Deep Ellum, Dallas
|This article may contain inappropriate or misinterpreted citations that do not verify the text. (April 2012)|
Deep Ellum (a corruption of "deep Elm Street") is a neighborhood composed largely of arts and entertainment venues near downtown in Old East Dallas, Texas (USA). The neighborhood lies directly east of the elevated I-45/US 75 (unsigned I-345) freeway and extends to Exposition Avenue, connected to downtown by, from north to south, Pacific, Elm, Main, Commerce, and Canton streets. The neighborhood is north of Exposition Park and south of Bryan Place.
The area got its start in 1884 when Robert S. Munger built his first factory, for the Munger Improved Cotton Machine Company, in what is now Deep Ellum. In 1913, Henry Ford opened an assembly plant here to supplement the manufacture of the Ford Model T at the Detroit plant. In 1916, the first building built for and by blacks in Dallas—The Knights of Pythias Temple—was built in Deep Ellum at Good-Latimer and Elm Street, later turned into the Union Bankers Building.1
Deep Ellum became distinguished as a prime jazz and blues hotspot in the South. Artists such as Blind Lemon Jefferson, Robert Johnson, Huddie "Lead Belly" Ledbetter, and Bessie Smith played in Deep Ellum clubs like The Harlem and The Palace.
In 1937, a columnist described Deep Ellum as:
...[the] one spot in the city that needs no daylight saving time because there is no bedtime...[It is] the only place recorded on earth where business, religion, hoodooism, gambling and stealing goes on at the same time without friction...Last Saturday a prophet held the best audience in this 'Madison Square Garden' in announcing that Jesus Christ would come to Dallas in person in 1939. At the same time a pickpocket was lifting a week's wages from another guy's pocket, who stood with open mouth to hear the prophecy.2
At the time, you could find gun and locksmith shops, clothing stores, the Cotton Club, tattoo studios, barber-shops, pawn shops, drugstores, tea rooms, loan offices, domino halls, pool halls, and walk-up hotels. On its sidewalks you could find pigeon droppers, reefer men, craps shooters, card sharps, and sellers of cocaine and marijuana.2 Sometime around World War I, Lead Belly and Blind Lemon Jefferson got together and began composing folk tunes, with Dallas often in the lyrics. In a song called "Take A Whiff On Me":
Walked up Ellum an' I come down Main,
Tryin' to bum a nickel jes' to buy cocaine.
Ho, Ho, baby, take a whiff on me.2
Another song about Deep Ellum, "Deep Ellum Blues", included:
When you go down on Deep Ellum,
Put your money in your socks
'Cause them Women on Deep Ellum
Sho' will throw you on the rocks.
Oh, sweet mama, your daddy's got them Deep Ellum Blues.
Oh, sweet mama, your daddy's got them Deep Ellum Blues.2
The 1990s were a high point for Deep Ellum as Dallas' liveliest entertainment district. By 1991, Deep Ellum had 57 bars and nightclubs. There were restaurants, tattoo parlors, other diverse retail shops, and an increasing amount of high-rent residential loft space. Notable businesses of the 1990s included Deep Ellum Live (closed in 2004), Trees (closed late 2005, reopened August 2009), 2826, Club Dada (closed & reopened 2006), The Angry Dog (a restaurant, still in business), Monica's Aca y Alla (a restaurant, closed in 2012), Looker Hair Group (a salon), Galaxy Club (closed early 2007), the Green Room (closed September 2006, reopened 2010, closed 2011, reopened June 2013), Tarantino's (closed September 2006), and The Red Blood Club (closed & reopened 2007,and then closed again in 2008).
One notable event involves Russell Hobbs, the former owner of Theatre Gallery and the Prophet Bar, who, in early 1988, converted to Christianity, closed his two still-popular clubs, and opened The Door, a Christian oriented venue. An interesting success story involved Eduardo Greene, owner of Eduardo's Aca y Alla. In the mid-90's, Greene divorced his wife, had a highly publicized sex-change and reopened under her new name, Monica's Aca y Alla.
