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Culture / Entertainment

Secret Dallas — The Hidden Sides of the City You Don’t Know

New Book Uncovers Surprising Truths and Obscure Finds

BY // 07.30.18

Maybe you’ve lived here for a few months or maybe you’re a native Dallasite – but how well do you really know your city? You might be surprised.

Secret Dallas: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure, a new book by journalist and author Mark Stuertz, aims to uncover the city’s mysteries and revisit long-forgotten pieces of history. It’s a guide for the city’s newcomers, sure, but it’s also a handbook to Dallas’ best-kept secrets – and even proud, born-and-raised locals can learn a thing or two. (I certainly did.)

“Unless you are constantly digging around for information about where you live, which most people don’t, there is bound to be probably 75 percent of the stuff in here that you’re unaware of,” Stuertz says. “For people visiting or people moving here, It kind of gives a sense or an entree into the character of the city.”

Originally from Chicago, Stuertz has been based out of Dallas for the past two decades, contributing to a variety of publications, including the Dallas Observer, Modern Luxury Dallas, Dallas Business Journal and Texas Monthly.

Secret Dallas is the latest installation in a series of history-travel books released by Reedy Press.

“They approached me and I jumped on it because I’m naturally a curious person. I like to look for things that aren’t necessarily on the radar of other people,” Stuertz says. “There were a lot of things that I came across through my work with the Observer that I found in the back of my memory, and thought that they would be interesting for the book. And on top of that, a lot of research about obscure things.”

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What kind of obscure things did he find?

Did you ever hear about Dallas City Hall Beach Day? In the summer of 1984, the city covered the plaza in front of I.M. Pei’s iconic Dallas City Hall with sand, turning the fountain into a miniature shoreline for hundreds of happy swimmers. Apparently the fountain struggled with sand-related issues for months afterward. (I still think we should do this again.)

Did you know that two land speed record holders call Dallas home? Charlie Nearburg holds the record for piston-engine car, while Leslie Porterfield is the fastest woman on a motorcycle.

Did you know that the drive-in restaurant was invented in Dallas? (Kirby’s Pig Stand in Oak Cliff, 1921.)

Dallas has some dark secrets, too. You’ve probably heard of the infamous mass-murderer Richard Speck, but did you know he started his criminal career in Dallas?

Secret Dallas answers all the questions you would never think to ask, and then some. And when it comes down to it, the book proves that Dallas is a much more complex place than one might expect. 

“It’s much deeper and much richer than the (Dallas) Cowboys and the Kennedy assassination. It’s a city that is marked by striving,” Stuertz says.

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