News About At-Risk Buildings and Neighborhoods

 Adopted in 1993 as the 12th historic district in Dallas, Tenth Street Historic District is included in the National Register of Historic Places. When chosen for this designation, the district remained as one of the only intact Freedman's Towns in the nation. The cohesive collection of modest folk and vernacular dwellings date from the late nineteenth to early twentieth centuries. In this neighborhood, Oak Cliff Cemetery is the city’s oldest public cemetery, established in 1846 by William Beaty.


 
At the time Tenth Street Ordinance #22582 was written, there were 257 domestic structures, four commercial structures, three institutional structures and the cemetery. Since this time, many of the structures have been lost due to fire, neglect, abandonment and lack of financial resources. A majority of the residential structures are currently boarded and non-code compliant.


 
The City of Dallas assigned an advisory Task Force to review Certificates of Appropriateness for any new construction and demolition orders for all historic districts, and make recommendations to the Landmark Commission. Although City staff and volunteers have made small progress in the Tenth Street area, an Ordinance passed in June of 2010 allows the City Attorney’s office to issue court orders for demolition of properties 3,000 square feet or less which are non-code compliant. Task Force members and the Landmark Commission review these court orders monthly. If this system persists, and property owners allow structures to deteriorate, there may be a time when this area has too few original structures to be considered “Historic”. Recently, the Task Force for Tenth Street Historic District learned that less than 50% of the original contributing structures currently exist in the neighborhood.


 
In 2005, Preservation Dallas included Tenth Street Historic District in the 11 Most Endangered List. A year later, they selected one home in the neighborhood and led a two-day volunteer initiative to prep, prime and paint this house. This valiant effort was not able to build momentum as hoped, due to the absence of a strong neighborhood group.


 
District 7 Council member, Honorable Carolyn Davis, continues to collaborate with Preservation Dallas, and has begun initiatives with Meadows Foundation and 2000 Roses Foundation to restore Greater El Bethel Baptist Church at the corner of E. Ninth and Cliff Street. Her office organized a neighborhood clean-up day on May 7, 2011, with over 300 volunteers participating.


 
The City may soon be faced with decisions regarding how to proceed with future development in the Tenth Street Historic District. Without historic or landmark designation, new development may be allowed to enter this area with few restrictions. At the very least, several individual buildings should be Landmarked and protected.