The Dallas Mexican American Historical League and the Dallas Jewish Historical Society, in collaboration with the Latino Cultural Center, are proud to announce an important joint multi-media exhibit centered on life around Pike Park. The exhibit will be on display at the Latino Cultural Center located at 2600 Live Oak from September 12 through October 18, 2014. A press preview will be held on Friday, September 12 and a grand opening reception for the public will be held on Thursday evening, September 18, 2014.
Sol Villasana, author of the book, Dallas’s Little Mexico, will be one of the guest speakers in the Jesse Tafalla Lecture Series that will accompany the exhibit. The full schedule of speakers and dates will be announced later.
The exhibit will trace the roots of Jewish and Mexican immigrants, honoring community life in an area of Dallas most recently known as Little Mexico. Many don’t realize that the area surrounding Pike Park was initially settled in the late 1800’s by poor Eastern European Jewish immigrants and was alternately referred to as Little Jerusalem, Goose Valley or Frogtown. With a solid sense of commitment to one another and strong family ties, the Jewish settlers became established. The area flourished with entrepreneurial businesses, schools, and synagogues and the park was in the heart of the Jewish community.
From 1910-1930 the Mexican community in Dallas grew rapidly due to displacement during the Mexican Revolution and job opportunities stimulated by the railroads and the city’s industrialization. During the same period the rising middle class Jewish community began moving out of old North Dallas to South Dallas, and Little Jerusalem began its transition to Little Mexico. Albert Valtierra, president of the Dallas Mexican American Historical League said, “The early Mexican settlers, then referred to as colonists, followed a similar settlement pattern in developing the area. Neighborhoods, businesses, schools and churches thrived.”
Pike Park, originally named Summit Play Park, was developed in 1914. Located on Turney Avenue (now Harry Hines), the 4 ½ acres was purchased for $18,085. Though it was in a congested area of the old Second Ward at the time, it was considered a state-of-the-art park. Debra Polsky, executive director for the Dallas Jewish Historical Society and exhibit co-chair, said, “This city project was the first in Dallas to look at the recreational needs of an established neighborhood and design a park to meet those needs—as plan architect George Kessler intended.” The magnificent field house which cost $25,000 contained shower baths, reading rooms, an assembly hall, and every convenience for all ages. Outdoor amenities included a wading pool, tennis courts, outdoor playground equipment and baseball fields. In 1927, the park was renamed Pike Park in honor of Edgar L. Pike, a former and longtime serving member of the Dallas City Park Board who contributed to the broader development of the Dallas park system. Mr. Pike was married to Jessica Sanger, daughter of Philip Sanger.