Old East Dallas/ East Dallas – What They Both Mean

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.

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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.

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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.

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This guy.

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.

 imagesCAAL4F01East Dallas seen here sticking to the Man (i.e. Dallas.)

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.

 

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The East Dallas railline station of the “old school East Dallasite”

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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?

Me: Dallas.

Them: Oh, me too, I’m from Plano what about you?

Me: Um…Dallas…Dallas.

Them: Oh, cool, where abouts?

Me: East Dallas?

Them: Like Lakewood, the Arboretum, White Rock Lake?

Me: Um, yeah, there abouts.

To many people living out in Frisco or somewhere out in the North Texas hinterland, that is what East Dallas is. White Rock, Lakewood, the Arboretum.

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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.

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Future population of Dallas discussing whether or not to put a “Hoover-Expressway” along the Trinity River bottoms.

 

 

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Where are the urban, diverse, progressive DIY-ers, neighborhoods in Dallas, Or does all of Dallas feel like North Dallas

What neighborhoods are the urban, diverse, progressive DIY-ers, neighborhoods?  Or are all neighborhoods like North Dallas or Plano? – R.A.

No, R.A. not all neighborhoods in Dallas are like North Dallas or Plano.  And by North Dallas she (a friend from high school who lived in North Dallas from when she was 12 till she left for college and moved to California) meant a neighborhood that has a certain sameness feel to them, the same houses, same people, same cars, same yards, etc.  Those newly minted (relatively), conservative, suburban, cookie-cutter type powerful HOA neighborhoods that lack a certain cultural and historical depth that more urban neighborhoods have.

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Most unique thing about this neighborhood is the Water Tower, which I would totally live in

In fairness, those progressive urban neighborhoods have questions about crime, schools, congestion, maintenance issues with older houses, etc.  And in the end it’s a matter of personal preference, valuing different amenities differently.  Not here to judge just answer questions.  And her questions was where she could move to, if she were to move back from the west coast and looking for a neighborhood decidedly not North Dallas like.

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She wanted to go to there

Though Dallas has always had people that value the North Dallases, Highland Parks, Preston Hollows, and Plano neighborhoods, Dallas has also had those that value more unique places.  Even from the beginning when a significant part of early Dallas settlers were Europeans artists (including a former director of the Paris Opera) from a failed utopian settlement on the banks of the Trinity.  That bohemian lifestyle can still be seen in things like the Hollywood Height Halloween parade.

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This type of parade does not happen in Plano, both Hollywood Heights and Plano are proud of this fact.

It takes that certain artistic or bohemian lifestyle to be the firsts to move into these urban neighborhoods before they’ve turned around.  And of course once that bohemian community is established in the neighborhood, it’s that community that helps to make the neighborhood attractive to so called urban pioneers, people in search of authentic unique neighborhoods.

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Note these people are often called, hippies, hipsters, the creative class, urbanites and more.

What are some of the characteristics of these neighborhoods? They’re older neighborhoods (in Dallas that means pre-WWII), that were built mainly for middle class families (read quality construction) in nice but not super nice locations and lots (if they were really nice they’d be torn down and replaced with McMansions in the past 20 years).  They experienced some decline and decay throughout the second and third generation of owners and became less desirable.  But because of their architectural significant design, quality construction and proximity to urban amenities, they have attracted certain urban pioneers.  The process is organic, not created by large scale developments or initiatives, and often coincides with a entertainment district.

There are really two great areas of Dallas that fit this mold, a few more that are kinda but not quite, a few that have gentrified to a point beyond being affordable, and a few that may one day become one.

Note:  The list below is not all inclusive, there may be neighborhoods that I left out which are in fact these progressive, DIY-er urban pioneering neighborhoods.

Two Best Areas

The Old East Dallas Neighborhoods – Loosely bordered by Columbia, Peak, Ross and La Vista (again loosely).  It includes neighborhoods like Junius Heights, Munger Place, and Hollywood Heights where the homes date from turn of the century through the 30’s.  The revival started 40 years ago so there’s an established community of urban pioneers there.  Questions about schools, safety and crime have kept it reasonably affordable, but high property values in some neighborhoods in the past 10-15 years have seen defections to other more affordable more bohemian neighborhoods.

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Old East Dallas home on Tremont

North Oak Cliff– which speaking of those other neighborhoods, you have North Oak Cliff.  The renaissance in North Oak Cliff started some 15 or 20 years ago and has coincided with Bishop Art’s success.  Originally developed by J.S. Armstrong (fresh off developing Hollywood California, and just before developing Highland Park in Dallas) the homes are turn of the century through the 1920’s.  Winnetka Heights is the flagship neighborhood for North Oak Cliff, though there are other promising neighborhoods on the other side of the Trinity and west of 35.  The revival of North Oak Cliff is still a work in progress and it’s not for the faint of heart (safety issues, schools, the normal stuff urban neighborhoods deal with).  But it’s the best neighborhood in Dallas for that diverse (very diverse), eclectic-affordable-bohemian feel.  And it’s years away from property values reaching a place where the neighborhood stops being affordable.

