OAK CLIFF'S 100TH - Events to recall ever-changing area's rich history
The Dallas Morning News - Sunday, July 5, 1987
Author: Norma Adams Wade, Metro South Bureau of The News: The Dallas Morning News

Ruth Chenoweth says the crumbling 97-year-old Elizabeth Chapel in the Trinity River "bottoms' is it.

Rose Mary Rumbley says it is the neighborhood of her grandparents' once-grand old home on West 10th Street.

Emile "Hank' Santerre says it is the legacy of La Reunion, a French Huguenot colony his great-grandfather helped settle around 1854 on several hundred acres in what is now Stevens Park.

Ask 10 residents to define Oak Cliff, and you're likely to get 10 different answers. Even asking them where Oak Cliff begins and ends isn't likely to evoke a standard response.

The name Oak Cliff "is a generic term' today, said Oak Cliff Chamber of Commerce President Bob McElearney, and its boundaries are a matter of opinion.

But it wasn't always so. And therein lies the tale of Oak Cliff's centennial -- an anniversary that will be celebrated with a variety of events leading up to the area's formal 100th birthday in October. Oak Cliff and Dallas have shared a love-hate relationship almost from the beginning.

Judge William H. Hord, the area's first settler, came to Texas from Tennessee in 1844. He settled his family on elevated land on the Trinity's west bank, which came to be known as "Hord's Ridge,' in 1845.

A remnant of Hord's log cabin remains today, identified by a historical marker at 501 Shelter Place, its permanent display site near the original farmstead that is now the Marsalis Park Zoo.

In 1887, prominent Dallas developer T.L. Marsalis saw that the area might grow into a town. He bought and platted 2,200 acres in Hord's Ridge including Hord's 640-acre farm.

Marsalis dreamed that the rolling terrain of his land across the river would attract townsfolk from Dallas. At first, the river itself proved a barrier, traversable only by ferry. So Marsalis developed the 180-acre Oak Cliff park and built the South's first narrow-gauge elevated railroad to lure and carry Dallas buyers across the Trinity.

In 1890 the Dallas City Council changed the name Hord's Ridge to Oak Cliff, noting the area's thick stands of oak trees on the hills.

Eventually, the murky water of the Trinity became an advantage. Dallas residents drank it; Oak Cliff residents took fresh, clear water from artesian wells.

The area's first stab at independence came later in 1890 when residents voted to incorporate Oak Cliff as a separate city.

But the separation was brief. In August 1903, by special act of the Legislature, Oak Cliff's charter was dissolved and the region was annexed by Dallas.

Some of the area's residents refused to accept annexation, attempting for a time to maintain the separate fire and police departments and even a separate mayor. Some Oak Cliff residents still refer to Oak Cliff as "Dallas' stepchild.'

But in 100 years the child has grown considerably. Oak Cliff's population of about 7,000 in 1890 is now about 300,000, nearly a third of the Dallas population, said the chamber's McElearney.

It has expanded far south and west from the township that Marsalis had platted. City officials generally define Oak Cliff as the area south of Interstate 30 and west of the Trinity River. The area includes 10 main communities -- Kiest, Redbird, Mountain Creek, Jefferson, Cliff Hill, Kessler/Stevens Park, Lisbon, Trinity, Simpson Stuart and South Central, said Tom Bartkoski, a city of Dallas planner. "The greatest thing that could happen to you was to buy a house in Oak Cliff then,' said Ms. Rumbley, remembering how her mother, Amy Hass Brau, spoke of the thrill of moving into one of West 10th Street's two-story, prairie-style homes in the area's heyday in 1913.

"You had really arrived when you bought a house there,' said the local author and lecturer.

Santerre, 78, a retired petroleum plant safety supervisor and former Dallas police officer, remembers the stories he heard of "the big flood' in 1908, the year he was born.

"For a long time, everybody talked about it coming all the way up Commerce Street downtown,' said Santerre. "I can remember some pretty big floods, too, later. And I can remember when they built the levee and changed the course of the river.'

Santerre says he is looking forward to sharing his memories with other family members at a reunion this summer. Memory lane for many Oak Cliff residents meanders through Winnetka Heights, Kessler Park, Kidd Springs or Lake Cliff -- a few of the area's most prominent neighborhoods.

And the Victorian homes and tree-lined boulevards of Dallas' only "hill country' will be in the spotlight throughout Oak Cliff's centennial celebrations, including the annual tour of homes in September, said Mrs. Chenoweth, Old Oak Cliff Conservation League president and a former president of the Winnetka Heights Neighborhood Association.

