When neighborhood resident Beth Bentley first set about getting landmark designation for J.L. Long Middle School , her son Travis was getting ready to start the eighth grade.

 

To give an idea of how long a process this has been for Bentley and other supporters, Travis is now a 10th grader at Woodrow Wilson High School .

 

“Here it is almost two years later,” says Kaye McCallum, an interior designer who, along with architect Bob Ritchie and Bentley made up the three-person team that put the landmark proposal together.

 

“It’s exciting to see our hard work come to fruition.”

 

Later this month, if all goes according to plan, the City Council will have the final vote on Long’s landmark designation (the Long PTA, DISD and the city landmark and planning commissions already have approved it).

 

I think it’ll go just fine,” Bentley says of the vote.

 

Long, the second junior high built in Dallas , was erected in 1933 by Ralph Bryan and Walter Sharp. 

 

“We just felt it deserved the same credit as Woodrow,” Ritchie says. “It’s not quite as architecturally significant, but it’s real close.” Woodrow has received both city and state landmark designation.

 

Both Ritchie and Bentley cite the school’s carved stonework as examples of why it deserves to be declared a landmark. Over all the school’s entrances are carved open books, which signify the Book of Knowledge, Bentley says. And carved baskets of fruit symbolize the fruits of knowledge.

 

“A lot of the detailing is Deco-era because it was [built in] the ’30s,” Bentley says. “There’s a lot of symbolism in the detailing.”

 

Researching these and other details of the school’s history was one of the most satisfying parts of the two-year process, Bentley says.

 

“We had to go to several different places to piecemeal the info together,” she says. “DISD, the main library, the school library. It was a treasure hunt, but it was really fun.

 

“It’s just so interesting to see how it’s lasted. It’s been very well maintained and had very little alteration,” she says.

 

The landmark designation only affects the school’s exterior. As part of the 2003 bond program, the school is set to receive a 16-room addition, with construction beginning in 2005.

 

“[The designation] will make it so that they can’t alter the original building,” Ritchie says. “They won’t be able to change it dramatically from the intent of the architect’s original vision.”

 

For Ritchie, this was about more than just J.L. Long.

 

“I like old stuff,” he says. I’ve got pieces of the Baker hotel and some other historic buildings in Dallas that have been demolished, and it’s just a shame to see them go.

 

“I live close to the M Streets, and they’ve been scraping houses in our neighborhood just as fast as they can,” he says. “If they’d done that to Long, I’d have been out there picking up pieces of stone just as fast as they fell.”

 

Bentley agrees.

 

“You just don’t see that kind of architecture anymore,” she says.

 


WANT MORE?
Click to sign up for the Advocate's weekly news digest and be the first to know what’s happening in Lakewood/East Dallas.