In The Weeds 4.18.15: UNT on the Square-125 Years Ago.

Some of you youngsters or new Denton residents may not be aware that The University of North Texas was “On The Square”, to paraphrase the name of their current storefront on Elm, long before the past few years. And, if you happen to walk along the northwest corner at the intersection of Elm and Oak you might notice an historical plaque on the Thomas Ethan Allen store stating that the very first classes for the “Normal College” were held in the second story of a hardware store at that location. Have you ever wondered what that building looked like? One great resource for doing historic research in Texas are the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps, which can be accessed from our genealogy page. Searching Denton in that database, there is a two page map for February 1891. Classes commenced September 16, 1890 and it is a bit of an historical gem that the map actually states that the school existed there. Observe the following segment(click on image for larger view):

NormalCollegeSquare 1891

Right above the word “Oak” you will see “Normal College 2nd (temporary)”. We were contacted by UNT recently to see if we had a picture of that building on or about 1890. To our knowledge none exist, but the earliest we have found is a still from a silent film entitled “Denton 1913: City of Education”. Yes, there was a film about Denton that early and it can be viewed at the Emily Fowler Library. Here is a still from that movie showing the building on that corner with “Taylor Hardware Company” along the top:

TaylorHardware003

In the history of UNT entitled “Down the Corridor of Years” (La Forte, Himmel) there is printed a picture from 1930 of the same building stating that it was the location of the first classes:

UNTSquare002

 

While working on this request with UNT, it was discovered that there had been a fire on that location some years before 1890 and prior a Sanborn Map states this. Thus, if in fact this is the same building as claimed in the UNT book, it must have been virtually new. Here is a picture of the west side of the square looking north along Elm St. ca. 1888:

West Square

 

As you can see, right beyond the still existing Scripture Building at the far end of the block there appears to be an empty lot across Oak St. So, unless the building housing the first Normal School classes subsequently burned or was torn down and another replaced it, the Taylor Hardware building is the one. If you look back at the Sanborn map, the footprint of that building and of Taylor are likely exactly the same.

Why was this only a temporary location for the Normal School? The group of local buisnessmen and supporters of the new school known as “The Syndicate” had purchased property west of town but had yet to complete the first official college building. Thus, they needed a temporary home for the first school year, 1890-1891.

Thanks for reading and thanks to Jill King and the UNT Archives for information regarding the lot prior to 1890.

I can be reached at chuck.voellinger@cityofdenton.com.

 

 

 

April 18, 2015 at 9:00 am Leave a comment

The End is Nigh?

 

zombie_sign01

I had just finished writing my blog post about End of the World scenarios and how your local library will still be open and available to provide you with the information to survive what may gone down, be it the Zombie Apocalypse, insurrection, comet impact, or any other various and sundry End Times de Jour, when my computer froze and I lost all of my work.

Hmmmm. I need to read this again.

CT

And, maybe this one?

FC

Mostly, though, what I really want to tell you is that your local library will more than likely be open for business if and when the balloon goes up. And we will be glad to assist you in researching ways to dispatch zombies, set up a perimeter, use a shortwave radio, run a trotline, make homemade soap, etc. Check out one of these books from our collection and you could be one of the lucky few to ride out the storm relatively unscathed.

DD  

FF

HR

BO

Caveat: A complete breakdown of society, or an outbreak of epic proportions, is no reason not to stop by your friendly local library; we’re here to help.

William James Smith

April 15, 2015 at 2:33 pm Leave a comment

In The Weeds 3/28/15: Visions from 50 Years Ago

Almost 50 years ago, in 1966, the City of Denton hired the firm of Marvin, Springer and Associates of Dallas to address concerns about the Square and we have the published results here. Entitled “A Planning Study for Improvement of the Denton Downtown Area”, one of report’s findings is, “if the development around the Courthouse Square is to remain an important retail center in Denton, it will be necessary to provide substantially improved facilities for the pedestrian”. Sound familiar? Its interesting from a lay person’s point of view to see how these problems were identified and addressed in that point in time by those urban planners. To put this study in historical context, this was during the time when the City was working with famed architect  O’Neil Ford of Ford, Powell and Carson to complete the Municipal Complex in the park with a new city hall, civic center, library expansion, etc. Denton was trying present itself as a modern city (much like they did in the 1920’s with the construction of the 1927 City Hall, now City Hall West) and was probably concerned with how the Square was faring at the same time. Here is a map of the then-existing pedestrian facilities/sidewalks (click on image for larger version):

ExistingPedestrian003

Along with accompanying photos of some concerns back in the 1960’s:

PedestrianPhoto004

One concept they recommended was the conversion of the Square to a “plaza arrangement” where there would be more pedestrian-friendly intersections, trees, fountains, etc. Here is an example of an intersection:

IntersectionTreatment006

As you can see, this is actually very close to what we have now, minus some of the trees. Next we have a partial scan of the whole Courthouse complex plan:

CourthouseTreatment007

In the list of recommended “basic principles and guides” for improvement of downtown, the following nugget is found:

“3. The Downtown Area should become an increasingly important place for meetings, business activities and even for art shows, business shows and other cultural activities.”

The study covers alot more than what we’re presenting here, obviously, but its interesting to see some of the same objectives and concerns raised two generations ago. In many ways and for many reasons it looks as though we’ve gotten there.

April 4, 2015 at 1:51 pm Leave a comment

April Fools’ Day Tips!

So, the day this blog entry goes up is April 1st or also known as April Fools’ Day. I don’t believe I have ever attempted a prank on that date. I say that despite having a great sense of humor and having pulled some mischievous pranks in my youth. I’m thinking right now of a Mardi gras prank involving a supervisor when I worked in Fort Worth that I will not repeat in public until I look up the statutes of limitations on certain things. But, that was not on April 1st. Joss Whedon once wrote on a Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode that vampires and other undead stay home on Halloween as they consider it too pedestrian. That sums up my feelings about pranks on April Fools’ Day.

