At last, some good news about a venerable Dallas building not being torn down.
The Stroud House at 2723 Routh Street is one of the oldest homes in Dallas — built in 1868. It’s still standing, amid the explosive development of Uptown or, as I persist in calling it, the State-Thomas area. That’s one of the reasons the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture, headquartered next door, decided to buy the house. To keep it from possibly being leveled for a batch of condos or transformed into what Dallas truly needs, another trendy restaurant-bar.
Recently, the house had a frame shop on the first floor, while the connected, rear house was the Intown Chabad (an Orthodox Jewish organization). Last night, the Dallas Institute held a reception to celebrate its expansion in the Stroud property, and a number of us in attendance (full disclosure: I’m a fellow of the institute) remembered the last time we’d ever been inside the back: when it was the legendary antiquarian bookstore, The History Merchant. The store had one of the best, atmospheric interiors for such an operation — properly baronial (above right). The History Merchant’s bookcases are still around, reported Larry Allums, executive director of the institute, and they may be put to use for one possible future for that rear house: a bookstore-cafe.
The fact that the front house has a decidedly French Quarter flavor (below, the second-floor, balcony garden in the back of the house, complete with fountain and traditional, black-iron railing) inclined one to order multiple gin-and-tonics and consider the possibilities for Mardi Gras parties. More seriously: Preserving such handsome structures and converting them to use for lectures, meeting rooms, a bookstore, even temporary apartments for visiting lecturers or scholars — all this certainly fulfills the institute’s dual focus on the life of the mind and the life of the city.
I can think of few better ways to bring new life to an old home — especially in a downtown that needs all the life, intellectual or otherwise, it can get.