History: The outdoor gun range in Kessler Park

photo courtesy of the Dallas Morning News Historical Archives
photo courtesy of the Dallas Morning News Historical Archives

Strange but true: One of our city’s toniest neighborhoods was home to an outdoor gun range for 16 years.

The Works Progress Administration built a police gun range near Coombs Creek, at Kessler Parkway and Junior Drive, in 1939.

1011D873E268D0B2The gun range, which civilians also could use for a fee, was not without incident. And not surprisingly, neighbors hated it.

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In 1948, the city proposed building a fire drill tower on the site. Kessler Park neighbors successfully fought that proposal and seized the opportunity to complain about the gun range itself. They told City Council that the gun range was too noisy, it caused traffic and parking woes, and it resulted in the occasional stray bullet.

A stray bullet from the range caused tragedy in July 1952, when a security guard’s .38-caliber practice bullet hit a moving car on West Commerce and struck a 20-year-old U.S. Air Force member in the head. The victim, Glenn Marchesi, had graduated the day before from medical technician school at Fort Sam Houston. His buddy applied pressure to a main artery, and doctors at what is now the Veterans Administration Hospital saved his life.

After the range caused serious injury to a United States military serviceman, the city surely closed the gun range or moved it from a densely populated urban area, right? Wrong.

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The guy who fired the bullet appeared before a grand jury, which declined to formally charge him, and that was the end of it.

Another accident happened at the gun range in June 1955, when an 18-year-old civilian, Jimmy George Mann, was shot. His 21-year-old companion, Billy John Wade, dropped a .22-caliber pistol, which hit the concrete, discharged and shot Mann in the throat. The younger man was taken to Methodist hospital and survived.

The gun range finally closed later in 1955, not because it was a terrible place for a gun range, but because the construction of what is now Interstate 30 required it.

The police gun range moved to land that Dallas Power and Light donated on Mountain Creek Parkway, where it remains today.

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