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North Oak Cliff home on Clinton

Best of the Rest

Little Forest Hills – LFH was originally developed as lake cottages and hunting cabins just off of White Rock Lake in the 1910’s.  Little Forest Hills (a namesake taken from the more affluent neighborhood to the west, Forest Hills) is a collection of mainly 30’s and 40’s homes south of White Rock Lake, east of Lakeland, north of the train tracks and west of Casa Linda.  Unlike the two previous neighborhoods which were a part of a large quasi-blighted area, Funky Little Forest Hills became bohemians because it was the most affordable neighborhood (mainly because of small house size) in a nice area (the greater White Rock Lake area ofLakewood, Lakewood Heights, Old Lake Highlands, and Forest Hills).  Because there were always larger, more expensive or more modern homes surrounding LFH the renters, artists, or those with a bohemian lifestyle who wanted the lake as an amenity found their way  to LFH.   As such a large population of artists moved into the neighborhood in the 80’s and 90’s.  The neighborhood still remains one of the more affordable neighborhoods around White Rock, but the neighborhood has seen recent property value increase as professionals expand the original lake cottages or pay for a previous generations unique artistic additions.

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Little Forest Hills Motto

Quasi-Neighborhoods, Ones that aren’t quite but almost.  The professionals outnumber the bohemians and artists, or the white people outnumber the nonwhite people.

Lakewood Heights/C-streets – Across the street from Lakewood, just northeast of Old East Dallas and south of the Lakewood Country Club, this neighborhood has homes that date from the 20’s, 30’s and 40’s.  Quality schools and nice location have meant that the neighborhood never bottomed out like Old East Dallas or North Oak Cliff.  So the artists never really moved in, but those who wanted to be close to the artists in Old East Dallas, and wanted to feel a little safer did.   With the closing of Far West nightclub and the opening of a high end grocery store across the street, the neighborhood is perhaps destined to price itself out of affordability.  The McMansions are already moving in.

Old Lake Highlands – perhaps the best example of mid-century modern homes in Dallas that are still somewhat affordable, the neighborhood is a triangle formed by Buckner, Northwest HWY and Lake Highlands Dr.  Mainly homes built in the 50’s with a few late 40’s and early 60’s sprinkled in, you can still find a few original owners there.  Like Lakewood Heights, OLH never bottomed out, but unlike Lakewood Heights it’s never been as expensive.  As such a certain creative class of urban pioneers, ones that favor the mid-century look, have moved into OLH in the past few years.  If home values remain relatively affordable here, the next ten years may see an influx of more and more quasi-bohemians and perhaps some actual artists forming an electric community there.

Used to be

The M-Streets – The neighborhood  most associated Lower Greenville was once  (in the early to mid 90’s) one of the best places in Dallas to live. Bounded by Richmond/Belmont, Abrams, Mockingbird and Central, it’s a loosely defined area made up of a few neighborhoods that run along Greenville Ave.  In the early to mid 90’s, Dallas’s live music scene was migrating from Deep Elbum to places on Lower Greenville like the Granada or Poor David’s.  EDM clubs like the Zubar or the Red Jacket were just hitting their stride.  Restaurants like the original Snuffer’s, Aww Shucks, Blue Goose and Terilli’s were blossoming.  The homes, most dating from the 20’s, 30’s and into the 40’s were affordable.  Old Tudor duplexes and apartments in the south end of the neighborhood kept the prices down.  But soon the duplexes on oversized lots were torn down and replaced with 4,000 SF McMansions.  New homeowners, mainly wealth professionals with families drawn to the neighborhood by the lifestyle and one of the few blue ribbon schools in DISD, began clamoring for a cleaner version of Greenville Ave.  As more and more homes got torn down, as $500,000 homes became the norm on the street instead of the outlier, the M-streets lost its affordability and diversity.

Oak Lawn – The original neighborhood for Urban pioneers of the 50’s and 60’s during white flight.  Known for decades as having an artistic-bohemian scene, since the days of the Alice Street Fair for wondering artists in the late 19th century off Cedar Springs.  Rising land values beginning in the 80’s forced many of the homes to be torn down and replaced with office buildings, apartments and high rises.

Might be One Day

Claremont – It’s an affordable 1960’s neighborhood of not quite mid-century not quite ranch style homes south of Ferguson, along St. Francis north of 30.  If style preferences continue to evolve like they have been, then neighborhoods like Claremont are the next step for the quasi-bohemian individuals.

Park Row – 50 years ago Old East Dallas was in shambles, 30 years ago North Oak Cliff was.  But they had good bones.  This is where Park Row currently is.  South of Fair Park and the South Dallas neighborhood and north of the Great Trinity Forest, it used to be one of the best neighborhood in Dallas, but highways, segregation, and a number of other factors have led to the neighborhood becoming rundown.  Nevertheless these 4,000 SF, 1920s mansion like the one below are available for less then 175,000.   Other smaller properties are far cheaper.

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