Over the years, the city of Dallas has become associated with a number of iconic images: a towering Big Tex, a lit-up Reunion Tower, a certain fictional oil tycoon and even a frozen margarita. Yet it’s Downtown Dallas’ resident flying horse that has out-of-towners scratching their heads the most. What makes the red Pegasus so fascinating, and how has it become more than just another symbol of the greatness — real as well as imaginary — that defines Big D?
The Pegasus first landed in Downtown Dallas in 1934, perching atop what was then the city’s tallest building: the 29-story Magnolia Hotel. A Greek mythological symbol of wealth, power and fame, the Pegasus was given the responsibility of extending a special welcome to guests attending the American Petroleum Institute’s annual meeting. In fact, the Magnolia was originally crowned with not one but two Pegasuses, leading many to speculate that the construction was a sly nod to Dallas being more than a one-horse town.
It’s safe to say the Pegasus fulfilled its promise. Dallas continued to boom throughout the 20th century, thanks in large part to the oil industry. For six decades following its first appearance, the red neon outline of the Pegasus flew over the city’s skyline. It’s even been reported that this unique beacon was bright and distinctive enough to direct airline pilots toward Love Field.
But even time and the elements take their toll on an icon. In 2000, severe weathering necessitated that the original Pegasus be replaced with a shiny new upgrade. Unfortunately, in the process, that historic sign became lost. It was more than a decade later (2015) before it was rediscovered in the dark of a storage facility near White Rock Lake. This Pegasus has since been renovated and now sits in an outdoor plaza at the entrance to the Omni Dallas Hotel. Even in the 21st century, the Pegasus continues to fulfill its first mission — welcoming visitors to Dallas.
But even more lasting than the physical structure itself are the memories associated with the Pegasus, particularly for older residents. Ask many long-time Dallasites and they will tell you that Downtown was never as vibrant or prosperous a neighborhood than in the days when the neon sign’s red glow was the most brilliant aspect of the city’s night sky.
Although some things have changed, the symbol lives on. In fact, it’s hard to travel even a mile without stumbling on some version of or tribute to the Pegasus. A majestic winged horse currently serves as the mascot for both the Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts and the Dallas Wings WNBA team. There’s a Pegasus Plaza on Main Street and Pegasus Banks throughout the city. And don’t forget Pegasus City Brewery, Pegasus Theatre, Pub Pegasus, Red Pegasus Comics — you get the idea.