Lake Cliff: The Gateway to Oak Cliff Has a Colorful History

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Historic Apartment Building
832 Blaylock Drive
Circa 1917

Lake Cliff may have the most colorful history of any neighborhood in Oak Cliff. It was once part of the original township of Oak Cliff that Dallas annexed in 1901, and it has been the gateway to Oak Cliff since the 19th century.

Named after the small freshwater lake created by the exclusive Llewellyn Country Club in 1890, Lake Cliff was part of businessman T.L. Marsalis’ vision to transform Old Oak Cliff into the most affluent suburb of Dallas. In 1889, he built his private grand mansion at Colorado Boulevard and Marsalis Avenue, and a string of affluent buyers began building the following year.

After betting his business holdings on what seemed like a sure thing, the depression of 1893 trumped Marsalis’ bet. With his dream destroyed, he vacated the mansion and left town. In 1904, a doctor purchased the still-empty mansion and converted it into Marsalis Sanitarium, but 11 years later, the once-stately landmark burned to the ground.

By the early 1900s, residential construction had resumed in the neighborhood and Lake Cliff Park was the site of the largest amusement complex in Texas. In addition to three theaters showcasing opera, silent motion pictures, and live performances – the complex featured a massive pool for floating and a bathhouse as well as dance pavilions and carnivals. A year after the facility closed in 1913, developers J.T. Zang and Charles Mangold sold the 44-acre Lake Cliff Park to the City of Dallas.

Lake Cliff Park has clear views of the Dallas skyline, and was once an amusement park before it was sold to the City of Dallas. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

The lake was a magnet for home building, which primarily occurred from 1890 to 1930. While architectural styles run the gamut from Queen Anne, Neoclassical, and Colonial Revival to Tudor, Craftsman, and Prairie – homes of all sizes line the streets surrounding the lake. Several larger homes have since been renovated into historic apartments, which adds another layer of popularity to the neighborhood.

In 1929, Lake Cliff Tower – one of the oldest residential high-rises in Dallas – was built across Colorado Boulevard from the lake. Today, the 12-story building contains 54 luxury condos and a full range of amenities, including an outdoor lounge, firepit, clubroom, and wine lockers along with a concierge, fitness center, and swimming pool.

Lake Cliff Tower

Lake Cliff is only slightly infamous by association as it is the neighborhood where Lee Harvey Oswald lived in a boarding house just off of Beckley at the time of the Kennedy assassination. 

The area is home to excellent restaurants, the Methodist Memorial Hospital, and has convenient access to downtown via the Oak Cliff Streetcar line.

Deb R. Brimer

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