|HISTORY OF BUILDING
SYNOPSIS OF THE HISTORY, ARCHITECTURE, AND RESTORATION OF THE BUILDING
The building that houses the Sara Ellen & Samuel Weisfeld Center at 1508 Cadiz Street in downtown Dallas was originally the home of the First Church of Christ, Scientist. Members of the church came to Dallas in 1894 from Boston, as a result of the efforts of Dallasites Mr. and Mrs. Sam P. Cochran, and they became the nucleus of the local Christian Science movement. The land for the church, and the parking lot next door, were acquired and donated by church members in 1910. The cornerstone of the building was laid August 27, 1910, and the first service was held January 14, 1912.
The building was designed in neo-Classical Revival style by the well-known Dallas architectural firm of the time, Hubbell and Greene, whose other local projects included the Scottish Rite Temple, Westminster Presbyterian Church, the third Temple Emanu-El synagogue, Hook and Ladder Company #4 (the Oak Lawn fire station), and other significant projects. The structure's design was intended to mirror that of the mother church in Boston, with its rooftop dome and Adamesque interior.
When the building opened in 1912, newspaper accounts of the time called it "...one of the most handsome houses of worship in the city and one of the most modern, which will add much to Dallas's prestige."
Over the years, membership declined, and the building fell into disrepair. Developer Herschel Alan Weisfeld specializes in buying old, dilapidated properties, restoring them, and renovating them for new purposes, also called "re-adaptive" uses. Weisfeld had driven by the church and become enamored with it, seeing its potential. As fate would have it, the congregation had been seeking a purchaser, preferably who would be sensitive to the esthetics of the building. Weisfeld bought the property in May, 1999.
Weisfeld purchased the building, taking on the challenges of collapsed ceilings; a dilapidated interior; moisture-ridden walls; decaying moldings and trim; inadequate plumbing, heating, and air conditioning facilities; and an infestation of rats, mice, and fleas. His vision was to restore the building to an even grander scale than it originally had been. He has been able to do so, because of an enormous amount of hard work, ambition, and a great team of craftspeople. The work has been done with a deliberate sensitivity to the integrity and character of the architecture while, at the same time, recognizing that the primary purpose of the facility has changed from a religious to a theatrical one.
The first task was to renovate the ceiling in the main auditorium, using hoists. It had collapsed and had been suspended for over a decade. Weisfeld had the ceiling carefully dismantled, removed the failed truss system, rebuilt the truss back to its original design, and added additional supports. In addition, he added new walkways and access panels for theatrical light and sound.
The exterior of the building has four equally-spaced, ionic columns in front, with three doors between the columns. Above each door is an elaborate cartouche and arched, stained-glass windows. Because the doors were in poor condition, Weisfeld is having exact duplicates of them made.
On the north and south sides of the building are two sets of two, rectangular stained-glass windows with an entablature above each. The interior of the church features the original four large, arched, stained-glass windows in an abstract, geometric design of purple, green, and golden-yellow, enhancing the classical style of this magnificent building. Weisfeld has had the windows completely restored, following years of neglect and vandalism. Out of respect for the stained glass, he selected a complementary color, Flemish Gold, to paint the walls, which would blend with the glass. That color was then half-tinted for the ceilings, lobby, and foyer.
The interior also features classic, "wedding-cake" moldings and trim in ivory and gold throughout. The main auditorium is approximately 32 feet high from floor to ceiling, with a 72-foot-wide open span. The moldings are true, old-world plaster, and the chandeliers are cast plaster that have been gold-leafed. Because over 30% of the 1910 moldings were damaged or decayed, replicas were cast from the originals that remained. All moldings and trim have also had the gold leafing restored.
For the restoration, all perimeter surfaces throughout the building were refinished. The bathrooms have been remodeled with modern facilities, and luxurious granite floors and countertops were added. The original mechanical rooms where heating and air conditioning were located have been converted into full light and sound rooms. The kitchen facilities have been totally updated, and a bar has been added.
To convert the church into a theater, additional down lighting was added to the main ceiling that converts to stage spotlights. Stage lighting access panels are now available from the attic area for even greater lighting flexibility. Conduits are also in place to allow for future stage lighting and sound requirements of the varied possible users. An independent acoustician from Dallas who's affiliated with a national firm was also brought in as a consultant.
The original, existing stage area has been restored. In addition, there is an optional expansion apron to increase its size. Both carpeted and hard surfaces are available, depending on the requirements of the type of event.
A minor amount of work has been done on the Hook and Hastings pipe organ to make it operational. The organ, which still has all of its original parts, needs major restoration, and it's hoped that with the opening of the building, some citizens or organization may come forward to assist with the restoration of this historic instrument. The organ was among the first three made by Hook and Hastings to contain electrical components, and it's one of only a handful of organs recognized by the Organ Historical Society as "...an instrument of exceptional historic merit worthy of preservation."