There’s a 30-foot tall eyeball plopped down in the middle of downtown Dallas.
The giant sculpture is one of the city’s most distinctive landmarks, but it turns out it’s still a mystery to some folks. Even in our own newsroom.
My colleague Bekah Morr, a reporter and producer at the station, sparked this look into the Eye with a Slack message.
“I don’t even remember how it was brought up, but someone sent a picture of it. I was like, ‘What the heck is this weird thing?” Morr said. “I immediately looked it up, and found out it was this massive structure in Dallas.”
A field trip was in order, so Bekah and I headed to 1601 Main Street in Dallas so she could see it for herself.
“I think it kind of sticks out like a sore thumb in the downtown scenery, but it’s cool,” Morr said. “It’s one of those things that you pass and you can’t not see it. It’s the first thing that I saw when I walked down this block.”
The giant bloodshot blue eye has sat on a bed of green grass in the Main Street District since 2013. It’s turned into a big hit on social media.
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The Eye is the work of Chicago-based artist Tony Tasset. He created the 30-foot fiberglass sculpture back in 2007.
“When I make a public piece, I wanted to make something that speaks to a lot of people,” Tasset told a crowd at the Nasher Sculpture Center in 2014. “The eye is just one of those images that has been used throughout history over and over and over again.”
The piece is modeled after his own eyeball. Tassett says there’s no deep, hidden meaning.
The plot of land The Eye sits on, however, does have historic significance.
Carol Roark knows a lot about the city’s historic architecture. She managed the Special Collections Division of the Dallas Public Library for 20 years, and she used to be the interim director of Preservation Dallas.
“What used to stand where the Eyeball now sits is probably Dallas’ first skyscraper,” Roark said.
The Praetorian Building: A 15-story, neo-classical tower built at the turn of the century in 1909.
“A lot of people thought it was folly,” she said. “They though it might blow down. They thought nobody would want to go to the top of it.”
It’s reign as the tallest skyscraper in Texas was short-lived.
“In 1912, the Adolphus opened and knocked the Praetorian out of contention as being the tallest building,” she said.
The Praetorian Building exchanged hands several times through the decades. Then, Dallas hit a big economic slump in the ’90s.
“Things were just not good in downtown Dallas in the 1990s,” Roark said. “There were office buildings being abandoned right and left. So, the building just sat there and deteriorated.”
The Praetorian Building eventually ended up in the hands of Tim Headington, the billionaire owner of the Joule hotel across the street. It was torn down shortly after in 2012.
So, why did Headington bring the Eye to Main Street in the first place? We heard a great legend: it was purchased after neighbors complained that a garage Headington proposed for the site would be an eyesore.
But, we couldn’t reach him to confirm that.
Today, visitors love the Eye. Rachel Heathman is a Dallas tour guide with Great R Tours.
“Many people will rent that lot just to have a wedding,” Heathman said. “I know it’s kind of odd and strange, but we have a lot of odd and strange things in Dallas.”
Cool or creepy? You decide. Next time you’re downtown, keep a lookout for the Eye.