Dallas Hippodrome Theater 1913-1960

In all my studies of the 1922-23 Arden Club, the most interesting thing I saw was the story of the Dallas Hippodrome. This piece will look at how the theater was involved in the evolution of entertainment in Dallas’ downtown, and how it was related to the years of the Arden Club closely related to 1922-23.

The Hippodrome theater got off to quite an amazing start. In early 1912, The Hippodrome Theater Company gathered around $70,000 worth of capital to begin the project of “the finest building in its kind in the South”. Everything about the theater was to be grand and spectacular. It was a two storey building seating 1200 people, 850 on the main floor and 350 in the balcony. Not only that, but it was built in the state of the art fashion of being a fireproof theater, meaning only the doors were made of wood. The largest pipe organ ever installed in a theater would be accompanied by a seven-piece orchestra to add sound to the otherwise silent films. The fire curtain depicted showed a scene of a Roman chariot race. The total amount of decor and splendor that went into every little detail of the theater was incredible and could be enumerated on for days. It was even air conditioned! All in all, the building ended up costing $120,00, or around $3 million in today’s money. The investment made sense as well, as it was guessed that nearly one-third of Dallas residents in 1913 would pine up the roughly 50 cents it took to see a motion picture show every day. Yes, one out of three people in Dallas would see a motion picture on any given day. That looked to bring in roughly $500,000 to motion picture theaters every year, where the Hippodrome looked to be the most beautiful and state of the art of those theaters.

However, the Hippodrome Theater quickly realized that there were other ways to make money outside of motion pictures. The first occurrence of a non-motion picture using the Theater was of the Dallas High School Minstrels using the theater for their third annual minstrel show. By 1920 theater productions were commonly taking place in the Hippodrome. Many of the plays were short-lived, showing for no more than ten days, and this gave the students of the Arden club a great opportunity to learn. It can be assumed that in the minutes above, the play which was being put on at the time of the Arden’s Club visit was “The Ghost Between” or the play “Overnight”. Both of these productions are dramas and gave the Arden Club students valuable experience in how professionals put on their productions. Not only that, but the theater also was constantly running midnight burlesque and vaudeville shows. Yes, these kinds of shows are not regarded in the same ilk as more standard plays, they were of the time and would help teach the aspiring amateurs of the Arden Club what worked on stage. Much as theater students do today, the members of the Arden Club would go to see how they lit certain scenes, or how a certain actor acted out a particular scene. This type of resource would prove invaluable to the members as they looked to further their own craft.

As the Arden Club continued its own ascendency, the Hippodrome theater was going in another direction. The aforementioned burlesque and vaudeville shows were a double-edged sword to the Hippodrome. The “hootchy-kootchy” style of dancing that took place at the midnight shows led to legal scrutiny of the theater. However, it was those very shows that brought in the most money to the theater and therefore decided to continue running them. Not only that, but they began to run more and more obscure events such as wrestling matches. How they thought a theater with marble adorned all over would be an appropriate site for a wrestling match is beyond comprehension. In 1933 the Hippodrome changed its name to the Joy and doubled down on its more ethically questionable showings. Only two months into the name change the manager M. Midyet was arrested along with two performers after a police raid of the theater. Later that same year the City of Dallas temporarily shut down the Joy for the exhibiting of indecent shows. (Just another small tidbit here, but the judge when trying the case asked for the performers to come and recreate the performance, quite weird.) Then not long after the Joy was under fire again after a comedian who had just performed hit and killed a woman with his car. Finally, in 1937 the owner died after the last show of the night. That was to be almost the end of the Joy before it became Wade theater in 1942. It was bought and named by Franck Nick, who again continued the tradition of racier showings, including the movie “The Condemned”, a movie about syphilis. A rebranded to a family theater was attempted when Wayne Babb bought it and named it The Strand Theatre. This did not work out too well as, by 1953, a tailor had moved into the place. Then in 1956, the Strand reopened as a burlesque theater, though only lasting a year. In 1957, it became a sports-themed theater, and quickly failed. Today where the Hippodrome once stood is now Renaissance Tower.

