The University of North Texas at Dallas College of Law celebrated a monumental moment in its young history Thursday afternoon, welcoming visitors for the first time into its new Law Center, historic Old City Hall in downtown Dallas, following a $71 million top-to-bottom restoration.
The building that opened in 1914 as Dallas’ City Hall at 106 S. Harwood Street, and witnessed the events that transpired in the wake of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963, is now home to the UNT Dallas College of Law, the only public law school in the city.
Nearly 100 people were on hand to tour the building and attend the ceremonial ribbon cutting. A reception followed at the Statler hotel.
“It took my breath away, honestly,” UNT Dallas President Bob Mong told a gathering of some 80 people attending the ceremony soon after he toured the building. “This is just beyond belief. I inherited this wonderful project, this wonderful restoration, but I am proud to be part of this renaissance of a building that served as Dallas City Hall from 1914 to 1978. If only these walls could talk.”
The restoration project utilized a unique partnership between the state-funded UNT System and the City of Dallas. The city spent $14 million in bond funds to restore the exterior of the building. Working closely with the Texas Historic Commission, the UNT System is putting finishing touches on a $56 million interior renovation – returning the iconic building to its original 1914 Beaux Arts design, while preserving key sites and artifacts related to the tragic events of 1963.
“I had a decision to make, the decision was whether or not to put it [the law school] on the UNT [UNT Dallas] campus or downtown Dallas,” said Texas Sen. Royce West, the visionary who helped to make UNT Dallas and the law school a reality. "I had to think about it, and think about, I said downtown Dallas is the proper location. Old City Hall would be an appropriate location for a law school.”
The UNT College of Law will permanently move the bulk of its operation into the 106,000-square-foot law center later this month. The UNT Dallas College of Law has been housed at the UNT System building at 1901 Main Street since its founding in 2013.
Here are highlights of the new UNT Dallas Law Center: