Park

Here you can get a good idea of what the sculptures look like as they trail down the artificial hill in the small park. The artificial stream is just out of the picture to the right. The sculpture garden is not quite finished yet, and there has not been a formal dedication either.

Controversy aside, Pioneer Park is really a nice place to come visit.

 

Fountain Place

We also took Frank and Joe over to Fountain Place- one of Dallas's taller skyscrapers- and more specifically to the very handsome fountains that are at its base.


Fountain Place is a 60-story late-modernist skyscraper in downtown Dallas. Standing at a structural height of 720 ft, it is the fifth-tallest building in town, and the 15th-tallest in Texas.

Original plans for the project called for twin towers, with the second tower rotated 90 degrees from the original, to be built on an adjacent block, but with the collapse of the Texas oil, banking and real estate industry and the savings and loan scandal of in the 1980s, the project was never completed. The building was designed by the award-winning architects Pei Cobb Freed & Partners, with Henry N. Cobb as design partner, and was completed in 1986. The landscape and namesake fountains were designed by Dan Kiley.

The building is known for its unique architecture—it was designed as a large, multi-faceted prism. Its various slanted sides cause the building to have a completely different profile from all directions. The building gets its name from the array of 172 dancing fountains in the plaza at its base- and that's what we took Frank and Joe to see.


At right is the picture Fred took of Frank, myself, and Joe at the fountains of Fountain Place. You can see one of the entries to them on the street view picture above (not taken by me but courtesy of Google Street View circa 2014).

The L-shaped park at the base of the tower has three major sections. The first, which you pass through walking in from Griffin Street, is row upon row of small ornamental trees, with plenty of benches for people to sit and relax. At the back corner of the L-shape are the 172 computer-controlled fountains. When they are on, as they are in the picture at right, the computer makes patterns and controls the height of each of the individual fountains. It is very restful to sit and just watch them go through their routines.

In the other section of the L-shape, which extends arount the north side of the building to the Ross Avenue entrance, there is a large series of stairstepped fountains that come down from street level to the level of the computer fountains. This area is actually a series of small waterfalls with lots of places to sit amid the large cypress trees that keep the whole area in shade almost all the time.

Frank and Joe had not been to Fountain Place before, and we enjoyed showing it to them. Fred also set up his panoramic camera on a tripod and had the four of us pose in front of the computer fountain:

You can use the links below to continue to another photo album page.


December 17-27, 1994: Christmas in North Carolina
November 19, 1994: My 48th Birthday Party
Return to the Index for 1994