You won’t find Rodeo Drive in Dallas’ Beverly Hills, but you will find a storied, deep-rooted neighborhood built by pure grit and generations of human spirit.
According to Heritage Oak Cliff, though Beverly Hills is now part of historic Oak Cliff, it began in the mid-19th century as a small dairy farming community on part of the McCoombs and McCracken Surveys outside the city of Oak Cliff. But its history stretches across the Trinity River.
In 1855, a group of immigrants from Switzerland, Belgium, and mostly France – called the European and American Society of Colonization to Texas – purchased 640 acres of former Peters Colony land for their Utopian settlement, La Reunion, where they had the freedom to pursue their political beliefs.
Unfortunately, political freedom in America didn’t come with an instruction manual for cultivating crops in harsh Texas conditions. Since the group mostly contained artisans, aristocrats, physicians, and just a handful of European farmers, it was inept for farming in an area plagued by scorching summers, drought, and freezing winters. Within 18 months, settlers abandoned La Reunion and went their separate ways.
Botanist Julien Reverchon arrived too late to save the farm, so he bought a nearby farm where he became prominent in native flora. When he died in 1905, he had taught botany in Dallas and cultured more than 2,600 plant species as well as a rich herbarium with 20,000 specimens. A decade later, the City of Dallas christened Reverchon Park in his honor.
While Dallas annexed Oak Cliff in 1901, it didn’t annex Beverly Hills until 1929. In the meantime, F.G. Jester purchased and developed 90 acres for new homes with no city services, but original land deeds gave lot owners a share of the artesian well across Westmoreland. Between a septic tank, fruit trees, vegetable garden, chickens, and an occasional cow – the country lifestyle continued just a stone’s throw from downtown.
Beverly Hills changed dramatically after annexation. Between its own theater, several restaurants, and a shopping center with a Wyatt’s Food Store, Ben Franklin variety store, and plethora of mom-and-pop companies, Beverly Hills was open for business. In the 1950s, Sivil’s Drive-In was the area hangout for teenagers, and the Torch Restaurant – owned by the Semos Family – was known throughout Dallas for its Greek cuisine.
Today, more than a century of architectural styles, the neighborhood’s proximity to downtown, and the availability of reasonably-priced vacant lots make Beverly Hills a prime market for historic finds. While most remaining frame houses from the 1920s are now covered with Texas stone, the neighborhood is a tapestry of Craftsman, Cape Cod, Spanish, and Ranch designs. Coombs Creek, which runs along the neighborhood’s southern and eastern edge, is a haven for Midcentury Modern homes accented by tall chalk cliffs, mature trees, and lush Texas greenery.