Dallas school hopes to preserve famous address




Posted on April 25, 2012 at 6:53 PM

DALLAS — St. Philip's School and Community Center has been around since 1957, and the address has always been 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

"We all know that 1600 Pennsylvania is also the address of the White House in Washington, D.C., and St. Philip's, so we are honored to have that," said St. Philip's student president Murphy Pressley.

A picture of the White House hangs in the hallway, and below is a sign asking students: "When will you live here?"

"To me, I think one of us will be the president, and very soon," said Jakayla Silas, looking at her classmates.

It's clear the school address is used to inspire students to be all they can be.

However, one community activist, Marvin Crenshaw, is proposing that the name of Pennsylvania Avenue be changed to honor former Dallas City Council member Elsie Faye Heggins Avenue, who died in 2000.  He said it is long overdue.

Heggins was one of seven original plaintiffs in the court case that overturned the at-large voting method of electing City Council members in Dallas, which basically paved the way for more minority representation.

Heggins is also known for stopping the demolition of homes in Fair Park, and for leading the successful intervention in the redesign of Interstate 45 by the Department of Transportation to provide access and linkage between South Dallas, Pleasant Grove and Oak Cliff.

But why change the name of Pennsylvania Avenue when there are so many other streets in South Dallas?

"Because Pennsylvania Avenue was the base of operations [for Heggins]," Crenshaw explained.

He said Heggins hosted many meetings on Pennsylvania Avenue to spark change. So Crenshaw is determined to change the street name to honor her.

"We have Martin Luther King Boulevard. We have Malcolm X Boulevard. We have J.B. Jackson Jr. Boulevard," Crenshaw said. "But we don't have one street named after a woman of substance."

St. Philip's School Headmaster Dr. Terry Flowers said he, too, honors Heggins' legacy, but offers this alternative: "Elsie Faye lived two blocks away from us on Linway, and we would love to have that street considered," he said.

Flowers said he will definitely fight the proposal to change the name of Pennsylvania Avenue since the school and community center is also home to several non-profit agencies. He believes changing the address would be too confusing, especially to his students, who understand what's in a name.

"It means a lot to us here," said student president Murphy Pressley. "It's in all of our mottoes. Sixteen-hundred Pennsylvania Avenue teaches all of us to strive and succeed."

Crenshaw says he wants the process to play out. He has led several successful efforts to change street names in South Dallas, and plans to take this proposal to Dallas City Hall for a vote.

E-mail ddenmon@wfaa.com