Although the connection between the Hippodrome theater is a bit tangential in relation to the Arden Club, it nonetheless provided a great story of a building with history in Dallas. Very few buildings can boast of the esteem that the Hippodrome once held, to the ire and disgust that many looked at the Joy with. To think all of this happened where one of Dallas’ most famous landmarks stand today is also quite incredible, and quite sad that the history of that site is almost forgotten. That in order to find the information on this once great and also controversial establishment one needed to look pretty hard in order to find anything. Though, that is the purpose of projects like this, to make history like that of the Hippodrome more available.

Duncan Brookover

Works Cited

“Al G. Fields Minstrels at Hippodrome Monday.” Dallas Morning News, 6 Nov. 1924, pp. 4–4. NewsBank, infoweb.newsbank.com/iw-search/we/HistArchive?p_action=doc&p_topdoc=1&p_text_base=document_id=(105618070130E9D5)&p_product=EANX&p_theme=ahnp&p_docnum=1&p_docid=105618070130E9D5&p_nbid=W66Q4DJIMTU1NjU1OTI3NS42MzQxOTk6MToxNDoxMjkuMTE5LjIzNS4yNw&f_currentpage=2&p_queryname=mark&s_lastqueryname=mark&s_lastnonissuequeryname=mark&p_sort=YMD_date:A&d_article_id=105618070130E9D5&d_release=release_1392&d_issue_id=10561805A0E354E1&d_db=EAN-LIVE&p_docref=v2:0F99DDB671832188@EANX-10561805A0E354E1@2424096-10561805C1D4541E@3-105618070130E9D5@Al G. Field Minstrels at Hippodrome Monday&d_format=gif&d_size=display&d_hlTerms=&f_hlTerms=dallas; minstrels; hippodrome.

“Building Activity Is Unprecedented.” Dallas Morning News, 25 Aug. 1912, pp. 4–4. NewsBank, infoweb.newsbank.com/iw-search/we/HistArchive?p_action=doc&p_topdoc=1&p_text_base=document_id=(106C2E8CD695C91C)&p_product=EANX&p_theme=ahnp&p_docnum=1&p_docid=106C2E8CD695C91C&p_nbid=W66Q4DJIMTU1NjU1OTI3NS42MzQxOTk6MToxNDoxMjkuMTE5LjIzNS4yNw&f_currentpage=2&p_queryname=mark&s_lastqueryname=mark&s_lastnonissuequeryname=mark&p_sort=YMD_date:A&d_article_id=106C2E8CD695C91C&d_release=release_1398&d_issue_id=106C2E834AAA5C5D&d_db=EAN-LIVE&p_docref=v2:0F99DDB671832188@EANX-106C2E834AAA5C5D@2419640-106C2E83A5FEA394@3-106C2E8CD695C91C@Building Activity is Unprecedented&d_format=gif&d_size=display&d_hlTerms=&f_hlTerms=hippodrome; theater.

“Carmen Will Show Here in Pictures.” Dallas Morning News, 25 May 1913, pp. 11–11. NewsBank, infoweb.newsbank.com/iw-search/we/HistArchive?p_action=doc&p_topdoc=1&p_text_base=document_id=(106C47C0F9E58A11)&p_product=EANX&p_theme=ahnp&p_docnum=1&p_docid=106C47C0F9E58A11&p_nbid=W66Q4DJIMTU1NjU1OTI3NS42MzQxOTk6MToxNDoxMjkuMTE5LjIzNS4yNw&f_currentpage=2&p_queryname=mark&s_lastqueryname=mark&s_lastnonissuequeryname=mark&p_sort=YMD_date:A&d_article_id=106C47C0F9E58A11&d_release=release_1398&d_issue_id=106C47BC0FCBA1F5&d_db=EAN-LIVE&p_docref=v2:0F99DDB671832188@EANX-106C47BC0FCBA1F5@2419913-106C47BC9728388C@10-106C47C0F9E58A11@Carmen Will Show Here in Pictures&d_format=gif&d_size=display&d_hlTerms=&f_hlTerms=hippodrome; theater.

