I keep hearing people say “Old East Dallas” and East Dallas. Are they interchangeable? Is there a difference? Is Old East Dallas just the old part of East Dallas, or are they using it as an adjective, like saying, “old man Stevens is a ornery fella”? – RM
No they are not interchangeable, they have two different meanings. In fact depending on who you’re talking to, even the term East Dallas can have different meaning. But first East Dallas v Old East Dallas.
Know what it means before you wear the shirts guys.
Old East Dallas refers to a particular neighborhood in Dallas. It’s a triangle-ish shaped neighborhood bordered by I-30, Central Expressway and Munger Ave. A hundred and thirty years ago, before the freeways, it was its own separate town complete with an 18 mph speed limit for horses. The town, incorporated in 1882, had begun to develop in the 1870’s after the railroads arrived at a junction roughly where Baylor Hospital is today.
Notice this Mosaic at the Hall of State, says the railroads came to East Dallas, not Dallas.
The settlers had initially wanted to name it after its leading citizen Colonel Gaston. However they eventually settled on the name “East Dallas.” The Old East Dallas neighborhood sits where the much of the original town site for East Dallas was. The reasons why East Dallas is no longer a town and now part of Dallas, goes back to Dallas’ hunger for growth and a shady state senator.
East Dallas grew rapidly, and by the late 1880’s had 6,000 residents. The City of Dallas, had been trying to annex the new and quickly growing East Dallas throughout the 1880’s. Dallas’ goal was to annex East Dallas before the 1890 census in the hopes of combining the populations and becoming the largest town in Texas. But again and again, East Dallas rejected and voted down the annexation effects. That is until Dallas went over the head of the East Dallas citizens. In 1889, state senator R. S. Kimbrough revoked East Dallas’ charter with the state and allowed Dallas to proceed with an annexation scheduled for January 1st, 1890. As part of the agreement, Dallas promised to take over the debt, public holdings, property and streets of East Dallas. So on December 31st, 1889, the day before East Dallas was to be annexed, they dedicated the land for numerous streets and passed bond measures to fund their construction. Dallas was forced to take on the debt and ultimately build the roads. Hence the reasons why Old East Dallas is bisected by nice, fairly wide (for the time) streets like Live Oak, Ross, or Gaston.
As far as the term “East Dallas,” depending on whom you ask, East Dallas can mean a wide variety of places. If you’re talking to a man in his 80’s and who begins any discussion with “When I was a kid, the streetcar down Gaston cost a nickel!”, then he’s probably going to have a pretty strong opinion about which neighborhoods are actually in East Dallas. Same goes for the hipster transplant that has lived off Ross for 5 years. They may claim that you can only call the old 1,400 acre town site of East Dallas…East Dallas.
The East Dallas railline station of the “old school East Dallasite”
The backyard chicken tour of the “new school East Dallasite”
And they might be right. But the vast majority of the almost 7 million people living in DFW, and most of those with a vague familiarity with the area have a different understanding, It’s best summed up by the following conversation I swear I had with a half dozen kids when I started college.
Them: So, where’d you grow up?
Them: Oh, me too, I’m from Plano what about you?
Them: Oh, cool, where abouts?
Me: East Dallas?
Them: Like Lakewood, the Arboretum, White Rock Lake?
Me: Um, yeah, there abouts.
East Dallas right?
To them, East Dallas is some general area, vaguely identified by those markers, located north of I-30, east of Central, and including everything all the way out to Garland and Mesquite. Of course that thought usually pisses off the old timers who correctly point out that White Rock was built 20 year after “East Dallas” was incorporated into Dallas, and several miles away from the Old East Dallas city limits. Who’s right? The answer is probably somewhere in between. And it’s probably somewhat of a generational opinion. My great grandparents most assuredly did not call the White Rock Lake area East Dallas. They called that area of unincorporated Dallas County; the Big Thicket (best hunting in the county). But my great grandchildren, if they live in Dallas, will most likely say East Dallas includes White Rock Lake. Of course they may also call Tyler a suburb of Dallas by then.
Future population of Dallas discussing whether or not to put a “Hoover-Expressway” along the Trinity River bottoms.