There’s been a lot of buzz around the recent arrival of the oft-rumored Fine Arts Theater hitting the real estate market, with a hefty pricetag in the ballpark of $1.5 million. Owned by the McBride family since 1983 with high hopes of renovation, there were overtures in 2014 and then renewed interest in 2016 but alas… it has never come to pass. A recent episode of the Politically Denton podcast explored some of the backstory and future possibilities, but I figured it would be a hoot to have a look back at the history of this iconic spot from back in the day.
Labor Day weekend was a dark news cycle that included Hurricane Harvey footage and terrible rumors Denton's legendary LGBTQ+ haven Mable Peabody's Beauty Parlor & Chainsaw Repair was suddenly closing. Sunday was the secret finale for this Grand Dame of Denton hangouts, whose quiet passing can only be fully understood if we survey this venue's storied history from back in the day.
Proving that history can indeed be a heckuva lot stranger than science fiction, today’s installment revisits a wacky wave of “Mystery Airship” reports that flooded Texas newspapers in 1897. Long before the infamous Roswell UFO crash sparked the public imagination and endless alien conspiracy theories in 1947, folks were spying odd “Aerial Travelers” during an outbreak of sightings between 1896 and 1897 that sounded like something straight out of a Jules Verne novel. The earliest autumn sightings were in California, but hundreds of reports quickly spread east into the Midwest and Texas by the following spring. You may have heard about the most famous sighting that occurred in Aurora, TX on April 17, 1897, which has been the subject of several books and numerous TV investigations, because it spectacularly crashed and locals purportedly buried it’s pilot thought to be “a native of the planet Mars” in their cemetery. The Aurora Spaceman’s graveyard even has a State Historical marker! The literally hundreds of other eyewitness encounters with various Mystery Air-Ships across Texas both before and after, however, are even more insanely entertaining and fantastically bizarre. Read on for more craziness!
Women’s History Month may be an annual event, but in Denton it’s a more or less daily occurrence to recognize outstanding ladies who are getting’ stuff done. We’ve profiled many a Denton trailblazer, but there are endless more tales to be told! This month we’ll introduce you to TWU’s Space Doctors, an African-American pioneer, and a couple of beauty queens who were far more than a pretty face.
“The past is never dead,” William Faulkner hauntingly reminds us of the South, “It’s not even past.” Black History Month is an important time for reflecting upon our past and present, dedicating time to explore aspects of Denton history both praiseworthy and shameful as we together strive towards the betterment of our community. Yet remembrance and public memory are never without struggle, which has been true since back in the day.
Some may have heard the rumors of a “hippie commune” somewhere in North Denton County, but longtime Dentonites likely recall stories of the Whitehawk Valley community that’s been experimenting with eco-friendly energy independence for decades. Going Green before it was a thing, the Whitehawk community were ahead of their time even back in the day.
The mysterious 1937 disappearance of Amelia Earhart has puzzled the public for almost 80 years, with numerous theories circulating about the vanished celebrity pilot. Last week, The Historical Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery made public results that may solve the mystery, which reminded us about the unexpected discovery of Earhart photos taken during her visit to Denton’s Texas Woman’s University back in the day.
So far, since 2014, we’ve scooped you Dentonites on more than 15 wacky local sites to explore and we’re just getting started! Urban explorers have been introduced to hidden nuclear bases and a huge Jackalope BBQ smoker, gaudy mansions and a forgotten drive-in, fiberglass giants, world-record wonders, and numerous secret hideouts, but there are plenty more wildly weird places to visit in or around Denton if you’re seeking offbeat adventure. Here are a few more to add to your bucket list.
Denton has been a’buzz recently about foxes and bobcats or even coyotes seen scampering ever closer from the edges of the city limits, which has caused some concern for house pets. We’ve even playfully addressed “Mythical Beings in Denton” when footage of the long-fabled White Stag (sometimes called The Christmas Unicorn) was definitively captured on smartphones. This magical sighting has had several folks now asking us: What other legendary critters are maybe really lurking around out there in the Cross Timbers? I’ll break down some of the top contenders and examine how much fact or fiction is involved.
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
The aphorism gets thrown around so much that it is almost cliché, yet it rings particularly true when most of us are confronted with unpleasant aspects of our collective history. But as a long-neglected Denton County African-American cemetery seems to demonstrate, coming together to memorialize a difficult past can also make our present community all the stronger.
With the Spring graduation ceremonies of TWU and UNT now completed, and scant weeks left for our Denton ISD schools to ring their final bell, Summertime is officially looming just over our horizon. Now comes the inevitable question that reverberates: What can we do today? Since we love us some urban exploring close to home, in 2014 we began to catalog our favorite Offbeat Denton Sites then expanded with more Offbeat Denton Oddities in 2015. Because there is always more kooky stuff to check out around our beloved town, here are even more Strange Denton Stops that you’ll need to Instagram to believe!
We sure do love Women’s History Month ‘cuz it’s the perfect opportunity to celebrate some of the amazing Denton ladies in our storied past! Last year we profiled several notable Denton Damsels and City Foremothers, as well as the amazing moms who desegregated Denton schools, with the promise of even more trailblazing tales of glory from back in the day. Let's get to some of those newer tales right now...
