We thank Bywaters Special Collections curator Ellen Buie Niewyk for submitting this post.

In December, 1933, Jerry Bywaters and Alexandre Hogue were commissioned, as part of the Public Works of Art Administration during the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration, to paint a series of ten murals depicting the history of Dallas in the Dallas Municipal Building [sometimes referred to as “Old City Hall.”]  Beginning with the year 1841, the artists depicted the Tonkawa Indians investigating as John Neely Bryan builds his log cabin and ended the timeline in 1931, the year police cars were equipped with radios.

One mural has the heading “Viaducts Bridge the Trinity – The Divided City is Brought Together.”  In the lower left corner of this mural, Roosevelt is shown looking back over this shoulder at the workers who built the viaducts.  Thomas Hart Benton viewed the murals during a visit to Dallas in 1935, and was quoted in the February 9, 1940, issue of the Dallas Morning News stating “I’ve seen enough art in my time to be sick of most of it and yet I found your Dallas City Hall job interesting.  If you want any art to grow in your locality it will have to grow through the efforts of such men as Bywaters and Hogue.  In spite of all cultivated whoopings to the contrary, art cannot be imported.  It has to grow.  Keep your plant and water it.”

Sadly, in 1956, during the “remodeling” process of the building, the murals were destroyed.  Recent interest in the restoration of the building and the murals was brought to light on KERA’s ‘Art & Seek’.  The Bywaters Special Collection staff was asked to submit photographs of the murals for use in a documentary film and article regarding the renovation of the building.  The story and film (included below), produced by KERA, make a strong statement about preserving Dallas history, both art and architecturally. 

Lost Murals from Mark Birnbaum Productions on Vimeo.

Click here to view the black and white photographs and color slides of the murals housed in Bywaters Special Collections.

Feature image: Jerry Bywaters and Alexandre Hogue, Radio Equipped Police Cars, Bywaters Special Collections, Southern Methodist University