Elmwood: A Storied History Like No Other

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1227 Cascade Avenue – Circa 1922

What do pasteurized milk, Tom Cruise, and Dixie Cups have in common? Answer: the Elmwood neighborhood.

Between about 1,373 houses and 4,426 residents, Elmwood is the most populated single-family home neighborhood in Oak Cliff, and it all started with 20 cows.

According to Heritage Oak Cliff, the neighborhood began in 1907 as a 640-acre Tennessee Dairy with less than two dozen cows. Founded by Lindsley Waters, the modern, corporate operation was not only the first dairy in Dallas to deliver pasteurized milk in glass bottles, it won the “most sanitary dairy farm” prize at the 1908 State Fair of Texas.

But in 1919, a fire destroyed the dairy. Rather than lose valuable business while rebuilding, Waters moved the production facility to Deep Ellum, which helped accelerate deliveries. Five years later, real estate developer Frank G. Jester purchased the farmland and had it platted for Elmwood Addition, a quality new home development with a serene, park-like setting.

1138 Newport Avenue – Circa 1924

Over the next four decades, the highs and lows and twists and turns of homebuilding were likely dizzying. From the dips of The Great Depression and World War II to the sharp rise of the post-war boom, Elmwood rode the economic roller coaster and amassed a diverse collection of residential architecture along the way.

Today, the neighborhood’s historic home styles range from Tudor cottages and Craftsman bungalows to 1930s brick or frame cottages and 1940s and ‘50s Ranch-style homes constructed of brick, stone, or wood.

Elmwood Park, located along the banks of Cedar and Elmwood Creeks, is the neighborhood gathering spot. Besides native beauty, mature trees, and a wide variety of birds and wildlife, the park contains play equipment and open spaces for sports, and it’s a favorite place for joggers and neighbors walking their four-legged family members.

1923 Lansford Avenue – Circa 1950

The neighborhood even has its own business district along Edgefield Drive that’s reminiscent of a small downtown. In 1989, the district made its motion picture debut in the Main Street scenes for Oliver Stone’s Academy Award-winning movie, Born on the Fourth of July, starring Tom Cruise.

Shortly after film crews wrapped up, however, Elmwood discovered its greatest strength – the power of neighborhood spirit. After owning a plant in the Elmwood area since 1932, Dixico Inc. – formerly Dixie Wax Paper Company – petitioned the State of Texas and EPA for permission to burn hazardous solvents and liquid wastes at its 1300 South Polk Street site.

1408 S. Clinton Avenue – Circa 1925

Though Dixico asserted its incineration process was environmentally safe, Elmwood neighbors banded together and formed the group, Individuals and Residents Against Toxic Emissions (IRATE), in protest. When 400 IRATE neighbors filed into a public hearing a year later, Dixico withdrew its application and ultimately sold the plant and relocated operations.

In 2016, the building changed hands and underwent a massive redo and name-change. Today the trendy Tyler Station houses co-working space and the neighborhood’s first post-Prohibition brewery.

Deb R. Brimer

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