The 1957 Dallas Chimney Cap Robbery
Sightseeing and scenic turnouts is a fun time passing activity I have always done with my grandmother growing up. One of our favorite spots to hit is the big hill outside of Cedar Hill facing Dallas. One afternoon while doing just that, as my eyes where skimming the horizon I noticed all the Dallas chimney caps. I pointed this out to my grandma, she just smiled telling me Dallas chimney caps today are a sign of how much has been rebuilt since the great Dallas chimney cap robbery in 1957.
Now I know my grandmother is not crazy so I had to know what she was talking about. Back in 1957 my grandmother was in her early thirties with five children living a busy life in downtown Dallas. On April 2, 1957 it started off normal, all the children were in school as scheduled and a few fairly heavy rain showers had passed through the area. Roughly around 4pm, the children were arriving home from school off the bus, telling my grandma about the strange temperature drops, wind gusts and the clouds not looking right. She and the children went outside to observe the weather.
Grandma was terrified when looked out upon the skyline, as she had grown up in Oklahoma, the heart of tornado alley. She knew what was to come. She demanded the children to get inside and seek shelter. At this time Dallas didn’t have a neighborhood tornado siren warning system. She watched in horror as the tornado started dropping in and out of the sky slinging those precious Dallas chimney caps, roofs, sheds, and debris everywhere. She said she had the instinct to run and get in the house with her children, but she was transfixed on all the chaos around her. Not until her own Dallas chimney cap came flying off her home and blowing across the street, did she snapped out of it and retreated inside.
There was not a Dallas chimney cap that was safe!
Grandma ran inside finding all five children safe inside huddled together in the bathroom. They stayed in the bathroom about thirty minutes, listening to the roaring winds surrounding them and things slamming into the side of the house. When everything finally calmed down, she and the children emerged from the home. As they opened the door and peered outside they found themselves smack dab in the middle of Dallas’s most deadly tornado sites still to this day. There were small fires everywhere due to power lines falling down, people running the streets crying and yelling. Grandma looked across the skyline and all the Dallas chimney caps were gone, robbed by the tornado that just ripped through town.
The 1957 tornado made a sixteen mile long path cutting through downtown Dallas, lasting about forty minutes long. It reached up to three-hundred yards in width at some points, with five-hundred to seven-hundred mile per hour winds, ripping Dallas chimney caps off almost every home. Ten people died that day with two-hundred injured. There was property damage of four million dollars’ worth, and that’s a ton of money in the fifties. It was later declared that five hundred and seventy four structures were damaged.
Grandma and her five children were lucky that day and were not injured. Her home suffered damage and she was robbed of her Dallas chimney cap by the famous 1957 tornado. I look across the skyline today from Cedar Hill thinking about how sad it must have been to see Dallas without its chimney caps.