In Dallas, a vintage neighborhood gets its groove on.
No place in Dallas can claim as many ups and downs as Deep Ellum has endured. The compact downtown district developed in the 1870s as a home to Dallas outsiders, particularly African Americans and immigrants. It was named Deep Elm—after one of its main roads, Elm Street—though the slow, drawled Ell-um, as pronounced by the early residents, became commonplace and stuck.
The economy was strong in those early years, with a major cotton-processing plant and a Ford automotive plant based here. In the 1920s, Deep Ellum was a hotbed of blues music, but the area fell into neglect over the next several decades. It briefly revived in the 1980s and ’90s, when punk and grunge groups took over the old blues venues. Then the neighborhood was largely abandoned again. Until recently.
Forward-thinking, community-minded developers have given new life much of the vintage quarter’s 180 acres, which are filled with the city’s largest collection of buildings more than a century old. A palpable energy emanates from new businesses occupying thoughtfully renovated storefronts, and a few of Deep Ellum’s hardy survivors are finding new patrons. Another Deep Ellum revival has arrived.
No need to worry that the neighborhood is going mainstream, though. Innately hip Deep Ellum will never lose its edge.