In 1887, Thomas Marsalis and his partner John Armstrong bought 2,000 acres on the western banks of the Trinity River. The land was platted as Dallas Land and Loan Additions #1, #2, and #3. Business was brisk as a number of three-storied Queen Anne homes went up on the lots. The area was emerging as an elite suburb of Dallas, and Marsalis' vision of Oak Cliff grew increasingly more elaborate. He promoted the bluffs as a health spa and educational mecca. Several hundred Victorian homes were built, and by 1890 the population swelled to 2,500. Dallas Land and Loan was the actual residential development of an envisioned, fully- incorporated city of Oak Cliff.
The depression of 1893 ended Marsalis' dream. Land sales plummeted; he was forced to sell, and died penniless in New York City two years later. Land and Loan had sporadic building activity through the 1930s. Most of the homes erected were Victorian or Prairie bungalows. Following World War 11, many of the three-story homes were being cut up into apartments. By the 1970s, few original single-family homes remained, having suffered demolition for newer development.
Urban pioneers discovered the area and began saving some of the older homes. At the same time interest in the neighborhood developed. The big Queen Anne-style homes offer elegant touches of Victorian style, with partial or full width porches, cut-away bay windows and steep gables. The smaller homes feature large windows, pocket doors and interior transoms. Some of the sought-after characteristics are hardwood floors, comer fireplaces with oak mantles, and beveled glass mirrors. Dallas Land and Loan is one of the few remaining pieces of the original Old Oak Cliff, providing excellent examples of turn of the century homes. The neighborhood association, formed in 1983, is committed to the further enhancement of the area. Its major concern has always been the reestablishment of family owned and occupied housing, instead of rentals with absentee landlords.
Get a limited edition book about old Oak Cliff
Filled with wonderful pictures of fine historic buildings and street scenes, this book shares stories about the beginnings of this great, iconic area of Dallas.
"The Hidden City - Oak Cliff, Texas"
by Bill Minutaglio, Holly Williams