Old Dallas High School



Matthews Southwest /
Paradise Development

Merriman Anderson

Geisler Pender Personnel Provided Services:
Forensic Engineering
Structural Engineering

2018 Preservation Achievement Award from Preservation Dallas

Originally built in 1907, the Old Dallas High School building operated within the Dallas Independent School District until it closed in 1995. The building became classified as a historic landmark in 2000, and sat empty in a prominent area of Downtown Dallas for more than  20 years. Though the landmark status protected the building from demolition, it did not ensure that it would be renovated or brought back to life.

In 2015, Matthews Southwest bought the historic building with plans to convert the space for office and retail use. As a part of the renovation, RLG Consulting Engineers was hired to provide structural, forensics, and repair and strengthening engineering services. Kristina F. Geisler-Nordholm, as part of the RLG team, provided structural engineering for the building’s new entrance and investigations throughout the entire building.

The existing structure consists of a concrete floor slab supported by steel beams which are encased in concrete for fire protection. The steel beams are supported by cast-iron, built-up steel columns on the interior and a multi-wythe brick wall at the exterior. The columns and walls have unreinforced concrete footings as the foundation elements. The high roof of the building is field-built wood trusses. Above the auditorium is a preexisting roof well with long-span specialty-built steel trusses. In order to determine the original design capacity of the columns, field investigation and historic codes were used. The drawing review of the century-old building determined that archaic materials were used in the original construction which included cast-iron columns. After extensive analysis, RLG was able to reduce required upgrades by confirming the cast-iron columns did not require strengthening.

Due to the age and historic nature of the building, very few existing drawings were available for the building. RLG was up to the challenge to restore the century-old building, without impacting the historical finishes. Specifically, the concrete slab needed to be reinforced on the topside of the slab and beams. To prevent changes to the historic finish, a composite overlay was used allowing additional concrete to be located within the sleeper system.

Today the building serves as Perkins+Will’s Dallas office with plans to add restaurant and retail vendors on the ground floor. The LEED Gold building has received extensive media attention and was recently awarded a 2018 Preservation Achievement Award from Preservation Dallas.