Rare Film Shows Dallas in 1939

A rare film, discovered on eBay by The Dallas Morning News reporter Robert Wilonsky, provides a unique look at Dallas in 1939. 

The footage is in vivid color, and after it was converted to high definition, projects remarkably clear imagery.

“I’ve seen this footage about 200 times," Wilonsky said. "I never get tired of it."

The film features familiar Dallas landmarks, including the Magnolia Hotel, which was then home to the Magnolia Petroleum Company. The hotel easily stands out with its red, flying Pegasus on the roof.

While many structures shown in the film are long gone, like the towering smokestacks where Victory Park and the American Airlines Center now stand, the Houston Street Viaduct appears frozen in time. 

“Dallas wasn’t a shiny, skyscraper-filled city in 1939, but it was a city full of beautiful buildings,” Wilonsky said.

Perhaps the most striking images are of men and women streaming down the city’s sidewalks.

“For the first time, in vivid color, we really get to see what downtown looked like," Wilonsky said. "How people the people walked. The way they dressed. Where they went."

North Texans have the opportunity to view the rare footage Thursday at 8 p.m. in Downtown Dallas at Main Street Garden.

There will also be a showing of "The Human Scale,” a documentary about pumping new life into downtown areas.

You can also view the footage on our media partners', The Dallas Morning News, website.

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