History

This day in 1953

Cornerstone Ceremony for New Masonic Lodge

Sixty-five years ago a ceremony took place commemorating the construction of what would become one of the largest buildings in Elmwood: the 10,908 sf Landmark-Gibraltar Masonic Lodge.

  Dallas Morning News  – March 19, 1953

Dallas Morning News – March 19, 1953

According to this blog by a Master Mason, the cornerstone ritual "is probably the only Masonic ritual, other than a Masonic funeral, that the public will ever see conducted. When the brethren are sharply dressed, and well-rehearsed, it's an awesome thing to behold." 

Oak Cliff Masonic Lodge #705 has been part of the Elmwood community ever since. The mid-century brick and stone building contains two meeting rooms and a dining facility on the first floor as well as a library and study rooms on the second floor. 

 Photo credit: Jorge Esteban

Photo credit: Jorge Esteban

BeautiControl had roots in Elmwood

BeautiControl had roots in Elmwood

Just after New Year's Day this year, Waxahachie resident Larry Burns shared the following story about Dallas-based BeautiControl Inc. on the Facebook group Dallas History Guild. We were surprised to learn that one of our own buildings played a role in the early development of this iconic company, which was purchased by Tupperware Corp. in 2000 and by Youngevity International in 2017.

This day in 1925

A Grand Boulevard That Never Was

Not to be confused with a section of Elmwood Blvd once named Kessler Blvd,* Dallas long ago had plans for a 100-foot-wide road that would loop from the Houston Viaduct through the Kessler Park and Stevens Park neighborhoods, turn south and follow the natural path of creeks near what is now Kiest Park before looping back north. A 1925 story in The Dallas Morning News is the first mention of this road.

 The Dallas Morning News – January 8, 1925

The Dallas Morning News – January 8, 1925

Oak Cliff author Gayla Brooks wrote a wonderful history of the Kessler Loop for Oak Cliff Advocate, theorizing it was the automobile that ended plans for a road designed for horse-and-buggy transportation. But plans for the southern part of the loop continued well into the 1940s when cars were everywhere, so it's possible that two other factors played a role: funding and changes in transportation policy.

The Great Depression slowed most construction projects nationwide, especially ones that were not shovel-ready and later advanced under New Deal programs like Dealey Plaza's triple underpass and many buildings around White Rock Lake. And shortly after WWII, federal dollars focused on building the Interstate Highway System, which prioritized city-center to city-center connections. It makes sense that local roads like the Kessler Loop were shelved for national projects like I-35.
 
A larger road, the Outer Kessler Loop, did advance and became part of what today is Loop 12, with a segment named after county commissioner George W. Ledbetter.

 "Inner Kessler Boulevard Works Wins Ledbetter Recognition."  The Dallas Morning News  – June 16, 1928

"Inner Kessler Boulevard Works Wins Ledbetter Recognition." The Dallas Morning News – June 16, 1928

 

*On October 14, 1942 the Dallas City Council voted to rename a section of Kessler Boulevard to Elmwood Boulevard "to eliminate confusion" with the proposed Inner Kessler Loop.

Preserving the Tennessee Dairy Wall

One of the only remnants of the Tennessee Dairy farm, established by Lindsley Waters in 1907, exists along Edgefield Ave between Elmhurst Pl and Balboa Dr. The northern portion of a stone wall protecting part of the 640-acre farm is remarkably preserved – while the southern portion could be mistaken for a pile of rubble, sadly. A middle portion is gone entirely, which begs the question whether preservation or restoration is desirable and even possible with grant funding.

Tennessee Dairies Inc. would be called a tech startup today: the technology used to pasteurize and deliver milk was revolutionary, and its contribution to the health and quality of life for early Dallas residents can't be brushed aside. While the stone wall represents a small portion of the dairy operation, a marker of some kind shouldn't be out of the question.

To gain access to funding, it may be necessary to first obtain historical designation through the Dallas County Historical Commission, which is charged with applying for state-approved historical markers and may provide up to 50% of the marker cost through its new Under-Told History Markers program. While the deadline for 2018 has passed, we will look at starting the process for 2019. 

 Photo credit: Doug Klembara

Photo credit: Doug Klembara

Do you have any photos or anecdotal information that could help us in applying for this designation? Write a comment below or send an email here

The lost Avalon Heights Addition

If you've ever thought that Lansford Ave and Homewood Pl can feel isolated from the rest of our neighborhood, perhaps you've wondered if there are missing bridges over the creek or if this was a different neighborhood altogether. Sanborn Maps from 1927 clearly show that Edgefield Ave formed the western boundary of the first Elmwood Addition, so at least that's one clue. (Side note: Lansford Ave was originally named Lindsley Ave after Tennessee Dairies founder Lindsley Waters. It was likely changed in 1941 after annexation because another Lindsley Ave – after former mayor Henry D. Lindsley – already existed in East Dallas.) 

 1927 Sanborn Map of Elmwood

1927 Sanborn Map of Elmwood

Sure enough, a Dallas Morning News advertisement from November 1930 shows the creation of a new addition named Avalon Heights. The boundaries are not explicitly described but directions indicate to drive "south on Hampton Road to the property, just west of Elmwood." One of the selling points in the ad was the promise of a new school on 8 acres of land that had been purchased by the Dallas Public School Board.

 November 9, 1930 – The Dallas Morning News

November 9, 1930 – The Dallas Morning News

While 102 lots were sold in a successful first phase, the Great Depression did what it did and sales declined – cementing its fate as another victim of real estate cycles. Plans for the school advanced enough for parents of Winnetka (now W. E. Greiner) and Margaret B. Henderson to express their concerns. The final newspaper mention of Avalon Heights, as well as the proposed school, took place in 1938 under the headline "School Land Remains Vacant."

 A 1936 map with Avalon Heights clearly labeled.  The Hidden City: Oak Cliff, Texas

A 1936 map with Avalon Heights clearly labeled. The Hidden City: Oak Cliff, Texas

Avalon Heights remains in the legal description of many Elmwood homes today. An undated planning document shows a section being absorbed by our neighborhood as "Elmwood Addition No. 4" and the name change appears in Volume 2131, Page 292 of the Dallas County Deed Records.