KEssler Plaza / Ravinia Heights
Published: 19 September 2008
The southernmost of the "Kessler" neighborhoods, Kessler Plaza began development in the late 1930s. A drive around the area reveals a variety of architectural styles ranging from Eclectic Tudor and Colonial Revival to 1950s Ranch-style. One last parcel of land was developed in the 1970s, reflecting a contemporary mode.
Tranquil and distinctive
While some of the newer houses are three-bedroom-sized, the area is noted for the distinctive collection of Picturesque cottages, most offering two bedrooms. Displaying exteriors of brick, Austin stone, or a combination of the two, the homes can be quite eyecatching. Boasting unique gable treatments, distinctive windows, unusual roof dormers, exterior wood trim, or porches each elevation is individual. Tenth Street and Marvin Avenue have the largest concentration of these cottages, many of which were built by the same contractor. Most have been well maintained or are being restored by enthusiastic new owners.
Origins as secluded estate
This neighborhood had its origins in a farm that once belonged to Eli Sanger, of Dallas' old Sanger Brothers department store. Sanger sold his farm in 1914 to oilman/developer Claude Cain. Mr. Cain built an estate he named "Ravinia" which stilt stands today, although dense woods seclude the home from view. An arched, wrought iron entry gate on Jefferson Boulevard is the only clue to its existence. The estate had an early swimming pool with no filtration system, necessitating periodic drains and fills. This caused neighbors down the hill some consternation, as yards would flood from the deluge of water. Happily, this is no longer a problem.
A secret neighborhood of wood and water
Cain developed the area over a period spanning the 1920s through the 1950s. In this compact neighborhood, Tudor cottages sit around the corner from 1940s traditional homes, which look up the hillsides to 1950s contemporaries. Of note are the rugged stone and brick houses with a western influence, and some of the 1950s split-level contemporaries that take advantage of their hillside lots. Some make liberal use of glass on exterior walls, visually bringing the woods inside. Small tributaries to Coombs Creek run through Ravinia Heights both to the east and west, providing the wooded ravines that gave the neighborhood its name. It is this secluded, forest-like setting that gives the area such appeal. While Ravinia Drive, on the western edge of the development, is lined with estates from the 1920s, the interior streets conceal the fact that this neighborhood is surrounded by a busy urban landscape of shopping and thoroughfares.