However, if you are going to do some prank on this day or the next, check out some of the links in this article and take some tips from this jokester to make sure everyone comes home safe and sound.

Know your Audience

Don’t pull a Louis C.K. style joke on someone more accustomed to Adam Sandler style humor. Something that starts out funny can quickly go to horrifying if you don’t know your audience.

Don’t make it typical

Don’t be obvious. Think about some movies that really surprised you. I can think of one really good example that I can sum up in two words. Keyser Soze.

Usual Suspects

 

That film showed a deft hand at taking what the audience thought it knew at the end and turning it upside down. Show the same originality if you decide to do anything on April Fools’ Day.

At the end, everyone should be laughing

My all time favorite April Fools’ prank I saw was on the show MASH.

mash_season5

The prank was great on many levels including the end when everyone was laughing together. A true jokester wants himself, his audience, and the recipient of the prank to be laughing at the end. Otherwise, what’s the point?

That’s all I have, stay safe, but have fun. And remember to check the statutes of limitations first.

Jess Edward Turner
South Branch Library

April 1, 2015 at 1:00 am Leave a comment

Abandoned Suitcases…Opened Lives

livestheyImagine, opening a door to an attic and finding over 400 suitcases, trunks, and bags that have been unopened for decades.

In 1995 as local historians explored the closed Willard State Mental Hospital in New York looking for relics to preserve they came across just such a treasure trove of artifacts. Each suitcase had belonged to a patient at the facility and had been taken from them when they arrived. Some of these patients were transferred to other facilities, their suitcases long forgotten, but many died at Willard, never leaving the system that institutionalized them.

The book, The Lives They Left Behind: Suitcases from a State Hospital Attic by Darby Penny and Peter Stastny, photographs by Lisa Rinzler, uses the suitcases, their contents, hospital records, and other resources to create an engaging story of the people who were once the owners, the lives they had before they were committed to Willard and what happened to them after.

Check out the book, and if you would like more information take a look at The Suitcase Project website.whatsheleft

What She Left Behind by Ellen Marie Wiseman is a fictional story inspired by the suitcases discovered at the Willard State Mental Hospital. Wiseman crafts an engrossing tail interweaving the story of modern-day Izzy Stone with that of Clara Cartwright, who was committed to Willard in 1929. If you pick up this book, get ready to read all night. You will not be able to put it down.

-Laura
Emily Fowler Central Library

March 31, 2015 at 12:43 pm Leave a comment

Pi Day of the Century 3.14.15

Ultimate-Pi-Day-2015-T-Shirts

 

We have an amazing line up of events for all ages on PI DAY OF THE CENTURY at North Branch! All activities are free with no registration required. Please join us.

(And yes…there will be pie.)

If you have any questions about these programs or events please contact May Beth Everett at 940-349-8751 or at may.everett@cityofdenton.com .

Meeting Room Activities

For All Ages

10am – Pi Recitation Contest

Two groups will compete: 12 & under and 13 & up.

12pm – Pi Video Contest Winner’s Screening & Trophies

1 pm – May Beth Everett goes for 1,000 digits

2 pm – Dr. Joseph Iaia, UNT  discusses “History of Pi”

The discovery of pi in ancient times and how pi is used today

3 pm – Dr. Winifred Mallam, TWU discusses Mathematical Careers

The history of mathematics and how math is relevant to everyday life and career aspirations

4 pm – Pi(e)Walk Giveaway – Win a large pie in our Pi(e) Walk game.

Enjoy free mini pies (limited supply – first come, first served)

Children Program Room Activities

Math Games and Crafts for Elementary age kids (5-11yrs old)

10am – Building Platonic Solids –  Dr. John Quintanilla

11am – Hexaflexagons – May Beth Everett

2pm – 3D Printing, Lasers & Aerospace Manufacturing  – John Sempeles, Engineer

3pm – Build a newspaper Geodesic Dome – Dr. John Quintanilla

Teen Room

Math Games and Crafts for Teens and Adults (12 and Up)

10 am – Hexaflexagons – Nona Lillicotch

11 am – Trick Math Equations – Dr. John Quintanilla

2pm – Encryption and Decryption – Dr. John Quintanilla

3pm – 3D Printing, Lasers & Aerospace Manufacturing – John Sempeles, Engineer

 

March 8, 2015 at 2:22 pm Leave a comment

Mango Cherokee

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Here is another addition to your list of cool things available through the Denton Public Library. Mango Languages, the library’s online language resource, now provides a Cherokee language course. Mango developed the course in partnership with the Cherokee Nation and the Tulsa City-County Library.

From Mango’s blog:

The importance of this course is underlined by the shudder-inducing reality that Cherokee is considered an endangered language with about 16,000 native speakers worldwide. Compare that against the whopping 317,000 Cherokee citizens that make up the United States’ largest tribal nation and the urgency of this issue becomes immediately clear.

The Cherokee Nation is hard at work in their commitment to preserve and promote Cherokee culture and language. Anna Sixkiller, who worked on the course development team and provided voice talent, shared her point of view, “At this point, we do not have that many fluent speakers left, so we are using different types of technology so people will be able to learn the Cherokee language.” Their hard work is paying off ― the tribe’s use of new technologies has allowed these efforts to grow in impact, reach, and innovation, and the Cherokee Nation is seeing a resurgence of interest and engagement with Cherokee identity, culture, and language in younger generations.

To get started with this course (or any of the other 63 language courses available), please visit the library’s Mango portal. (You will be prompted for your library card number.)

–Stacy

 

March 4, 2015 at 10:45 am Leave a comment

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