Brown Bag Lecture Series

Join us at 12 PM (noon) on the second TUESDAY of each month, March-November, at the HALL OF STATE (3939 Grand Avenue, Dallas, Texas 75210) as the DHS explores a variety of different topics about local and state history.

  • All lectures are FREE and open to the public.
  • Reservations are required and capacity is currently limited to 150 attendees.
  • Tables will be available on a first come, first serve basis.
  • Attendees are welcome to bring their own “brown bag” lunch to enjoy during the presentation.
  • Each lecture will last approximately one hour.

This lecture series supported by:

Belmont Village Senior Living is designed for seniors who need some assistance with daily activities. Residents enjoy chef-prepared meals, housekeeping, transportation, and social activities.

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To take a brief survey about your experiences at one of our Brown Bags (or to make suggestions about future Brown Bag topics), please CLICK HERE.


September 29

This Used to be Dallas

By Harry Hall

Each page of This Used to be Dallas will challenge your view of the city around you. Harry Hall uncovers the stories of perseverance, deliverance, tragedy, and past glory behind Dallas buildings that were once something else. It might be a fallen dream, such as the remnants of a waterpark that briefly dazzled locals in the early twentieth century; or a coffin supply company that once advertised services, Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. There’s the hotel that was built only after the city yielded to the demands of a beer baron and the non-descript Oak Cliff home that once housed America’s greatest female athlete. What might your favorite Dallas buildings house in the future? Each structure has its own background, its own future, its own story. Explore your favorite Dallas spots with a new vision, or discover a surprising past just beyond the familiar walls of the fascinating places throughout the city.

Harry Hall is the author of Help, Everyone is Staring at Me and the award-winning The Pedestriennes: America’s Forgotten Superstars. A long-time distance runner, much of his writing career has covered amateur/professional sports, from tennis exhibitions to the Olympic Track and Field Trials. He has lived in north Texas most of his life with his wife and family.

October 13

Adolphe Gouhenant:

French Revolutionary, Utopian Leader, and Texas Frontier Photographer

By Paula Selzer

Adolphe Gouhenant tells the story of artist, revolutionary, and early North Texas resident Francois Ignace (Adolphe) Gouhenant (1804-1871). Born at the dawn of the Romantic era, Gouhenant traveled from a small village near the foothills of the Alps to France’s second largest city, where he built a monument to the arts and sciences atop Lyon’s famous Fourvière Hill. His wildly ambitious schemes landed him in court and ultimately devastated him financially. Participating in clandestine revolutionary organizations, Gouhenant organized a secret meeting under the guise of a Masonic banquet and was later imprisoned for conspiracy against the monarchy.

Aligning himself with the early communist movement, Gouhenant advocated for workers’ rights and was selected by well-known Icarian communist Etienne Cabet to lead an advance guard on a treacherous journey across the Atlantic to settle a utopian colony in North Texas. Despite broken wagons, severe weather, and lack of food, he navigated overland from New Orleans in 1848 to establish a small settlement in Denton County. The community, beset by hardships, ultimately scapegoated Gouhenant and accused him of being a French agent deliberately sent to lead the group to destruction into the wilds, and for this “treason” they shaved his head and beard and expelled him from the colony (which collapsed shortly thereafter).

Gouhenant then journeyed to Fort Worth to teach the federal soldiers French and art, and next to Dallas where he founded the town’s first arts establishment in the 1850s. He set up shop as a daguerreotypist and photographed the town’s early residents. His Arts Saloon was the scene of many exhibitions and dances but ultimately became the high stake in a nasty battle among Dallas’s leading citizens, setting legal precedent for Texas homestead law. Gouhenant’s death in a freak railroad accident left behind mysterious claims that contribute one last chapter to his story.

Paula Selzer is a third great-granddaughter of Adolphe Gouhenant. She has spent twenty-five years working on children's health policy for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, she served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Dominican Republic, and she earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Southern Methodist University and Master of Public Policy from Rutgers.

November 10

The Life and Legends of Deep Ellum

with John Slate

From Blind Lemon Jefferson and Lead Belly to European immigrant families, Deep Ellum was a vibrant melting pot of cultures and experiences. Please join Dallas City Archivist John Slate as we learn about the diverse history of the Deep Ellum and Central Track neighborhood and its legendary figures.

Historic Deep Ellum:

After the Civil War many ex-enslaved persons settled in what were called “Freedmentowns.”  In Dallas, the railroad helped spawn one of these towns along Elm Street in an area now known as Deep Ellum. “Ellum” is the phonetic spelling of the southern pronunciation of Elm, and deep indicated its far east location in relation to downtown.  Businesses and make-shift houses sprung up around Central Track in an area too far from downtown to be deemed desirable.  During the early 1900’s the area was mostly occupied by African Americans and Jewish immigrants. By the 1920’s these residents had established a community well known for its businesses that provided nearly any kind of merchandise. It also found fame in its nightclubs, which became hotbeds for blues and jazz music.

Previous Brown Bag Lectures

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