Very few things get me up early on a Saturday morning, especially on a cold winter day. But the chance to see the inside of a dilapidated building is on the TOP of the list!
On Saturday, January 24th, Tore Bellis and I bundled up and headed to the Forest Theater at 1914 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd in Dallas, Texas. There is a group, Forest Forward, that is leading the way in revitalizing the building and the community… and they are giving tours!
In preparation for the tour, I did some research on the theater. I like to get lost in the weeds because the details paint a day-in-the-life. I’ve done an additional week’s worth of research after the tour and am lost in the beautiful weeds. I found some interesting details that a Google search will not produce. I’ll present the information in bite-sized blogs in an ongoing series. Every image in this blog can be clicked on for a larger view in a new window.
First: Forest Avenue was renamed Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. This detail is crucial when researching. For purposes of my blog, I will refer to Forest Avenue when discussing the theater’s early history because that was the name at the time.
The original Forest Theater was on 1702 Forest Ave in Dallas, Texas. I’m unable to confirm the date the theater opened at this location. I did find a listing for the theater in the 1928 Dallas City Directory but couldn’t find any older city directories. The Directory shows Maurice B. Burke was the assistant manager at the original theater.
Tip: City Directories are a treasure trove of information. Put them on the top of your list when you are researching people and places.
Source: The Portal to Texas History. Dallas City Directory, 1928.
For fun, I used Google Maps to route Mr. Burke’s commute from his home to the theater. If he walked, it took 4 minutes.
This is a Feb 2021 image of where the original Forest Theater was located, courtesy of Google Maps.
Here is a side view of the building. I assume the building is the original theater (they didn’t tear down the theater to build the current structure we see in the photo). The theater is at the corner of Colonial Avenue and Forest Avenue (currently Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd)
I found an advertisement from November 13, 1946 for the Friedman’s Prescription Pharmacy. Note, it indicates it’s across from the Forest Theater. Image and typed advertisement below.
DON’T READ THIS!
Unless you live in South Dallas, that is. In South Dallas, Phone H-7163 when you need drugs, toiletries, and sickroom supplies delivered in a hurry. Prescriptions called for and delivered. We feature fast, free delivery and reasonable prices.
1705-A Forest (Across from Forest Theater) Phone H-7163 Shelby Friedman, Owner”
I briefly researched Shelby B. Friedman, the owner of the pharmacy. He was born in 1911 and served in WWII. He was 91 years old when he passed away Dec 2002. His wife is Rebecca Friedman. I found several Dallas Morning News articles that mention Mr. Friedman. Based on the letters, you get a sense for why the headline in the pharmacy advertisement teased with “Don’t read this!” Mr. Friedman made a lasting positive impression in the community.
Here’s a Google Maps image of the Friedman’s pharmacy building across from the original Forest Theater. Take a look at the original pharmacy sign that remains!
The original Forest Theater was renovated a few times before the new Forest Theater was relocated to 1914 Forest Ave. When the new, larger Forest Theater opened, the original theater was renamed Colonial Theater. Then the Colonial Theater was renamed Theater Lounge and was converted to a nightclub. The Theater Lounge eventually became a burlesque venue.
Here’s a broader view of the area using Google Maps. You can see the tall vertical sign for the new Forest Theater in the background, located at 1914 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
Here’s a view of the Forest Theater at 1914 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
More to come!