Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Future of 508 Park Avenue: Second Chances for a Historic Building

On June 28th, 2011, The Stewpot/Community Ministries of First Presbyterian Church of Dallas completed the purchase of 508 Park Avenue, Dallas, and the adjoining properties on either side of it, 1900 Young and 1905 Canton. 508 Park has received national and international attention because of its unique history as one of only two locations where the legendary blues musician Robert Johnson recorded. As an example of a Zig Zag Moderne building, 508 Park also has great architectural significance; it was designed by the New Orleans firm that designed the Louisiana State Capitol.

What does the purchase of the property mean and what do we plan to do with it?

We are pleased that we can help protect and, in time, return to use as an occupied and functional building, this precious property—precious to all lovers of blues, and important as the city of Dallas’s specimen of Zig Zag Moderne.
A detail view of the top of the entry tower showing 
the stepped and layered facade, with cast stone bas-relief panels 
suggesting the Garden of Eden. Curtains in the stair-stepped
panel above the narrow window reveal a mother and baby bird. 

Abstract natural and vegetable motifs are common in Art Deco 

We wish to preserve and maintain both parts of this building’s unique legacy, and we see this as part of our ministry to this community. In 1963, the time of the last renovation of 508 Park, the building was practically gutted of all its interior original walls. It has been empty now for twenty years and has been vandalized repeatedly. The distinctive exterior light sconces disappeared years ago. While many complaints were raised about the homeless, most incidents were the work of others. Court records show that the people apprehended for vandalizing the property were not homeless. 
Many ideas for upgrading the adjoining properties and specific plans for the safeguarding and restoring the 508 Park property have been developed. We envision a place of vitality, open to all.

Detail at the entry surround, illustrating multiple
layers of the facade in brick, cast stone relief and
three colors of natural stone. The repeated stair-step
profiles, complex layering and scalloped detail above
the building address are characteristic of Zig Zag Moderne.
Specific programs will benefit the congregation of First Presbyterian Church and Stewpot clientele. The long-standing year-round educational outreach to at-risk inner-city children and youth are some of the intended beneficiaries of these efforts. But, this historic building is being preserved for the entire community and reflects the belief in the ongoing vitality in our city’s southeast downtown community.
While it is well known that Robert Johnson was born 100 years last month, and that he recorded 13 songs at 508 Park, it is less well known that construction began exactly one hundred years ago on the sanctuary for First Presbyterian Church of Dallas. At that time its front door faced Harwood and Wood. Two doors were built, under the engraved words
“God is Light” and “God is Love.”

First Presbyterian Church is now completing a new Welcome Center that faces the crossroads of Young and Park, and so our front door rotates 180 degrees. This new front door looks down Park Avenue. The garden of light and love at the intersection of Wood and Harwood now is widened to embrace the crossroads of Park and Young. 

The property redevelopment will begin with the demolition of 1900 Young Street, the empty building that stands at the southeast corner of the crossroads of Young and Park. In its place, an outdoor performance amphitheatre will be constructed.  The two-story stacked stone corner of the current building will be preserved as a corner tower and a perimeter wall will help replicate the previous building’s footprint. Trees and grass will grace this new cityscape. The amphitheater will host concerts, performances, and outdoor worship.

1905 Canton Street (the south side of 508) now a vacant lot and enclosed by chain link fence, will receive a new perimeter of trees and an iron fence to complement the existing fence adjacent to the Masonic Temple.

The Rev. Dr. Bruce A. Buchanan, Executive Director of The Stewpot and Associate Pastor of First Presbyterian Church said, “508 Park has long been a place of pilgrimage for Blues lovers. We understand the great desire to step into the building where Johnson recorded, and we have every goal of not just bringing it up to code, but preserving and restoring historically-significant areas of the building. We hope to create a state-of-the-art recording studio in the area where Robert Johnson was known to have recorded his legendary music those hot June days in 1937.  Additionally, plans are under consideration for the first floor of this 3 1/2 floor, 23,000 square foot building to be used for music education, an art gallery, and a Spirit of the Blues empowerment coffee bar.” 

The Rev. Buchanan continued, “The Stewpot has been devoted to recognizing and supporting the talents of homeless individuals and enriching the lives of inner city children and youth. Acquiring these properties, construction of the amphitheatre, and creation of related creative arts programs will advance our current employment and educational goals while providing a performance venue for all genres of music for the community.  For ten years The Stewpot’s semiannual concerts have been wonderful gatherings for all. For twenty years, the Annual Talent Show has highlighted original music composition and performances. These and other events will be featured at the amphitheatre.”

In closing, Rev. Buchanan said, “The Stewpot ministry is a ministry of second chances; now we are able to give a second chance to 508 Park, and in doing so, we are creating a new intersection of love and light.”

Graphics copyright (c) 2011, Good Fulton & Farrell. Used by permission.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Summertime with the Children & Youth Program

The Stewpot’s Children and Youth Program are off to a great start since we kicked off on June 13! Summer Crew has been doing some exciting activities. They took a field trip to Half Price Books to pick out a book to read for the summer and they will be doing activities based on their book. They are also doing an architect project led by Oscar, one of the Summer Crew staff that has an architect degree. The Summer Crew is doing a computer class each Wednesday where they are doing various projects including designing their own website. They have been on field trips to Nickelrama, the movies and roller-skating.

