Home tour paints a new picture of Oak Cliff area for many visitors

The Dallas Morning News - Monday, May 9, 1994
Author: Audrey Steinbergen Lundy, Staff Writer of The Dallas Morning News


Joan Bayes was surprised over the weekend to find fancy homes and exquisitely landscaped back yards - in Oak Cliff.

For years, the Mesquite woman had heard stories about the area's economic and crime problems.

"My perception was that Oak Cliff was an older part of Dallas and that it was run down," she said.

But those illusions were shattered Saturday when Ms. Bayes and a friend took part in the 12th Spring Tour of Homes in Oak Cliff. Every year, the tour provides a peek at Oak Cliff's painstakingly restored homes and is a sojourn of sorts through the area's history.

"It's nice to see that people are taking homes in their original state and restoring them instead of tearing them down and rebuilding," Ms. Bayes said while touring one of the homes in the Wynnewood neighborhood.

More than 1,100 people toured the homes and apartment buildings on display this year, chairman Terry Shields said Sunday night after the event closed.

"There is something for everyone to see and enjoy," Mr. Shields said. "The tour gives people a chance to see the great things about our community."

Randy Rath, an Oak Cliff resident and Conservation League volunteer, said "people still view Oak Cliff as `the hidden city.' "

"This tour gives people a chance to see that we exist and that there are really great neighborhoods here," he said.

Some people have come back to live in Oak Cliff after taking a tour walk-through, Mr. Shields added.

The tour is sponsored by the Old Oak Cliff Conservation League and is organized by volunteers who say they are determined to show other Dallas-area residents the positives in the area.

The 12 tour homes this year were in nine different

neighborhoods in North Oak Cliff, including the Winnetka Heights Historic District.

The tour gave three Chapman sisters a chance to revisit the Prairie-style home in Winnetka Heights where they lived as young adults in the 1940s. Their late mother, Noma Chapman, owned the house for 35 years.

With the exception of the kitchen, the original layout of the two-story home had not changed much, said Joanne Chapman Bryan, one of the sisters. But in restoring the place, owners have added stained-glass windows and kitchen cabinets, she said.

Mrs. Bryan said she remembered when there was only one bathroom and very little closet space.

Today, the home features two bathrooms. But one of them still has the original claw-foot bathtub.

The present owners, Kevin Nixon and Patrick Hogan, said they enjoy living in the area.

"I should have moved here a long time ago," Mr. Nixon said as he chatted with the Chapman sisters and other former neighborhood residents.

"You're in the city," he said about Winnetka Heights, "but you can still see the stars."

Mr. Nixon also said he is glad to open his home for the tour. "I think this tour is so important, because it shows people parts of Oak Cliff that they might not have heard of or seen," he said.

Area residents said visitors should not be surprised by what they saw on the two-day tour.

"I feel that Oak Cliff does not get the credit that it deserves," said Brett Reed, a 29-year-old store manager who lives at the recently restored Bishop Court Apartments in North Oak Cliff.

"I love this area and my apartment," he said. "There are a lot of special qualities that other areas just don't have."

Sam Sloan, who lives in far North Dallas, admitted after the tour that he was impressed and that his perceptions about Oak Cliff were somewhat off the mark.

"I probably have a much better impression about Oak Cliff now that I took the tour," he said. "It's just a shame that there are so many areas that are just dilapidated, because there are so many nice areas, too.

"Maybe in a few years, the whole area will be a nice place to live."

Mr. Sloan's wife, Cindy, was reared in Oak Cliff. But after they were married, Mrs. Sloan said her husband wanted to live in North Dallas because he didn't feel that Oak Cliff offered them the best home for their money.

Mrs. Sloan said she wasn't surprised by her husband's feelings.

"I grew up in Oak Cliff, so I knew what people on the north side thought about Oak Cliff," she said. "If we could ever change the community's impression of what Oak Cliff is, I think that would help.

"I miss Oak Cliff and I love it. I just cried when I gave up my old home. But there is a saying - `Oak Cliff girls always come back.' "

Longtime residents said they will continue to spread the word about their community's special qualities.

"I lived here for many years, and I plan on staying here," said Dr. Charles Tandy, a former Dallas City Council member. "I meet many people who say that they used to live in Oak Cliff, but I'm really excited about the ones who stayed here to help improve things.

"This tour is evidence of how much the residents love this community and how they care about their community."