Little did I know that when researching the history of retail in Dallas I would come to find oodles of history about all parts of the city. A couple of the nuggets I found explain the history of some of Dallas’ early residential neighborhoods.
One of the earliest suburbs of Dallas was Oak Cliff, first settled around 1837 by William S. Beaty and the Leonard and Coombes families (www.oakcliff.com/history.htm). Then along came William and Mary Hord who relocated from Tennessee and opened a boarding house. Not long thereafter, the area became known as Hord’s Ridge.
The first known permanent residence in Oak Cliff was a cabin built in 1845 by William Hord.
The area began to slowly expand with the completion of the Cleburne and Rio Grande Railway in 1880. Oak Cliff was more formally originated in 1886 when John S. Armstrong and Thomas L. Marsalis shelled out $8,000 to buy a 320-acre farm on the south bank of the Trinity River. The two began dividing the acreage into 20-acre blocks, and, according to the Handbook of Texas Online, “Armstrong and Marsalis began to develop the land into an elite residential area, which by then end of 1887, had proved to be a tremendous success with sales surpassing $60,000.”
Apparenlty, the pair had a falling out and Marsalis took over development (Armstrong, we will later learn, had his own suburb in mind). Marsalis got busy improving the area to boost development. He connected Oak Cliff with downtown Dallas by adding a steam-powered railway. He then tried to boost the town’s image as a tourist destination by developing Oak Cliff Park (now called Marsalis Park) and by building the Park Hotel. The Park Hotel, by the way, was built to mirror the Hotel del Coronado in San Diego (the location where “Some Like it Hot” was filmed), complete with several mineral baths fed by artesian wells.
Oak Cliff was incorporated in 1890. The town of 2,470 people had a post office, four grocery stores, two meat markets, a hardward store and a feed store. (Handbook).
According to www.oakcliff.com, in 1893 financial troubles affected the ongoing growth of the city. Oak Cliff decided to annex itself to the City of Dallas. “Oak Cliff and Dallas were now one – but not really. The Trinity River physically separated Oak Cliff from the rest of Dallas, giving this southern suburb a permanent and unique identity.”
By this time Oak Cliff was no longer an elite community. Many of the lots were subdivided and sold to the middle and working classes of the time, a trend that continued for many years.
Today, Oak Cliff boasts a population of around 280,000.