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Notes on the Geography of The Western United States: Historic Dallas Suburbs

Here we look at the growing footprint of metropolitan Dallas up to about 1950.

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The Western United States: Historic Dallas Suburbs picture 1

This USGS topo sheet shows not only the incremental growth of the city north and east but the important jump west across the Trinity River to Oak Cliff, established in 1887 but annexed to Dallas in 1903. It was connected to the city by the Dallas and Oak Cliff Railroad, built by the Oak Cliff promoters.

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The commuter railway crosses the river and curves up along Jefferson Boulevard. The road is still there but not the track.

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Tom Marsalis was one of the two men who promoted Oak Cliff. His partner, John Armstrong, sold out when Marsalis decided to raise the price of lots. Smart move for Armstrong, who went on to build the phenomenally successful subdivision (and Dallas enclave) of Highland Park. Marsalis was ruined in the Panic of 1893 and died in poverty, possibly in New York.

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Construction continued in Oak Cliff for many years. This house was part of Kessler Square, added in the 1920s. Newspaper ads describe the addition as one with "beautiful, substantial homes--each a lovely little mansion to its happy owner."

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Bigger buildings appeared, too. Lake Cliff Tower, with views east across the Trinity, was built in 1932 as a hotel-apartment complex. It declined into a nursing home and was then abandoned. Now, with $4 million from the city, the current owner has converted it into 54 condos.

The Western United States: Historic Dallas Suburbs picture 6

A crowd celebrates the arrival of a Texas Interurban Railway train at Farmers Branch, a dozen miles north of Dallas. This was 1924, late in the interurban day, and service, which extended north to Denton, was abandoned only eight years later.

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Dallas Southern Traction ran interurbans south from Dallas to Corsicana from 1913 to 1941.

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The earliest Dallas suburb for the wealthy was probably Munger Park, built on the east side of town by Robert Munger, a cotton-gin manufacturer. The pride of Munger Park was the boulevard called Swiss Avenue.

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After a long decline after World War II, the houses are once again in very fine condition, thanks to the designation of the neighborhood as Dallas's first historic district.

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The Stubbs House, at the east end of Swiss Avenue, was built in 1926 by Robert Stubbs, who ran a paving business. Before its restoration, the house had become a boarding house, then apartments.

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One of many Prairie-style houses along Swiss Avenue.

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Thousands of houses were built all around the core city of Dallas during the 1950s. Here's one in Mesquite, whose population went from 1,700 in 1950 to 50,000 in 1970 and over 140,000 now.

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Many of the houses in these neighborhoods once looked identical to one another, but over the years they grew more distinctive. Here the garage has been made into living space.

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Here, still in Mesquite, it has not.

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As simple as it comes: this home was part of Wynnewood, probably the biggest development of the early post-war years. In southwestern Dallas, it covered over 800 acres and was built by Angus Wynne, who went on to build Six Flags Over Texas.

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A carport deluxe, only a block away from the home in the previous picture.

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Here's a home with that increasingly rare thing, a screened porch. It's in the Walnut Hill neighborhood, about half a mile north of Love Field.

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We've made a circuit of 1950s housing, starting at Mesquite (call it 3 o'clock) and circling clockwise to Wynnewood (seven o'clock) and Walnut Hill (11 o'clock). Here's Garland, at one o'clock. The subdivision is called Northlake.

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Also at 1 o'clock but closer in--just east of White Rock Lake--the Casa Linda development was another major project, about as big as Wynnewood.

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Probably the most expensive subdivisions from 1950 were just north of University Park. This one is on Deloache Avenue.

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The problem with these homes is that their location draws commuters seeking to build close-in. The result is McMansionization.

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The transformation can be very profitable for someone who sells an older house; for the neighbors who want to stay put it can be humiliating or irritating and, in either case, costly with higher taxes.

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Here's a homeowner who has fought back by buying expensive wheels.


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