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“Crowd Boos Raiders as Shows Closed up at Midnight Ramble.” Dallas Morning News, 26 Mar. 1933, pp. 3–3. NewsBank, infoweb.newsbank.com/iw-search/we/HistArchive?p_action=doc&p_topdoc=1&p_text_base=document_id=(10482FC6634529CB)&p_product=EANX&p_theme=ahnp&p_docnum=1&p_docid=10482FC6634529CB&p_nbid=W66Q4DJIMTU1NjU1OTI3NS42MzQxOTk6MToxNDoxMjkuMTE5LjIzNS4yNw&f_currentpage=2&p_queryname=mark&s_lastqueryname=mark&s_lastnonissuequeryname=mark&p_sort=YMD_date:A&d_article_id=10482FC6634529CB&d_release=&d_issue_id=10482FC4B5DA4142&d_db=EAN-LIVE&p_docref=v2:0F99DDB671832188@EANX-10482FC4B5DA4142@2427158-10482FC4D251BF53@2-10482FC6634529CB@Crowd Boos Raiders as Show Closed up at Midnight Ramble&d_format=gif&d_size=display&d_hlTerms=&f_hlTerms=m.; midyet.

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“Eklund Agrees to Wrestle Rodgers.” Dallas Morning News, 29 Oct. 1924, pp. 17–17. NewsBank, infoweb.newsbank.com/iw-search/we/HistArchive?p_action=doc&p_topdoc=1&p_text_base=document_id=(10561D36217A6C55)&p_product=EANX&p_theme=ahnp&p_docnum=1&p_docid=10561D36217A6C55&p_nbid=W66Q4DJIMTU1NjU1OTI3NS42MzQxOTk6MToxNDoxMjkuMTE5LjIzNS4yNw&f_currentpage=2&p_queryname=mark&s_lastqueryname=mark&s_lastnonissuequeryname=mark&p_sort=YMD_date:A&d_article_id=10561D36217A6C55&d_release=&d_issue_id=10561D329BA17222&d_db=EAN-LIVE&p_docref=v2:0F99DDB671832188@EANX-10561D329BA17222@2424088-10561D33337A5964@16-10561D36217A6C55@Eklund Agrees to Wrestle Rodgers&d_format=gif&d_size=display&d_hlTerms=&f_hlTerms=hippodrome; theater; wrestling.

“Eklund Arrives Here for Go with Rodgers.” Dallas Morning News, 3 Nov. 1924, pp. 14–14. NewsBank, infoweb.newsbank.com/iw-search/we/HistArchive?p_action=doc&p_topdoc=1&p_text_base=document_id=(105617F9F9339BC6)&p_product=EANX&p_theme=ahnp&p_docnum=1&p_docid=105617F9F9339BC6&p_nbid=W66Q4DJIMTU1NjU1OTI3NS42MzQxOTk6MToxNDoxMjkuMTE5LjIzNS4yNw&f_currentpage=2&p_queryname=mark&s_lastqueryname=mark&s_lastnonissuequeryname=mark&p_sort=YMD_date:A&d_article_id=105617F9F9339BC6&d_release=&d_issue_id=105617F760CC456D&d_db=EAN-LIVE&p_docref=v2:0F99DDB671832188@EANX-105617F760CC456D@2424093-105617F7EEC57331@13-105617F9F9339BC6@Eklund Arrives Here for Go with Rodgers&d_format=gif&d_size=display&d_hlTerms=&f_hlTerms=hippodrome; theater; wrestling.

“Hippodrome Theater Building.” Dallas Morning News, 11 June 1912, pp. 5–5. NewsBank, infoweb.newsbank.com/iw-search/we/HistArchive?p_action=doc&p_topdoc=1&p_text_base=document_id=(106C3ADD60995DCD)&p_product=EANX&p_theme=ahnp&p_docnum=1&p_docid=106C3ADD60995DCD&p_nbid=W66Q4DJIMTU1NjU1OTI3NS42MzQxOTk6MToxNDoxMjkuMTE5LjIzNS4yNw&f_currentpage=2&p_queryname=mark&s_lastqueryname=mark&s_lastnonissuequeryname=mark&p_sort=YMD_date:A&d_article_id=106C3ADD60995DCD&d_release=release_1398&d_issue_id=106C3AD9DBECCE4C&d_db=EAN-LIVE&p_docref=v2:0F99DDB671832188@EANX-106C3AD9DBECCE4C@2419565-106C3ADA40FCDCFE@4-106C3ADD60995DCD@Hippodrome Theater Building&d_format=gif&d_size=display&d_hlTerms=&f_hlTerms=hippodrome; theater.

