Heritage, 2010, Volume 1 Page: 6
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By Tom C. Doell
his issue of HERITAGE magazine has some great articles
about neighborhoods and the efforts that are put forth to preserve
them. Reading these pieces made me think about the Oak Lawn
neighborhood of Dallas. My father-in-law grew up there and lived
on the corner of Blackburn and Travis streets. He was born at
home in 1925 and lived in that house until 1949. His grandpar-
ents lived across the street. Both houses were great examples of
Craftsman-style bungalows. Oak Lawn was a wonderful neighbor-
hood with good schools, churches, and numerous businesses. The
neighborhood was growing, and in 1923 the Stoneleigh Hotel
began doing business there as the tallest hotel west of the Missis-
sippi. The following year the Melrose Court Apartments opened,
and later became the Melrose Hotel.
As the years went by, things slowly changed in Oak Lawn.
Some of the larger homes were torn down and replaced with
apartment houses and businesses. Because of the beauty of Turtle
Creek, some of Dallas' first high-rise apartment buildings were
built across the street from there. All of these changes to the
neighborhood were supported by the city with requisite zoning
In the early 1980s a local real estate company began quietly
buying up properties in Oak Lawn. Eventually, more than 125
acres of the neighborhood's houses, apartments, and stores had
been acquired. In cooperation with the city, a master plan was
developed, zoning was changed, and some special tax districts
were created to finance new infrastructure. Several streets were
widened, and others were eliminated to create new sites for re-
development. During the last 20 years many fine projects have
been completed, some of which are mixed use with retail on the
first floor and apartments or condos above.
One of the areas in Oak Lawn where the streets were widened
and things were changed was the corner of Travis and Blackburn.
All of the old houses in the area are now gone, and in their places
are several apartment/condo buildings. While I miss being able
to drive by and see where my father-in-law and his parents and
grandparents lived, I am happy with the transformation that has
occurred in this neighborhood. Oak Lawn is perhaps the most di-
verse neighborhood in the city of Dallas. More than 27,000 people
now live there, and the area is home to restaurants, bars and clubs,
fine hotels, offices, and beautiful parks.
Fortunately for those of us who support preservation, Oak Lawn
abounds with examples of historic buildings that have been saved
and incorporated into new developments. One of the most ac-
claimed is the Rosewood Mansion Hotel. In this case, the 1925
Shepard King estate was restored and incorporated into a five-star
hotel project. The previously mentioned Stoneleigh and the Mel-
rose hotels have both been renovated and preserved. Recently,
the old 1913 Parkland Hospital complex has been restored and
redeveloped into offices, including those of the developer, Crow
Holdings. It is also worth mentioning that 2009 was the 20th an-
niversary of the return of electric trolley cars on the original tracks
that run down McKinney Avenue in Oak Lawn. The McKinney
Avenue Transit Authority operates four antique trolley cars and is
in the process of restoring three more; the oldest car was 100 years
old last year.
Oak Lawn in Dallas is a great example of how preservation
and redevelopment can go hand-in-hand to create a quality of
life that people want. I am fortunate to be a witness to its evolu-
Tom Doell is a businessman from Dallas. Send comments about this
column to P.O. Box 50314, Austin, Texas 78763.
HERITAGE IVolume 1 2010
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, 2010, Volume 1, periodical, 2010; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth254216/m1/6/: accessed June 28, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.