By Quin Mathews
Special Contributor

Ever hear of Wandsworth Drive? How did Northaven get that canopy of Live Oaks? Read on…

This story is about tornadoes, but also about trees.  It was near ground zero that I first heard of a “cyclone,” as it was called in the Wizard of Oz, a picture book version that Mrs. Biggerstaff read our class in 1956.  We were the “Gremlins” class at the Mary Boswell School, a preschool and kindergarten in St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, just across from the fire station obliterated by the recent tornado and next to Preston Royal Shopping Center.  We know what happened there.

When Mrs. Biggerstaff finished reading us the book, she announced to our delight that the Wizard would be on television that Saturday night.  It was to be its first broadcast ever.  Cyclone, tornado, whatever — it was all very exciting, and on April 2, 1957 my mother called me to our front porch.  There I saw a real one, a long, stringy thing to the south, enormous. No one told me to go inside and take cover.  We watched it and I saw hailstones for the first time. Somewhere in that storm, at least nine people died.

Today parts of North Dallas have been un-landscaped back to the past.  (more…)

SoCoIf you’ve been looking for something with some stellar views of Dallas and some pretty sweet amenities, this week’s Tuesday Two Hundred at the SoCo Lofts is probably going to do the trick.

Unfamiliar with the lofts at 1122 Jackson Street? We wrote about them several years ago, but a quick primer: Constructed in 1926 by Lloyd Whitson and F. Cowderie Dale, it was at one time part of a four-building complex of warehouses for the Gulf, Colorado, and Santa Fe Railroad. Underground tunnels connected the buildings and also allowed trains to enter. Building 3 was demolished eventually, but 1, 2, and 4 remained.

The SoCo Lofts are Building 2, which in previous lives housed the University Club (in the two-story penthouse until the late 30s), WFAA Radio (from the 30s on), and the Garment Center. The building sat vacant by the 80s, and a demo order was issued in 1987, but by 1988, it and building 1 were named Dallas landmarks. By 1997, it was on the National Register of Historic Places. (more…)

This split-level at 2810 W. 9th Street is inside the Beverly Hills neighborhood of Oak Cliff.

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.

Coombs Creek cuts through the center of the Beverly Hills neighborhood of Oak Cliff.

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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!

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Elm StreetSometimes in the course of finding homes to feature through the week, we end up traveling down a bit of a wormhole when the abode’s history comes up. But our trip to the past for the history of this historic downtown Dallas loft was the unusual for a Tuesday Two Hundred.

We first found this unit in 509 Elm Street and fell in love with all the touches that make a loft condo charming — the exposed brick and beams, the concrete floors, the tons of light.

But when you know a building is likely historic, it almost behooves you to go look up what you can about that history — so we did just that.

Although the listing says it was built in 1930, other sourcing has its build date as 1901, 1906, and 1925.

Illustration from Dallas Chamber of Commerce magazine.
Source: Dallas, April 1925. (Courtesy Dallas Public Library archives)

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Kessler Park

Photos courtesy East Kessler Park Neighborhood Association

By Deb R. Brimer
Contributing Writer

East Kessler Park is a breathtaking mix of storied historic homes and natural beauty. The neighborhood not only contains the largest collection of eclectic architecture within the city of Dallas, its residential patriarch The Rock Lodge – is among the oldest masonry structures in Dallas County.

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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…)

Tenth Street

Tenth Street Historic District (photo courtesy City of Dallas)

One of the only remaining intact Freedman’s Towns in the entire country, the Tenth Street Historic District in Oak Cliff’s importance to the community that still has roots there — as well as to the city — is something historians and preservationists feel they can’t stress enough.

The folk and period homes within the district were built in the late 19th and 20th centuries, with the city of Dallas tabulating 257 homes, four commercial buildings, three institutional buildings, and one cemetery within its boundaries.

“Just as Colonial Williamsburg tells the story of American Independence by immersing the visitor in and interpreting the built heritage of the era, so might a restored Tenth Street Freedman’s Town — on the very doorstep of one of the top public high schools in the nation — bring the story of African American Independence to life,” says the website Tenth Street Life. “Historic Tenth Street may well be the last, best chance in the nation to let the land the freedmen bought and paid for and the homes, businesses, and institutions they built on it with their own hands speak for themselves.”

It is believed that the first residents of the freedman’s town were slaves freed after the Civil War ended, many former slaves of Dallas cotton farmer William Brown Miller. A church was built in 1880, and a school opened six years later. More people arrived when T.L. Marsalis platted the neighborhood four years after that.

Restoring the district is the nation’s (and Dallas’) best and last opportunity to potentially create a history lesson that is immersive and riveting, telling the stories and dreams of the generations of Black families in Dallas as they gained their freedom, even through the dangerous and violent Reconstruction era, and beyond during the Jim Crow era, living to establish businesses that are still here today, acquiring land of their own, and building property ownership and wealth. (more…)