Sunset Hill Addition may have been the last thing John Merrifield wanted to crop up on his circa 1843 farm. A telling indication was the purchase he made of another 1,000 acres before his death in 1873, which helped prevent encroachment from the new Hord’s Ridge development near the farm’s eastern side.
Nevertheless, progress eventually had its way. Although Merrifield’s son also expanded the farm, his grandchildren divided it, and by the 1890s, new home development was underway. Mirrored by the success of Thomas Marsalis’ Oak Cliff subdivision, affluent buyers started flocking to Sunset Hill to buy lots and build large homes.
In the “build it, they will come” philosophy, more subdivisions followed. By 1913, development was in full swing and after being deemed a Dallas suburb, the City of Dallas annexed Sunset Hill two years later.
Hann and Kendall – two developers of Highland Park – were among the noted builders who brought their brand of pizzazz across the Trinity River to Sunset Hill. In addition to introducing wide, tree-lined streets to the neighborhood, they debuted their two-story California Bungalow. Though it was smaller than the West Coast version, its low slung, airplane style added architectural diversity to the larger homes that likewise included Prairie and Craftsman bungalows.
While historic homes in Sunset Hill date through the 1930s and 1940s, other architectural styles run the gamut from Prairie Four-square and brick Tudor to Spanish Eclectic. And historic home finds range from contemporary interior upgrades to houses waiting for a new owner to stamp his or her individual style on a spiffy redo.
Despite the people who made history in Sunset Hill and the urban dwellers preserving it, the neighborhood still contains Merrifield land.
The Merrifield Cemetery at the southeastern corner of Hampton Road and Jefferson Boulevard contains a Texas Historical Marker and two headstones. One marks the graves of John Merrifield and his second wife Elizabeth. The other is for their son Joseph Foreman Merrifield. According to neighborhood lore, an estimated 20 unnamed family members are buried there.
John Merrifield’s great-great-granddaughter lives in Sunset Hill in a home built on the site where the family’s old homeplace once stood.