In 2011, the microbrewery Deep Ellum Brewing Company opened in Deep Ellum. DEBC currently distributes its brews to bars across Texas and hosts public tours.
At one point, Deep Ellum had become such a popular attraction that the streets often were blocked off to traffic, especially on weekends. It also spawned several events like the Deep Ellum Film Festival and Deep Ellum Arts Festival. However, week-end nights now find the streets much emptier than did the 1990s. New events such as the CODE (Culture Of Deep Ellum) events, and Dallas Rock Meetup Group monthly festival, involve multi-venue, multi-band performances that hope to maintain Deep Ellum's viability as a live music hotspot.
Today, Deep Ellum struggles with a perception of a high crime rate that has made people reluctant to visit the area. In mid-2006, local papers had begun to report the near-demise of the neighborhood, as a large percentage of the long-time live music venues had closed that year, leaving mostly clubs oriented more towards 'hip hop' music, dancing and drinking, and radically altering the "feel" of the area. In 2007, several additional small and medium clubs had closed, although new live-music venues spring up without warning. Things have turned around somewhat in 2009 and 2010, as evidenced by a slew of new bar, live music venue and restaurant openings. Some of the recent and planned openings include the re-launch of the near-legendary venue Trees, old favorites such as Club Dada and The Green Room, Tucker's Blues, The Boiler Room, Anvil Bar and La Grange.
It is a time of transition. In 2007, the City Of Dallas encouraged large scale residential, multi-family dwelling construction in Deep Ellum, in hopes of making it more financially successful. However, no new area or neighborhood besides Deep Ellum has arisen for Dallas' indie and blues musicians with the access to venues and grass-roots spirit once associated with Deep Ellum.
||This article possibly contains original research. (December 2011)|
In addition to live music, Deep Ellum is a hot-bed for graffiti. Many of the music venues use graffiti artists to advertise music shows. In the late 1980s, the city allowed a number of local artists to paint walls of the Good Latimer Expressway tunnel (a major entry to the neighborhood). The wide variety of images, largely in a 'graffiti' style, has long been a popular display, leading many to conclude (incorrectly) that the city allows graffiti in parts of Deep Ellum. The tunnel was demolished in spring 2007 to make way for the DART Green Line train.
Deep Ellum is served by the Dallas Independent School District.
Residents of Deep Ellum north of Commerce Street are zoned to Ignacio Zaragoza Elementary School, Alex W. Spence Middle School and North Dallas High School.3 Residents south of Commerce Street are zoned to City Park Elementary School, Billy Earl Dade Middle School, and James Madison High School.4
Deep Ellum is also home to a free, public charter school located in the midst of the entertainment district. Uplift Luna opened in 2006 and is considered a high performing school, according to state reports.
- The Deep Ellum Association - FAQ. Retrieved 4 October 2006.
- Payne, Darwin (1982). "Chapter VI: The Spirit of Enterprise". Dallas, an illustrated history. Woodland Hills, California: Windsor Publications. pp. 157–185. ISBN 0-89781-034-1.
- Dallas ISD - 2006 School Feeder Patterns - North Dallas High School. (Maps: ES: Zaragoza; MS: Spence; HS: North Dallas.) Retrieved 1 January 2007.
- Dallas ISD - 2006 School Feeder Patterns - James Madison High School. (Maps: ES: City Park; MS: Dade; HS: Madison.) Retrieved 1 January 2007.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Deep Ellum, Dallas.|
- Pask, Kevin. "Deep Ellum Blues" Southern Spaces, 30 October 2007.
- DEEP (Deep Ellum Enrichment Project)
- Deep Ellum Residents Council
- Complete Deep Ellum Business Listing
- Deep Ellum Film Festival
- Deep Ellum Arts Festival
- History of Deep Ellum compiled by the Dallas Observer
- Deep Ellum Residents Council on Myspace
- Extensive gallery of Good-Latimer Tunnel murals
- Deep Addison
- Empyrean Events- Deep Ellum based event promoters
- Headlines about Downtown Dallas and Deep Ellum from The Dallas Morning News
- The Door moves into Gypsy Tea Room