mothballed

A vestibule at the Douglass at Page Woodson, which recently won a prestigious preservation award after developers turned into a long-abandoned Oklahoma City high school into affordable housing (Photo by Justin Clemons Photography/courtesy the National Trust for Historic Preservation)

Three Dallas ISD schools — shuttered for years, are now up for sale, the district announced last month. It’s uncertain how much they’ll go for in the competitive, sealed bidding process, but one of the mothballed schools — Phillis Wheatley Elementary — is considered to be a historic site.

That the three schools are up for sale is likely no surprise to anyone who paid attention to last September’s board of trustees meeting, where the trustees took up discussion of what to do with three shuttered campuses – the former Billy Earl Dade building, Pearl C. Anderson Elementary, and Phillis Wheatley Elementary. Both Wheatley and Anderson were closed in 2012, and both have been the target of vandals as well.

Wheatley Elementary (Photos courtesy City of Dallas)

Wheatley Elementary opened in 1929, and sits in the historic Wheatley Place neighborhood, named after Phillis Wheatley, an African-American poet from the 18th century. The entire neighborhood has been designated as a historic district on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) and as a Dallas Landmark District by the city. (more…)

Park Cities Tickets for the Park Cities Historic and Preservation Society keynote luncheon are selling out quickly – which reminds me, I have a speech to write!

It is a great honor to have been asked by this fantastic group to be the keynote luncheon speaker on April 10, 2019 … one week from Wednesday!

(more…)

Tenth Street

In 2013, the nonprofit bcWORKSHOP hosted Neighborhood Stories events, including one in the Tenth Street community, where people wrote their hopes for and memories of their neighborhood (photo courtesy bcWORKSHOP)

Editor’s Note: Preserving the historic neighborhoods that have shaped Dallas should be a priority. But despite historic district designations, Black neighborhoods that were home to Dallasites before, during, and after redlining are seeing a troubling amount of demolitions of homes that, residents insist, would be saved if in other historic districts — predominately white historic districts — in the city.

Over the next weeks and months, we will be taking a look at two of those neighborhoods — Tenth Street, and Wheatley Place. Last week, we looked at three homes in immediate danger of demolition. This week, we look at one way the neighborhood is fighting back.

The lawsuit Tenth Street residents have filed against the City of Dallas does not mince words, nor does it pull punches.

“Tenth Street has historically been subject to de jure racial segregation by the City of Dallas,” it reads. “The City has a history of enforcing racial segregation in some neighborhoods by ordinance through direct decisions of its City Council.”

Much of this history is well-documented and comes courtesy of the government’s own record keeping. Redlining consigned Black families to specific sections of town, where the amenities and even necessities were not as robust as in white-only neighborhoods, if they existed at all.

1930-circa area description of Tenth Street by the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation (click to enlarge)

That history is something Jorge Jasso, a staff attorney with Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas, can prove easily. Jasso and other attorneys at Legal Aid are representing the Tenth Street Residential Association in their suit against the city.

Jasso points to a 1930s Home Owners’ Loan Corporation (or HOLC) map that has been digitized by the Kirwan Institute at Ohio State University that demonstrates the redlining that happened in Dallas.

To be clear, Tenth Street has been home to Black Dallasites for more than a century, and is one of the few remaining intact Freedmen’s towns in the nation. Settled by freed slaves after the Civil War, many of those families continue to hold on to the homes and land their newly-freed ancestors were undoubtedly proud to own.

The neighborhood’s genesis was in the 1880s, as it took shape south of the Trinity River in one of the few spots the Black community could own land. By now, the neighborhood would be considered the northeastern edge of Oak Cliff, bounded by Interstate 35, East Eighth Street, and Clarendon Drive.

Personal timestamps on a neighborhood map (photo courtesy bcWORKSHOP).

In 1944, the city designated the Tenth Street community a “Negro only” area. In 1947, the neighborhood was zoned for duplex and single-family residential use only.

But to add insult to injury, as desegregation became a drumbeat in the 1960s, construction of Interstate 35 was routed through the neighborhood. (more…)

historic

Photo courtesy Tenth Street Historic District

Editor’s Note: Preserving the historic neighborhoods that have shaped Dallas should be a priority. But despite historic district designations, Black neighborhoods that were home to Dallasites before, during, and after redlining are seeing a troubling amount of demolitions of homes that, residents insist, would be saved if in other historic districts — predominately white historic districts — in the city.

Today begins a look at two of those districts — Tenth Street, and Wheatley Place, where the Folk style, Victorian, and Craftsman houses that tell the stories of Dallas are felled by demolition crews at a rapid clip.

Robert Swann, to many, is the guy you go to when you want to learn about the Tenth Street Historic District. Swann, who has a master’s degree in architecture from Harvard, came back to Dallas and watched as the neighborhood declined.

In 2008, he began to look for a home in the historic neighborhood to buy — and when he found the vacant one he eventually purchased, he found that there were several heirs. That search touched off a personal quest to learn the history of the district.

So when Swann saw the irony in the fact that, during Black History Month, the City of Dallas demolished one house in the historically Black neighborhood on February 14, and had plans to demolish another house soon, he took to Facebook.

228 South Cliff (Photo courtesy Robert Swann)

“Apparently, Dallas celebrates Black History Month by demolishing homes in African American landmark districts,” he said, explaining that 228 South Cliff was demolished, and The William Smith House, located at 1105 E. Ninth St. was in danger. (more…)

Dallas ISD

Neighbors of the long-closed H.S. Thompson Learning Center took to the microphone to demand answers about their school at Thursday night’s Dallas ISD school board meeting.

While it was a fairly tame evening, as far as school board meetings go, Thursday night’s regular Dallas ISD board of trustees meeting was bookended by discussions about the larger responsibility a school district has to the communities schools sit in, especially once those schools are closed.

It began during the portion at the beginning of the meeting set aside for public comment, when adamant and angry neighbors of the now-shuttered H.S. Thompson Learning Center made impassioned pleas for the district to give their neighborhood its school back.

The school was shuttered in 2013 when the district shuttered 10 other schools to save about $12 million dollars. Speakers last night insisted that the district had promised that the school would reopen or would be rebuilt. Several insisted the district had promised the school would be back in their neighborhood in two years.

“Our kids deserve better. We want our schools,” a speaker said. “Everyone else is getting their schools.” (more…)