It was a joyous moment this week for alumni of the 111-year-old original Dallas High School building, known as Crozier Tech from 1942 to 1975.
Crozier Tech graduates received a private tour of the place that many of them thought they'd never enter again.
"We love it," said 1968 graduate Isabell Chavez. "It brings back a lot of memories, lot of memories."
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The building became a business and management magnet school until it closed in 1995. It was declared a historic landmark in 2000.
Several renovation plans fell through over the past 20 years before developer Jack Matthews and his Matthews Southwest development company acquired the decaying property at Bryan and Pearl streets, across from a DART rail station.
Matthews led the private tour this week for Crozier Tech alumni.
"We enjoy old buildings, so we're an easy mark when there's an old building that needs to be fixed," Matthews said. "It's special to put in the value these people see in this building. And it just gives us more reason to keep on doing what we do."
The visitors included 1957 graduates John and Florine Jayroe, who first met while attending classes at Crozier Tech.
"We've been going, I tell everybody, 'steady' for 63 years," John Jayroe told Matthews.
John Jayroe gave Matthews an original building door handle that was saved all these years. Other mementos already fill a display case at the renovated building. The items delighted the graduates, many of them dressed in maroon Crozier Tech Wolves T-shirts.
They'd come for pictures over the years on the steps of the old school and attended meetings to preserve the building. Some members of the group died before this special occasion arrived.
"It makes me want to cry. But I don't want to cry today, I want to laugh," said 1947 graduate Emma Lou Jones.
A two-story atrium area has been modernized in what once was the school auditorium. A glass elevator now operates where the auditorium stage was.
"The inside, I don't recognize any of it. The outside, it's still here," said George Martin, who was the Crozier Tech baseball coach from 1965 to 1971. "The best memories I have of my teaching career is right here at Crozier."
After so many years as a decaying eyesore, Matthews now plans to use the renovated gem as the anchor for a new apartment community to be constructed around the east and north sides of the old school. The downtown location benefits from adjacent rail transit.
"If I don't make money doing this, I can't do a whole bunch more," Matthews said. "We didn't do it for the thank-yous, but the thank-yous are very special and very heart felt and special from these people."
Jones, from the Class of 1947, had plenty of praise.
"I don't want them to tear down the old buildings," she said. "I am so happy to be here today."
Much of the 100,000-square-foot building is now an office for architecture firm Perkins and Will. A 10,000-square-foot restaurant is planned on the first floor. About 22,000 square feet are yet to be leased at the original Dallas High School building.