This weekend is very special to Deep Ellum as we begin to celebrate Deep Ellum History Day! On October 18th, 2014, former District 2 Councilman, Mayor Pro Tem Adam Medrano, and Mayor Rawlings officially proclaimed the day Deep Ellum History Day. The proclamation was made in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Ford Model T Assembly Plant, which is now the Adam Hats Lofts. However, we still love to take the opportunity to celebrate the history and heritage of Deep Ellum as often as we can!
As one of Dallas’ first commercial districts for African-Americans and European immigrants, Deep Ellum is one of the most historically and culturally significant neighborhoods in the city. Deep Ellum was established in 1873 as both a residential and commercial neighborhood. Originally called Deep Elm as much of the activity centered around Elm Street just east of downtown Dallas, the pronunciation “Deep Ellum” by early residents gave rise to the district’s current name.
The district boasts over 20 historically recognized buildings including the Adam Hats building, the Continental Gin Building, and the Knights of Pythias Temple. Deep Ellum’s openness led to a large influx of freed slaves and European immigrants staking their claim in the neighborhood, opening pawn shops, tailor shops, bars, grocery stores and more. These business owners were noted for their willingness to open their stores to all people, a rarity at the time in the rest of the city. Because of this cooperation, Deep Ellum was regarded as one of the first purposefully desegregated areas in the city.
In addition to historical buildings and rich African-American heritage, Deep Ellum’s biggest claim to fame has always been as a launching point for legendary bluesmen and jazz musicians such as Blind Lemon Jefferson, Leadbelly, T-Bone Walker, and Bessie Smith. A stroll down the recently launched Blues Alley in Deep Ellum highlights the famous faces and generational talents that defined Deep Ellum’s past and inspired its future.
We encourage you to dig into Deep Ellum’s history the next time you visit the district! Your favorite bar or restaurant may be a recognized historic building or the location of a famous occurrence of Deep Ellum’s storied past.