The program that has been traditionally called Summer Day Camp has changed names to Summer Kid’s Club. They are studying different continents in their “World Tour 2011”. They have already toured North America and South America and will be going to the other continents throughout the summer. They also participated in the Shake-It-Up CafĂ© VCS curriculum by incorporating the theme into their normal day camp activities. They are rotating through classes such as reading, computers, art, recreation, small games, music, drama, and library time. The camp has also been on field trips to roller skating, bowling, and the Frontiers of Flight Museum.

Our first Summer Visiting Youth group was from Lake Jackson, Texas. They visited English Language Ministry (ELM), Vogel Alcove, Grace Presbyterian Village, acted as Junior Counselors for the day camp, led a Bible study at The Stewpot and served dinner at The Bridge. It was a full but great week.

The second week some of the Summer Crew members served as the volunteer group for the day camp. Many of them have been part of the program for many years and are now able to give back. We had a great time at the pool party sharing about their experiences in the children and youth programs.
We have been enjoying the new computers which include 15 desktops and 30 laptops and a projector that were donated by an anonymous donor for the children and youth programs. They have opened up new opportunities for us to incorporate technology into the children and youth programs and expand the number of students that are able to use computers at one time. All of the children and youth love them and they have already been used a lot!

A fun day out at the skating rink.

Working hard on the computers recently donated. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Grocery Shopping for a Cause

Several grocery stores have incentive programs like Tom Thumb's Reward Card or Kroger's Plus Card. These can be linked to The Stewpot and a percentage of the purchase benefits us! Easy, right?

The three stores you can do this at are Tom Thumb, Albertson's, and Kroger.

Tom Thumb: Link your Reward Card to #1507. This remains active year round.

Albertson's: Scan a barcode each time you purchase groceries. To receive this barcode email stephaniem@thestewpot.org. This also remains active year round.

Kroger:  Link your Kroger card to The Stewpot annually after July 1st. The program runs from July 1-April 30.

If you have any questions please contact Lee Hutchins (leeh@thestewpot.org) or Stephanie McKee (stephaniem@thestewpot.org).

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Let's eat!

In 1975 First Presbyterian Church saw a need to start feeding the homeless and hungry. They called the meal service "The Stewpot". By the early 1990s, the program, which now included casework services, had grown so much we moved across the street into our present building. Over 30 years and several additional programs later, The Stewpot is still working hard to make sure our friends on the streets have the most basic need - food.

In May 2008 The Stewpot became the sole meal provider at The Bridge, Dallas' homeless assistance center. Instead of five meals a week, we began serving 3 meals a day every day of the year. A huge jump, but our volunteers and staff have stepped up to the challenge in a big way!

Just to put it in perspective:
Almost 50,000 meals are served each month. So far we've served 19,600 meals in June. With an average of 43 volunteers per day we have approximately 1,300 volunteer slots a month.

Since the Bridge opened in 2008, Stewpot staff and volunteers have helped prepare and serve 1,856,900 meals! Since 1975 The Stewpot began in 1975, we have served over 4,158,668 meals!

It really is incredible! So, how can you be involved? Of course you can always sign up for a meal service. All sign ups are done online through our website.

Another option is to donate to our Loaves and Fishes program. The Loaves and Fishes Program allows you to "underwrite" part of the cost of a meal or a day of meals. Individuals, groups, businesses and congregations are coming together to make this happen. Adopting a meal or a day of meals makes a great gift!  Acknowledgement cards are sent to honorees per your instructions and posted on this website. Our Calendar is updated weekly.  For more information you can call Lee Hutchins: 214.746.2785 ext. 236.

A huge, huge thank you to everyone who has played a part in our meal service!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Staying Connected

You know how disconnected you feel when you leave your phone at home or in the car? No one can reach you and if something happens you won't know. Now imagine not having a phone and how disconnected you would be all the time.

The Stewpot serves as the host agency for Dallas Community Voicemail, a program providing free voicemail numbers to those who need it. People receive a phone number with a Dallas area code that they can use to apply for jobs, receive information from doctors, or just stay connected to their friends and families.

The really cool thing about this program is the broadcast messaging feature. Our Community Voicemail program director, Betty Heckman, is able to send out one message to all CVM participants at once. Each week she sends out messages including information on job openings, community events, healthcare, and even inspirational messages.

Listen below to some of the responses from a recent survey about the benefits of Community Voicemail!

Learn more about CVM National
Learn more about Dallas CVM

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Dallas Heritage Village Partnership

The Stewpot's STEP program targets homeless individuals living on the streets or in a shelter. Participants are placed in small groups led by Stewpot caseworkers who offer job readiness training, job search assistance, case management, voice mail, and other benefits.

The STEP program has partnered with Dallas Heritage Village to give participants a special opportunity. Clients have been hired to do restoration work on several buildings throughout DHV. To identify the best candidates for these positions the Stewpot casework team worked together and discussed each client's experience. Clients were also interviewed by the manager of casework services. One participant had prior engineering experience, so he was a great candidate. The work so far has been very rewarding for him.

Several clients have worked on this project. They are currently working on the Worth Hotel. Below you can see the progress they're making.

Picture Courtesy of Dallas Heritage Village