historic neighbors can be helpful or harmful to communities

It might look historic, but 1935 Fairmount Avenue was built in 2014. (photos: Shoot2Sell)

If you’ve ever had to deal with a designated historic neighborhood, you’ll know that they can be a very tricky situation.

In my past life of working for new home builders, I’ve gone round and round with historic neighborhoods, and we just agree to disagree.  Crack houses and tinderboxes have very little historic value.  However, the “Generica-America” style of homes do not belong in historic neighborhoods either.

Two Sides of the Coin

On one hand, a historic neighborhood designation is there to preserve classic styles and architecture.  Historic areas don’t want production builders coming into their neighborhood and building homes that belong in the ‘burbs.

On the other hand, there is nothing historic or aesthetically pleasing about crumbling homes that have outlived their usefulness and would cost more to rehabilitate than to tear down and build a new home.

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candidates

Photo courtesy the National Trust for Historic Preservation

Nobody (at least, media-wise) is asking, but we did. And from the candidates who responded to our questionnaires we sent out a few months ago, we know where many of them stand on an ordinance that is allowing the slow death-by-demolition of one of the country’s few remaining intact Freedman’s towns — the Tenth Street Historic District.

Yes, I said country. It’s also one of the city’s few remaining intact Freedman’s towns, but it cannot be stressed enough — the death of Tenth Street would also be a blow to the preservation, history, and story-keeping of our country, too.

Periodically, I drive through to see the homes that are slated for demolition, knowing that at any one of my drives, I could be looking at an empty lot where there was once a home where a family lived, overcame, thrived, and loved.

There are stories in this neighborhood, and most (if not all) of them happened within the walls of the homes the city of Dallas is capriciously stripping from the community, lot by lot by lot. They’re the stories of a community that has survived in spite of what the city has done to it, not because of what it did for it. (more…)

Tenth Street

Demetria McCain, president Inclusive Communities Project, speaks to the crowd gathered at the Tenth Street Historic District Thursday (Photos courtesy John R. Erickson).

Although the demolitions continue unabated in the centuries-old Freedmen’s town, residents in the Tenth Street Historic District got at least a little bit of good news Thursday morning as they gathered in one of the many vacant — yet freshly mowed — lots for an announcement.

It’s an area that hasn’t seen a lot of great news — since it was given its landmark designation by the city in 1993, 72 homes of 260 in the historic neighborhood have been torn down. The community formed the Tenth Street Residential Association to take on the city, and has filed suit to stop the demolitions and to shore up the historic protections it is supposed to have.

But Thursday, the neighborhood got a bit of a boost in its quest to improve its lot, as the National Trust for Historic Preservation announced that it had named the district to its 32nd annual list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places. (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…)

The Ryan Place gates were funded by proceeds from previous Candlelight Christmas home tours (photos: ryan-place.squarespace.com)

Every city in America has one. You know it when you see it.  Whether it’s the architecture, location, or landscape, there is always a street in the city that is simply magical.  In Fort Worth the most magical and inspiring street is Elizabeth Boulevard.

See unique and historic pieces of furniture at the Candlelight Tour of Homes in Ryan Place

The main artery of the Ryan Place neighborhood, “in 1979 Elizabeth Boulevard joined the National Register of Historic Places, making Ryan Place the only residential historic district in Fort Worth.”  Located off Eighth Avenue and a few blocks from the Near Southside, Ryan Place and Elizabeth Boulevard epitomize all that was great about classic neighborhoods when they were built in the early 1920’s and 1930’s.

This boulevard, and the classic homes of character that comprise Ryan Place, will be showcased during December 3 and 4 as part of the 33rd annual Candlelight Tour of Homes which promotes the annual historic preservation fundraiser of Ryan Place.

Tickets can be purchased in advance for $15 each  During the tour, tickets can be purchased at the Ticket Booth at St. John’s Church for $20. St. John’s Church is located at 2401 College Avenue in Fort Worth. You may use the same wristband for both days if you wish.  Tickets are non-refundable.

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