By Deb R. Brimer
East Kessler Park is a breathtaking mix of storied historic homes and natural beauty. The neighborhood not only contains the largest collection of eclectic architecture within the city of Dallas, its residential patriarch – The Rock Lodge – is among the oldest masonry structures in Dallas County.
Unlike most North Oak Cliff neighborhoods that bear the Kessler name, home styles in East Kessler Park span two historic eras. Residential architecture mainly reflects the late 1930s and ‘40s, which includes the city’s first all-electric home built by Dallas Power & Light in 1936 and the grand 1940 mansion owned by the founder of Austin Industries.
Parts of East Kessler Park, however, contain midcentury contemporary and ultra-modern designs, including a 1950s home shaped like Texas and the former home and studio of AIA award-winning architect David Braden that’s secluded amid a wooded slope and lush native greenery.
Despite the two faces of East Kessler Park, The Rock Lodge predates the neighborhood’s development. According to legend, construction on the house that was once a stop on the Cedar Hill Stagecoach Trail began between 1850 and 1870, and limestone for the walls was quarried in Oak Cliff.
Architecture in East Kessler Park runs the gamut from Austin stone and ranch to Art Moderne, and home sizes range from cottages to luxe multilevel mansions and hilltop dwellings.
While most of North Texas is either flat or flatter, the hilly topography of the neighborhood is more indigenous to Central Texas. The glittering Downtown Dallas skyline looming across the Trinity River is a reminder that the city’s urban core is within walking distance, but the Kessler Parkway Park and Coombs Creek walking and bike trail along the northern border separates the quiet close-knit neighborhood from the hustle and bustle.
The John Stemmons family initially owned most of the land where East Kessler Park is today. In 1927, the family donated the land to build Methodist Hospital on Colorado Boulevard. For years, the neighborhood’s moniker was Pill Hill because of the area’s large population of physicians.
Developer Roy Eastus and the Stemmons Family official started East Kessler Park a decade later. Two streets in the neighborhood – Allison Drive and Stemmons Avenue – were named after Leslie Allison Stemmons, the father of John Stemmons and a developer of Winnetka Heights and Kidd Springs.