In August of 1980, a pair of theses were presented to the University of Texas at Arlington by Charles Wayne Watson and Gary L. Young for Masters degrees in Architecture. They were titled “A History and Guide to the South Boulevard / Park Row Historic District.” Watson’s paper covered South Boulevard while Young tackled Park Row. Today these theses appear to be the most exhaustive, and only, chronicle about this fascinating piece of Dallas history.
The theses are in the safe keeping of Tammy Johnston, current president of the South Blvd. and Park Row neighborhood association. Johnston lives and breathes this neighborhood, working her way through her own renovation of a 4,000-square-foot South Blvd. mansion.
The history of the area begins in 1913 with the relocation of the Temple Emanu-El from the Cedars to the corner of Harwood Street and South Blvd. The move to the new neighborhood was precipitated by encroachment by the City of Dallas into the Cedars. The temple has since been torn down, likely as a result of the construction of Interstate 45 which severed the area in two, like so many other neighborhoods.
As was the practice, when a place of worship moved, often the congregation did, too. If the Cedars was Dallas’ first Jewish enclave, the move led to the South Blvd. area becoming the second. The neighborhood’s heyday lasted only about 30 years before homeowners moved again to areas of what was then “North” Dallas, like Swiss Avenue. In total, 55 homes were built on the 2300-2700 blocks of South Blvd. between 1914 and 1932. Nine houses had been lost prior to the 1980 thesis, with more lost since. But the neighborhood retains more original, intact homes than the Cedars.
As the original residents moved away, the area declined in the 1940s and 1950s with once grand mansions being turned into apartments. In the 1950s, prominent and enterprising blacks began the long haul to restore the neighborhood. That effort continues today.
In 1976, the City of Dallas recognized the work that had been done and declared the area an Historic District and two years later it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The first building permit was issued in 1912 for the T. A. Manning home at 2533 South Blvd. (at Atlanta Street), some two years after the streets were in place. The home was not completed until 1914. While Manning was the first, in 1913 a further nine permits were issued.
Lots were generally sized at 50 feet wide by a generous 175 feet deep, but were sold by the linear foot. Many of the homes on the north side of South Blvd. are on much wider lots. The lot depth explains the deep setbacks on the boulevard.
The grandest homes were built before 1920 when the bungalow style began to catch on in the area. When we think of bungalows today, we think of smaller homes. But bungalow is a style that can be built in any size. While many later bungalows in the area are in the 2,000-square-foot range, the earliest ones were the equal in square footage to their two-story neighbors.
The architects of these homes were a Who’s Who of the era, including H.A. Overbeck, Lang & Witchell, Hal Thompson, and Roscoe DeWitt. With grand homes of this era, it’s tempting to think they were commissioned by their first occupants, but in fact, like today, most were spec homes.
Lang & Witchell
Lang & Witchell were popular residential architects in Dallas during the era. Their crowning glory is considered by some to be the Higgenbotham home at 5002 Swiss Avenue which certainly looks all of it’s 5,400 square feet.
However the Salzenstein home located at 2419 South Blvd. is just 10 percent smaller at 4,700 square feet. See what I mean by deep lots? This home offers a trim face to the street but goes back a mile!
Lang & Witchell were known in commercial circles as well. They are well known in Dallas for their signature Fair Park Music Hall, Dallas Power and Light building, and the Lone Star Gas building that now houses the Lone Star Gas (apartment) Lofts.
H.A. Overbeck was known on South Blvd. as designing homes with mass. The L. G. Bromberg home was one of the largest on the street and the most expensive to construct at $17,000 (ahh, if only that price was available with today’s salaries!). All three of Overbeck’s homes on South Blvd. were called out when the area was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Household Names Called the Area Home
You don’t have homes this impressive without an equally impressive list of names associated with some of Dallas’ still most prominent businesses. Here’s a sample.
For 14 years, 2620 South Blvd. was the home of Herbert Marcus, a co-founder and president of Neiman Marcus, and where son Stanley spent his youth. The home is classified as Progressive in style with some Louis Sullivan-esque details.
Proving “from acorns do mighty oaks grow,” this was the home of Henry S. Miller. Yes, THAT Henry S. Miller. Coincidentally, a few days ago I toured the former penthouse home in Highland Park of Henry S. Miller Jr. (stay tuned for that story).
This was the home of Julius Schepps, an important Dallas businessman and philanthropist. His father started Schepps bakery and Julius started an insurance company that lasted 43 years and a brewery he sold after one year. He was a director of the Mercantile National Bank from 1922 until he died in 1971. There is a park in Deep Ellum named for him as is a stretch of Interstate 45. He was named “Dallas’ Most Outstanding Citizen” in 1954.
It’s only fitting that I end this with today’s most important South Blvd. home. Originally owned by Max Rosenfield, the credit manager for Sanger Brothers Department Store, 2527 South Blvd. is now home to one of the neighborhood’s saviors, Dr. and Mrs. Longshaw. Over the years they have purchased dilapidated homes on the street and renovated them before passing them on to new owners. They’re the kind of neighborhood lovers needed to attract buyers who may be daunted by the sheer scale of renovating homes of this age and size. It’s equally fitting that his home is located next door to the first home in the area, the T. A. Manning home.
Stay tuned for part two, where I walk you through a trio of homes currently on the market that represent the stages of South Boulevard homes.
Remember: Do you have an HOA story to tell? A little high-rise history? Realtors, want to feature a listing in need of renovation or one that’s complete with flying colors? How about hosting a Candy’s Dirt Staff Meeting? Shoot Jon an email. Marriage proposals accepted (they’re legal)! firstname.lastname@example.org