"It's fun to relive our history, to celebrate it,' said Ruth Mary White, an Oak Cliff resident who heads the city Landmark Committee and an Old Oak Cliff Conservation League board member. "It's interesting to find native Oak Cliffites and talk to them. There are so few of them around.'

Plans still are being made and celebrations will continue through summer and fall, said Mrs. Chenoweth.

A kickoff fund-raiser for an Elizabeth Chapel renovation project will help begin July centennial activities, Mrs. Chenoweth said. The chapel was founded in 1890 by former slaves and was the first Oak Cliff site to receive a city-sponsored historical marker in the early 1980s.

The fund-raiser will launch long-term renovation plans that Elizabeth Chapel members are considering co-sponsoring with the conservation league, according to David Perry, a trustee of the chapel, a Christian Methodist Episcopal Church that worships at 3419 Michigan Ave.

Other events featuring centennial themes include:

*Also in July, a neighborhood block party near Bishop Avenue and Eighth Street celebrating the growth of Oak Cliff's arts district near Bishop Avenue.

*Sept. 19-20, the annual Oak Cliff Tour of Homes and Arts Festival in the park, sponsored by the conservation league.

*In October, the Oak Cliff Chamber annual banquet and auction.

*Oak Cliff United Methodist Church, 549 E. Jefferson Blvd., is celebrating its own centennial in conjunction with Oak Cliff's birthday.

The Dallas Morning News - Saturday, September 19, 1987
Author: Metro South Bureau of The News: The Dallas Morning News

The 11th annual Old Oak Cliff Tour of Homes and art festival -- this year commemorating Oak Cliff's centennial -- gets under way with a parade Saturday at 10 a.m.

Antique cars, a trolley, antique fire engines from the Dallas Fire Museum, a horse-drawn surrey and the Sunset High School Marching Band will parade down Jefferson Boulevard from Sunset High School, 2120 W. Jefferson, then turn north on Tyler Street to Kidd Springs Park.

At 11 a.m. in the park, the parade's arrival will touch off an arts festival featuring exhibits, food, crafts and entertainment -- including surrey rides. The festival continues to 7 p.m. Saturday, and reopens from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday.

From the park, visitors may take a trolley to the annual Oak Cliff Tour of Homes, or find their own way on the tour, from noon to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

The celebration's theme, "100 Years Old, 100 Years New,' blends the centennial celebration and the current urban pioneer revitalization movement in north Oak Cliff, festival organizer Charles Smith said.

Over the last decade that movement has inspired many young couples to refurbish once crumbling old homes and businesses in Oak Cliff's older neighborhoods, Smith said.

The seven restored structures in five neighborhoods that are featured on this year's tour include the 1901 Lark Owen Daniel home on West Jefferson Boulevard and the Old Oak Cliff Methodist Church on Jefferson founded in 1887, that also is celebrating its centennial.

Five other homes on the tour are in West and East Kessler Park, Winnetka Heights and Sunset Avenue.

About 15,000 visitors are expected to attend the tour and festival that is sponsored by the Old Oak Cliff Conservation League , Smith said. For ticket information, call 943-4567

The Dallas Morning News - Friday, November 13, 1987
Author: Norma Adams Wade, Metro South Bureau: The Dallas Morning News

Oak Cliff merchants say they'll party in the streets Saturday, putting the cap on a yearlong centennial celebration of a Dallas neighborhood that once was an independent city.

The celebration in Oak Cliff's Bishop Place Arts District at Bishop Place and 8th Street not only will allow area merchants to show their wares, but also will give the public a look at a renaissance in the making, organizers said.

"This is the finale. We've been working with the merchants and are looking forward to the public browsing throughout,' said John Davis, coordinator of the party co-sponsored by the Old Oak Cliff Conservation League , Oak Cliff Chamber of Commerce and Bishop Place Arts District.

John Mooring, a graphics artist who moved into a renovated 50-year-old storefront at Bishop Place and 8th Street in January, said the party will allow the public to taste and view assets of the arts district, where a number of urban pioneers are putting down roots.

The arts district was chosen for the celebration, Mooring said, because its growth reflects revitalization of an area platted in 1887 by early Dallas developer T.L. Marsalis.

Oak Cliff was a separate city until August 1903, when a still-controversial maneuver in the state Legislature disincorporated the city and allowed Dallas to annex the area south of the Trinity River.

Mooring and more than a dozen other artists and gourmet restaurant owners are planning open houses from 3 to 10 p.m.

From 6 to 10 p.m., restaurants from throughout Oak Cliff will offer $1 samples from their menus under a street tent in an event billed as "A Taste of Oak Cliff.' Brave Combo will provide musical entertainment.