8. N. Bishop Ave. and the Miller-Stemmons National Register Historic District c.1910 - 1930's
The Miller Stemmons Historic District is roughly bounded by Neches to the north, Woodlawn to the west, Elsbeth to the east and Davis to the south. The area today is part of Kidd Springs. It is compromised largely of 1 and 2 story single family homes constructed between 1910 to the late 1930’s and multi-family apartments constructed in the 1920’s. It encompasses approximately 124 acres. At the time of designation on the National Register of Historic Places in 1994, the district had 381 properties; 243 were Contributing and 138 were Noncontributing.
THE MILLER STEMMONS 1994 NATIONAL REGISTER HISTORIC DESIGNATION FORM WITH THE TEXAS HISTORIC COMMISSION
The area is unique in the sheer abundance of various forms of architecture it offers. Because it developed slowly, one can find Classic Revival, Prairie, Craftsman and Four-square of various sizes and characteristics. During the district’s period of significance from 1910 – the early 30’s, economic forces dictated that the area shift from grand homes for doctors and lawyers to more modest homes for middle class residents
Taken from the designation report from 1994:
The Miller and Stemmons Historic District is an excellent collection of domestic buildings that date primarily from c. 1910 through the late 1930s. The district represents the typical suburban neighborhood that developed in Oak Cliff during the early 20th century and is linked with the historic context Suburban Development in Oak Cliff, Dallas, 1887-1944. The period of significance extends from the construction of the oldest extant buildings in the district in 1910 to 1944, fifty years ago. The district is eligible for inclusion in the National Register under Criterion C in the area of Architecture at a local level. Although similar developments survive in the Oak Cliff, few retain their integrity to such a noteworthy degree.
Miller Springs is now part of the larger Kidd Springs Neighborhood.
In 2010, new zoning was passed which reduced setbacks, increased building heights and placed minimal architectural standards for new construction. The zoning relies on a developer’s taste and good behavior while allowing them to maximize lot density. Since PD-830 was passed, new construction has offered thoughtful infill as well as intrusive architecture that threatens the character of this historic neighborhood.
Pictured above is a new home in the 1000 block of N. Bishop. The home conforms to the blockface and blends in well with the adjacent houses. Setbacks are observed and materials compliment those found in the neighborhood. Fenestration is compatible and the use is appropriate.
N. Bishop Avenue is one of the few streets in Oak Cliff that can legitimately be considered a boulevard. New street improvements, bike lanes and the addition of period lighting compliment this reality. Pictured above is a new apartment building in the 800 block of N. Bishop, one of two on the Avenue. A smaller version is under construction in the 900 block of N. Bishop. Both are inappropriately scaled for the neighborhood and the “walkable” urban boulevard.
We have heard much concern from the community about these new structures. These buildings violate the established setbacks of the historic blockface. The style, mass and scale are large and inconsistent with the patterns established on the street. The fenestration pattern, primarily the introduction of Garden Apartment French Doors, is inappropriate. The height allows views into neighboring properties, causing concern from adjacent property owners. The brick choice feels institutional rather than residential. Stucco or “Hardie-panel with stucco finish” as the predominant exterior material is not compatible with other structures on the street. Other houses and buildings on the street are either wood siding or authentic masonry. While currently unfinished, the lack of either human scale or architectural detail on these new buildings is apparent. They could have been even taller if street-level nonresidential use had been included, with a maximum height of 42 feet.
Bishop Davis PD 360 must be revisited for some of these issues to be resolved. The recent fight for a zoning variance required for the Oak Cliff Chamber of Commerce to re-purpose a one-story doctor's office is just one of the many flaws in the new zoning, which allows only residential or mixed-use development. Several of the larger homes would make wonderful Bed and Breakfasts, but that isn't allowed. Several additional zoning concerns are now apparent with this new architecture. A historic overlay would have solved many problems for the neighborhood and saved so many people much energy and fighting. It is still the best option. These issues will continue to destroy the integrity of the historic neighborhood if ignored.
Michael Amonett & Alicia Quintans