508 Park's Historical Overview
508 Park contains a multifaceted story of intersecting histories of the film and music business. Opening in 1930 as the Warner Brothers Building, this structure served as a distribution point for films and sound track records. The building housed the regional offices of Vitagraph, the distribution subsidiary of Warner Brothers. It distributed Vitaphone (short subjects and cartoons), First National Pictures (contemporary comedies, dramas and crimes) and Warner Brother Pictures (prestige motion pictures, costume dramas and musicals).
In the 1930s, Brunswick Records was located on the 3rd floor and in the late 1930s, producer Don Law built a makeshift recording studio for field recording sessions with legendary musicians such as: Robert Johnson, Bob Wills and The Texas Playboys, The Light Crust Doughboys, The Chuck Wagon Gang, Lolo Cavazos and many others. In 2004, Eric Clapton visited 508 Park to film for a tribute to those special recordings and Johnson’s lasting impact on music.
While the recordings of Robert Johnson are extraordinary, what is truly remarkable is the diversity of the music that was produced at 508 Park and around the region by fellow Englishmen Art Satherley and Don Law who were producers for the American Record Corporation.
Musical styles in the region included Mexican-American, Czech, Hillbilly/Country, Hot String Band/Western Swing, Cowboy, Blues, Gospel, Cajun and other traditional forms.
ARC’s regional manager, Don Law, produced 843 recordings at 508 Park between 1935 and 1939. The recording equipment was not permanent but moved around the country. These sessions were known as “field recordings.” The recording engineers came to 508 Park five times, staying from three to four weeks and then packing up the equipment to move to the next location.
The history contained in this building is unique and a significant puzzle piece in the story of American music. There is world-wide recognition of the history that was made at 508 Park in the Brunswick Records warehouse on the third floor.
Don Law helped pioneer the recording and release of this region’s ethnic music to the rest of the United States in the 1930’s through efforts to market and sell records to the middle class. This forever changed how music continued to develop. It was now possible for musicians to hear ethnic music from regions they had never lived or worked in.
Construction on the 508 Park building starts.
Stock market crash begins in October.
The 508 Park Building is completed and opens as the Warner Brothers Building at a cost of $125,000.
Warner Brothers purchases the record division assets of The Brunswick-Balke-Collender Company which includes the Brunswick and Vocalion record labels and the manufacture of phonographs. The local office at 811 Elm Street moves to the third floor of 508 Park.
Don Law, originally from England and working for the Dallas Brunswick office as an accountant, joins the newly formed Warner Brothers subsidiary named Brunswick Radio Corporation.
Brunswick Radio Corporation launches the Melotone record label.
Warner Brothers licenses the record labels to and sells the record business assets to The American Record Corporation (ARC), which forms a new division called Brunswick Record Corporation.
Height of the Depression is reached in Dallas.
Don Law is promoted to regional manager and begins his career as a record producer and is reporting to another producer, Art Satherley, who is also originally from England.
ARC effectively acquires control of the assets of Columbia Phonograph Company from the bankruptcy of Grigsby-Grunow. ARC now has three divisions: American Records, Brunswick Records and Columbia Records.
Don Law conducts the first field recordings in the third floor record warehouse at 508 Park, which include the first recordings of Bob Wills and The Texas Playboys. Below is Bob Wills and Art Satherley in front of 508 Park building.
Don Law and his staff made arrangements for a field recording session held at the Gunter Hotel in San Antonio, Texas which included the first recordings of both Robert Johnson and The Chuck Wagon Gang.
A new “makeshift studio” room, made from Beaver Board, was constructed to improve acoustics and sound isolation for recordings made at 508 Park.
A three week field recording session was conducted in June that included Robert Johnson, Bob Wills, Black Boy Shine, W. Lee “Pappy” O'Daniel, The Light Crust Doughboys and others.
Two sets of field recordings were conducted at 508 Park.
The Brunswick Record Corporation office and warehouse moves from 508 Park, in part due to the leaking roof.
Don Law returns to 508 Park for a final field recording session in the “makeshift studio” that included Gaytán Y Cantú, Hermanas Fraga, and early conjunto musician Lolo Cavazos.
ARC is purchased by CBS and is re-formed as the Columbia Recording Corporation.
1940s – 1950s
Warner Brothers leases (in 1939) the third floor to Decca Distributing Corporation who distributes records from the third floor for the next two decades. We believe that the “makeshift studio” room was possibly changed and eventually dismantled as Decca’s needs for offices and warehouse space changed.
508 Park is sold by Warner Brothers to Glazer’s. Glazer's began in 1909 in Dallas, Texas, where Louis Glazer opened the Jumbo Bottling Company, which distributed flavored soda waters from the back of horse-drawn wagons. Today, Glazer's is one of the country's largest beverage distributors.
Glazer’s converts the building from offices and warehouse to a corporate headquarters. The film vaults are removed from the first floor of 508 Park.
PEPSI signage on the north side of 508 Park before restoration. Glazer’s owned the local Pepsi-Cola bottling operation for some time.
Glazer’s relocates their corporate headquarters from 508 Park.
1980s – 2000s
For 30 years, the building remains vacant. On occasion, the building was vandalized or broken into by thieves looking for copper or other items.
A local Dallas band, Code Blue, gets permission to record in the vacant building. Not knowing that the recordings took place on the third floor of the building, they record at the back of the first floor over several days.
Eric Clapton, while in Dallas to hold the first Crossroads Guitar Festival at Fair Park, spent time at the 508 Park building filming himself and Doyle Bramhall, II, performing Johnson’s music on the third floor of 508 Park. This was released as the DVD, "Sessions for Robert J."
The Stewpot of First Presbyterian Church of Dallas purchases the 508 Park building (right) along with the old Columbia Pictures building (left) and launches the 508 Park Project.
Encore Park Dallas, a 501(c)3 nonprofit, is formed to carry the project forward (including the renovation of the 508 Park building) and to champion the Encore Park Community, a co-located collaborative community of nonprofits founded by The Stewpot and First Presbyterian Church of Dallas.
2014 – 2015
Encore Park Dallas completes the first phase of the project by constructing the 508 Amphitheater on the north side of the building, completing the majority of exterior restoration of the 508 Park building and removal of Glazer era interior improvements. The Encore Park Community Garden was launched on the south side of the building.