If you’re a fan of Denton history like I am, then you know there’s no shortage of fascinating people and stories that have their red dirt roots in our groovy little city. Since it is Black History Month, I figured I’d dig out a few tales of legendary locals that are part of our internationally infamous musical heritage that maybe don’t get brought up in conversation often enough. We’ve already talked plenty about our Quakertown story and its lasting legacy in fact and fiction, the importance of Juneteenth Jubilee, our amazing Civil Rights mavens of 1960s integration, and indeed the Legend of Pops Carter in our local music pantheon. Denton digs its tunes, and that’s been true since way back in the day.
Hard to believe we’re already in November, but the cool weather brings lots of fall celebrations to Denton as the holidays quickly approach like a runaway train! Last year’s look at Denton’s Veterans Day Legacy profiled a few notable locals, so we continue the tradition by sharing stories of amazing soldiers from back in the day.
It’s Halloween season again in Denton, with Day Of The Dead and coffin races and all manner of spooky fun to choose from! This also means its time to share another one of Denton’s nifty ghost stories!! We’ve previously scooped y’all on The 1963 Pecan Creek Monster Hunt, some of Denton’s Ghostly Guardians, and our most famous specter that is said to haunt The Old Alton Goatman’s Bridge… but I’ll bet you haven’t heard about The Phantom Farmer said to still be mulling around the Bayless-Selby House Museum in our Denton County Historic Park! This story has it all: betrayal, murder, scandal, and more’n just a little lingering haunted intrigue since back in the day.
The first sign of fall in Denton ain’t grass turning a slightly lighter shade of sun-bleached tan, but the boisterous return of college students to UNT and TWU. Just as sure as dodging cars hurtling the wrong direction down one-way streets, or watching a learning curve hilariously unfold for back-in parking on East Hickory, these fresh faces to Denton also give us an opportunity to maybe learn a few new things about our two-college town. Since this year is the 125th Anniversary of UNT in Denton, I figured it’d be fun to revisit the purt-near-constant changes in our local university mascots that have bemused locals trying to keep up since back in the day.
Recent headlines have reignited debates over the the Confederate Flag as protests against recurring police brutality have heightened awareness of enduring racism in America. Some have raised their eyes to the Confederate Monument on the Denton Square to wonder aloud why it remains. Read on to find some answers that are neither simple nor easy, but indeed possible if we look back to the reasons why it was placed there back in the day.
2015 is the 150th sesquicentennial anniversary of the end of The Great War Between the States, the American Civil War, which formally ended with General Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Courthouse on 9 April of 1865 and the capture of CSA President Jefferson Davis in May. But exactly when the war concluded, or maybe even if it ever really has, is a bit tougher to pin down. Yet the punctuation mark for Texas is decidedly June 19th of 1865, when a Union armada brought emancipation-by-gunpoint to Galveston TX under the command of General Gordon Granger. Celebrated in most states today as Juneteenth, just two weeks before the 4th of July celebrations of America’s independence from British rule, it is a holiday marking the symbolic end of the “peculiar institution” of American slavery… but it is also the beginning of a long struggle to fully realize America’s Constitutional promise of full equality under the law. Luckily, a Juneteenth history tour will recall the stories of Denton’s African-American communities from back in the day.
Mother’s Day is always a great time to praise the endless patience and grit of the special ladies who’ve helped make us who we are. In that spirit of gratitude, and as prelude to reminding you ta call your sweet momma, here’s a look back at a few of the many Denton matriarchs who have made our community better ever since way back in the day.
Women’s History Month always reminds us how many incredible ladies have played key roles in Denton’s past, which maybe explains why that trend has continued ever since. We all know that Texas Woman’s University (est. 1901 as a successful lobbying effort by women) was the first of its kind in the state and still today the largest university primarily for women in the United States. Yet there’s always been something unique about Denton women. A few of our favorite true-life tales to share with y’all include a scandalous expulsion, an internationally-famous movie star, and that time Denton ladies saved the whole durn town from being burned flat to the ground.
Great jumpin’ Jack Frost it’s cold! Since Texans take to driving on ice about as well as a drunken elephant to water-skiing, most have wisely hunkered down as our last few days of sleet, snow, and ice have caught up with us. It got me to thinking about the Great Blue Norther of 1911, which makes our whining about cold sound plain silly compared to this freeze back in the day.
February is African-American History Month, an important opportunity to look back at Denton’s own intriguing past. Today we’re gonna look at the true facts behind the historical fiction White Lilacs (1993), Carolyn Meyer’s novelization of the forced eviction for Denton’s African-American Quakertown district during the 1920s. The stories behind the story offer critical reminders why Black History Month is so necessary to counter persistent political revisionism to our impaired public memory.
Today, we're launching a QR code scavenger hunt on the square. The hunt revolves around local trivia about Denton's most notorious outlaw, Sam Bass. He's not just famous, he's INfamous. One of our favorite historians, Shaun Treat, is to thank for the knowledge and elbow grease putting this one together. So finish that cup of coffee, put on your pants, turn your brain on and get to work. This scavenger hunt is full of fun prizes, twists, and turns that will take you all around the Denton square. Read on to get started...