Wilshire Heights History
McCommas Family History
A letter from Shirley Crow
The area bounded by Mockingbird, Greenville Ave., Llano, and Abrams was purchased in approximately 1846 by the McCommas family for 12 ponies.
They came to Texas in a covered wagon with several children. The dad and oldest sons rode to an area near Hillsboro and shot a buffalo for the family to have food for that first winter. They built a two story, wood frame house, at the highest point on their property (where 6310 Mercedes is now). They lived here until the parents passed away around 1870.
At that time, the property was divided up between their children that were still living in the area. Their oldest son got the part of the property (40 acres) that included the original house. He lived in that house until he died around 1910. Before he died, the Dallas Morning New interviewed him and this is where the prior information came from.
After he died, a couple of Greek brothers bought his 40 acres, tore down the house, and built a new house. The Greek brothers owned a couple of restaurants downtown. There is some speculation that the house was used as a bordello. The house burned down (under suspicious conditions) in around 1920.
Mr. Harold Abrams bought the 40 acres and tried to rebuild the house with some of the walls that were still standing, this is the house at 6310 Mercedes. Mr. Abrams was a real estate developer and had planned to develop the whole 40 acres, but only built a few houses on Mercedes and Jacotte Circle before coming down with cancer and dying. Mr. Abrams' wife lived at 6310 Mercedes and their daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren lived at 3207 Jacotte Circle until about 1950 when they sold both houses and moved to the Park Cities.
The only thing remaining from the McCommas era on the property at 6310 Mercedes is a wooden owl hitching post.
Another tidbit of information is that Bonnie and Clyde were in the area during their robbery spree. They were reported as saying that they hid some of their money in a hole they dug in the ground off the “Old Road to Greenville” which became “Abrams Road”. So dig a little deeper in your garden and you never know what you might find!
I hope you enjoyed my information!
- Remember the Wilshire Theater?
In the January 1946 edition of “Dallas,” published by the Chamber of Commerce, it was announced that a new Interstate theater was under construction at the corner of Skillman and Mockingbird. Its name was to be the Lane Theater and it was to cost approximately $200,000 to build.
If this name means nothing to you, you are not alone. Sometime before its opening that same year, the Lane Theatre became known as the Wilshire Theater–a name familiar to many of us. Owned by the same chain as the grand dame of Dallas theaters, the Majestic, the Wilshire opened with much fanfare. Even though television was still in its infancy, $30,000 worth of television equipment was purchased expressly for the Wilshire’s opening night. Huge spotlights beamed into the evening sky pointing the way to the celebration.
$200,000 bought a lot in 1946. It was a larger auditorium than we are accustomed to in today’s era of larger, multi-screened theaters. Money was also spent on art in the form of murals depicting lyrical seascapes in both the lobby and auditorium. It was a theater that reflected the grand style of the silver screen in the forties.
Over the years, the Wilshire became a landmark in our neighborhood. It was a profitable theater until the end, but the property was said to have become too valuable to justify the theater’s continued operation. It was sold in April 1978 and subsequently demolished. Even as it closed, writers for the Dallas Morning News variously reported the seating capacity of the Wilshire as 900 or 1,832 seats, thereby creating a legendary status for the Wilshire.
- History of Skillman Street
In the days leading up to the United States’ entry into World War II, the street we know today as Skillman was called Lindbergh Boulevard and was named after the famous aviator, Charles A. Lindbergh. The name change came about after Lindbergh’s visit to Germany’s Third Reich in 1938, during which the aviator visited Hermann Goering at the palatial Goering estate, Carinhall, where buffalo were said to roam along with other tropical game. While in Germany, Lindbergh accepted an honorary medal from Goering–the Nazi order of the German Eagle–resulting in critical outcry from the American people. Lindbergh became known as a Nazi sympathizer. The Dallas City Council responded to the reports by eliminating the name Lindbergh from the city map. Sometime before World War II, Lindbergh Boulevard was renamed Skillman for William F. Skillman, who was President and General manager of Prudential Building and Loan Association.
A 1951 article in the November 19th edition of “The Daily Times-Herald” reported the findings of two British journalists who declared that Lindbergh was actually one of America’s most successful secret agents during the war, successfully flattering the vain Hermann Goering into opening up all the secrets of Nazi Germany’s aerial war chest. Lindbergh’s reports were said to have been given in secret to the War and State Departments, as well as to Congress, revealing a complete picture of the modernized German air fleet, including a description of the whistling Stuka divebomber that wreaked havoc with troops in Poland and in the 1940 sweep to the Channel. Lindbergh was also said to have endured years of American criticism in silence in order to main the mission’s secrecy.
Despite these claims, doubts remain and a cloud lingers over the famous name of Charles A. Lindbergh, in part because he was a member of and received top billing at the parades and protests sponsored by the America First Committee, a group that preached an amalgam of isolationism and pacifism with overtones of anti-Semitism. Newspapers reported that the “America Firsters” had even accepted financial support from Germany. Was “Lindy” a secret agent or a Nazi sympathizer? Even today, history remains undecided.
- Homestead at 6310 Mercedes
Tucked away on Mercedes, this four-acre estate has played host to important figures in Dallas history. Situated on the site of the original McCommas homestead, this French Normandy chateau was built by the Abrams family in 1929 and has been returned to its original magnificence by its current owners during a five-year restoration project by Patrick Ford.
The outside of the home is a park-like setting; the house is topped by a balcony from which the owners can enjoy a beautiful view of downtown Dallas.