Elmwood began as the Tennessee Dairy founded by Lindsley Waters in 1907. With just 20 cows and covering 640 acres, the dairy was a corporate operation and a modern facility that was the first in Dallas to deliver pasteurized milk in glass bottles, even winning "most sanitary dairy farm" at the 1908 State Fair of Texas. Remnants of the farm exist to this day, including a house on Brunner Avenue reputed to be the dairy foreman's quarters and portions of an old stone wall that divided the farm, which are visible along the 1700 block of S. Edgefield near Elmwood Blvd. After a fire destroyed the farm in 1919, Mr. Waters moved production to Deep Ellum east of downtown Dallas in order to expedite deliveries.
In 1924, real estate developer Frank G. Jester purchased the land from Southwest National Bank and platted the Elmwood Addition, selling quality homes in a "park-like" and "restful" setting just outside the southern boundary of Oak Cliff at the time. He advertised homes through a creative and aggressive marketing campaign in The Dallas Morning News.
Vintage Ads for Elmwood
Elmwood’s progress would fluctuate throughout the four decades of its development, meeting high and low construction in the pre-war and post-war years of World War II. Thirty-seven houses were constructed in the first two years of planning and only 52 houses were constructed during the years of the depression, totaling 467 homes by 1938. National Folk and period revival styles were common during the pre-war years, while minimal traditional and ranch houses lined the streets of Elmwood after the war.
The neighborhood opened its only school in 1929. In less than 10 years, however, the wood frame building was so obsolete that a Dallas Morning News story quoted several residents from Lansford Ave, Melbourne Ave and Brunner Ave calling it "an impossible condition," "a disgrace to the Dallas school system" and "the worst school in all Dallas." A modern brick structure with an iconic frieze – later named after beloved Irish-immigrant teacher Margaret B. Henderson – opened in 1941. It was the first Dallas school named after a living Dallasite.
Perhaps the most active civic group in Elmwood was the Elmwood Dads Club made up of fathers of Margaret B. Henderson pupils. They sponsored an annual picnic at Kiest Park, advocated for neighborhood improvements and even hosted an achievement night in May of 1950 to celebrate the neighborhood's progress over the previous six years.
NOTABLE EARLY RESIDENTS
Brunner Ave was named in honor of Brunner Clarence Barnes (1917-1985). Brunner C. Barnes was born in Wapanucka, Oklahoma, and lived there until his father's death around 1925. After struggling for several years, the family moved to Dallas in 1928, living with Brunner's older brother and his wife, Sam and Bea Barnes, on Lansford Ave east of Edgefield. Brunner attended Winnetka Elementary school (later renamed W.E. Greiner Junior High) where he met a lifelong friend, John Collier. John and Brunner hunted and played in the woods and fields to the west of Brunner's new home. John’s father worked as a developer for the Elmwood addition and as the streets of the new subdivision were being laid out, he named one after his son's new friend from Oklahoma.
After having a street named in his honor, Brunner C. Barnes went on to graduate from Sunset High School in 1935 and Texas A&M in 1940, retiring as a Major at the end of World War II, where he had served in army chemical warfare. He returned to Dallas and worked as a chemical engineer for the Magnolia Oil Company until 1960, when he co-founded Barnes & Click Engineering.
(Source: Jim Barnes)
POST-WAR TO PRESENT DAY
Adjacent to Elmwood was a very popular restaurant once considered the go-to spot for almost everyone in Oak Cliff from the 1950s through 2000. According to Oak Cliff Advocate, Austin’s Bar-B-Cue reigned as the destination of choice for thousands of Oak Cliff diners with its sliced beef sandwiches, fries, coleslaw, beans, ribs, steaks and "to-die-for" burgers. Additionally:
In 1957, when Oak Cliff voted itself “dry,” co-owner Bert Bowman sold out his half interest to his business partner, Austin Cook, who changed the menu, the restaurant’s name and the hours of operation. Then, like the Texas Theatre, Austin’s became a part of — of all things: the Kennedy assassination probe.
Dallas Police Officer J.D. Tippit moonlighted at Austin’s, working security on weekends. The Staff Report of the Select Committee on Assassinations reads “that he [Cook] had employed Tippit at the time of the assassination ‘as a deterrent’ to any teenage trouble from youths who frequented the establishment.”
Due to a web of coincidental liaisons between Bowman and assassin Lee Harvey Oswald, the FBI interviewed Cook and many of the Cook and Bowman family members, with Cook telling the investigators that he never heard Tippit mention Oswald or Jack Ruby.
Austin’s Barbecue closed in July of 2000 and the building was demolished soon after, replaced with an Eckerd drugstore, now CVS Pharmacy.
Downtown Elmwood was the filming location for a number of scenes in the 1989 movie "Born on the Fourth of July" starring Tom Cruise. Margaret B. Henderson was used for Ron Kovic's high school and Edgefield Ave was transformed for two parade sequences set in Massapequa, Long Island. Faux storefronts for ice cream shops, jewelers and insurance agencies lined the movie set. A dome-shaped fictional restaurant named Boyer Burger was built next to Elmwood United Methodist Church and sadly was demolished after production. Tom Cruise later made it a point to thank Oak Cliff residents for their hospitality with a half-page advertisement in a November edition of the Oak Cliff Tribune.
That same month, neighbors became aware of plans by food packaging manufacturer Dixie Wax Paper Company, later Dixico Inc. – an Elmwood-area business since 1932 – to request regulatory state and EPA approval for burning hazardous solvents, alcohols, inks and other liquid wastes at its plant at 1300 S. Polk St. The company insisted that its incineration methods were environmentally sound, but neighbors pushed back by organizing the group Individuals & Residents Against Toxic Emissions (IRATE). A year-long battle culminated in 400 people attending a public hearing; Dixico ultimately withdrew its application, citing too much time wasted on the effort. In 1996 Dixico sold the building to Delta Industries, which refurbished automotive air conditioners on-site until January of 2015 – and in 2016 the building became Tyler Station, a co-working village and home to the neighborhood's first post-prohibition brewery.
Today the neighborhood is estimated to contain 1,373 homes with a population of 4,426 – making Elmwood the most populous single-family residential neighborhood in Oak Cliff. Improvements continue to be made around Elmwood Park, including a mile-long loop trail that opened in 2012 as well as a crossing bridge and trail extension to Kiest Park that opened in 2016.
bcWORKSHOP – http://peopleorganizingplace.com/know/
The Dallas Morning News
Flashback Dallas – https://flashbackdallas.com/2016/04/11/bull-pen-barbecue-austins-barbecue-1949-2000/
Legacies: A History Journal for Dallas and North Central Texas, Volume 21, Number 2, Fall 2009
News of Milk Plants, Creameries, Condenseries, Cheeseries, Dried Milk, Ice Cream and Allied Trades Factories – The Creamery and Milk Plant Monthly. IX: 76. October 1920 – via Google Books.
Oak Cliff Advocate – http://oakcliff.advocatemag.com/2011/01/barbecue-with-a-side-of-heart
Oak Cliff Tribune – https://www.scribd.com/document/341965286/Tom-Cruise-OC-Tribune-11-17-88
Preservation Dallas – www.preservationdallas.org/elmwood
WFAA – http://www.wfaa.com/entertainment/north-texas-films-born-on-the-fourth-of-july-/50463826