“Hippodrome Theater Has $70,000 Capital.” Dallas Morning News, 19 May 1912, pp. 13–13. Readex, infoweb.newsbank.com/iw-search/we/HistArchive?p_action=doc&p_topdoc=1&p_text_base=document_id=(106C3B5273472F99)&p_product=EANX&p_theme=ahnp&p_docnum=1&p_docid=106C3B5273472F99&p_nbid=W66Q4DJIMTU1NjU1OTI3NS42MzQxOTk6MToxNDoxMjkuMTE5LjIzNS4yNw&f_currentpage=2&p_queryname=mark&s_lastqueryname=mark&s_lastnonissuequeryname=mark&p_sort=YMD_date:A&d_article_id=106C3B5273472F99&d_release=release_1398&d_issue_id=106C3B479DDD1317&d_db=EAN-LIVE&p_docref=v2:0F99DDB671832188@EANX-106C3B479DDD1317@2419542-106C3B4895A7FF3F@12-106C3B5273472F99@Hippodrome Theater Has $70,000 Capital&d_format=gif&d_size=display&d_hlTerms=&f_hlTerms=hippodrome; theater.

“Hippodrome Theater Opening Is Tonight.” Dallas Morning News, 1 Mar. 1913, pp. 4–4. NewsBank, infoweb.newsbank.com/iw-search/we/HistArchive?p_action=doc&p_topdoc=1&p_text_base=document_id=(106C4541670B83C0)&p_product=EANX&p_theme=ahnp&p_docnum=1&p_docid=106C4541670B83C0&p_nbid=W66Q4DJIMTU1NjU1OTI3NS42MzQxOTk6MToxNDoxMjkuMTE5LjIzNS4yNw&f_currentpage=2&p_queryname=mark&s_lastqueryname=mark&s_lastnonissuequeryname=mark&p_sort=YMD_date:A&d_article_id=106C4541670B83C0&d_release=release_1398&d_issue_id=106C453F25C7819B&d_db=EAN-LIVE&p_docref=v2:0F99DDB671832188@EANX-106C453F25C7819B@2419828-106C453F7AFC0C70@3-106C4541670B83C0@Hippodrome Theater Opening is Tonight&d_format=gif&d_size=display&d_hlTerms=&f_hlTerms=hippodrome; theater.

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“Startling Progress of Picture Shows.” Dallas Morning News, 9 Mar. 1913, pp. 2–2. NewsBank, infoweb.newsbank.com/iw-search/we/HistArchive?p_action=doc&p_topdoc=1&p_text_base=document_id=(106C440F6104C4BD)&p_product=EANX&p_theme=ahnp&p_docnum=1&p_docid=106C440F6104C4BD&p_nbid=W66Q4DJIMTU1NjU1OTI3NS42MzQxOTk6MToxNDoxMjkuMTE5LjIzNS4yNw&f_currentpage=2&p_queryname=mark&s_lastqueryname=mark&s_lastnonissuequeryname=mark&p_sort=YMD_date:A&d_article_id=106C440F6104C4BD&d_release=release_1398&d_issue_id=106C4402074C0F3F&d_db=EAN-LIVE&p_docref=v2:0F99DDB671832188@EANX-106C4402074C0F3F@2419836-106C44039B12114A@17-106C440F6104C4BD@Startling Progress of Picture Shows&d_format=gif&d_size=display&d_hlTerms=&f_hlTerms=hippodrome; theater.

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“Work Begins Monday on A. Busch Building.” Dallas Morning News, 16 July 1912, pp. 14–14. NewsBank, infoweb.newsbank.com/iw-search/we/HistArchive?p_action=doc&p_topdoc=1&p_text_base=document_id=(106C2BB3F7AB3A92)&p_product=EANX&p_theme=ahnp&p_docnum=1&p_docid=106C2BB3F7AB3A92&p_nbid=W66Q4DJIMTU1NjU1OTI3NS42MzQxOTk6MToxNDoxMjkuMTE5LjIzNS4yNw&f_currentpage=2&p_queryname=mark&s_lastqueryname=mark&s_lastnonissuequeryname=mark&p_sort=YMD_date:A&d_article_id=106C2BB3F7AB3A92&d_release=release_1398&d_issue_id=106C2BAC6CEC8A44&d_db=EAN-LIVE&p_docref=v2:0F99DDB671832188@EANX-106C2BAC6CEC8A44@2419600-106C2BADD2BA74CB@13-106C2BB3F7AB3A92@Work Begins Monday on A. Busch Building&d_format=gif&d_size=display&d_hlTerms=&f_hlTerms=hippodrome; theater.