It’s North Texas Giving Day and one project is looking to preserve the history and celebrate the present-day residents of the Tenth Street Historic District of Dallas.
During Reconstruction after the Civil War, many emancipated slaves created communities together. Most of these Freedmen’s towns have been torn down or changed beyond recognition over the years, but Dallas has one of the only remaining intact ones in the nation.
Located in Oak Cliff, this is the Tenth Street Historic District, a designation created in 1993 by the city of Dallas to help preserve African-American culture in this vital area, which has 257 homes, four commercial buildings, three institutional structures, and one cemetery. Other designations include Dallas Landmark District, National Register of Historic Places, and State Historic Marker Program. This area’s preservation is a big deal.
During North Texas Giving Day, nonprofit Building Community Workshop, known as BC Workshop, is fundraising to help renovate the house above to create a resource for the community, the Tenth Street Neighborhood Resource Center.
“Our goal is to renovate, keeping it true to historical character and working with residents to create a resource center, staffed by someone from [BC Workshop] and providing information about things like how to apply for permits to do renovations in this historic neighborhood, and answer questions, learn and share back with residents,” said Lizzie MacWillie, Associate Director of Dallas office of BC Workshop. “The place could be available for community meetings, art shows, performances…poetry slams, musical performances that celebrate and elevate the celebrate the neighborhood.”
MacWillie emphasizes that this is all about creating what the residents want, not what an outside group thinks would be best for residents.
“We wouldn’t be doing any of this without residents,” she said.
It is thought that many of the freed slaves who began living in the Tenth Street area after the Civil War were the former slaves of William Brown Miller, a prominent Dallas cotton farmer. Extensive settlement began when neighborhood was platted in 1890 and the area today is a collection of modest folk and vernacular dwellings that date from the late nineteenth to early twentieth centuries.
Renovations on the community house owned by BC Workshop started last year, when they took it to the studs for an interior demo, MacWillie said.
“It was in pretty bad shape and the structure needs a lot of work, like a new roof,” she said. “We’ve applied for a certain number of grants for programming and events and some of the capital improvements, but it’s harder to find grants for building projects.”
That’s where North Texas Giving Day comes into play. Giving to BC Workshop today will help these architects and designers designate funds toward the improvements this house desperately needs. They have lots of experience improving the livability and viability of communities through the practice of thoughtful design and making. They’ve worked in other historic and endangered Dallas neighborhoods, including Mount Auburn in East Dallas, La Bajada near Trinity Groves, Dolphin Heights near downtown, and Wynnewood North in Oak Cliff. They’ve worked on several fantastic projects in the Tenth Street area already.
We enrich the lives of citizens by bringing design thinking to areas of our city where resources are most scarce. To do so, [bc] recognizes that it must first understand the social, economic, and environmental issues facing a community before beginning work.
To give to this nonprofit, visit their North Texas Giving Day page.