Look at these vintage Oak Cliff hipsters

Screen shot 2013-06-18 at 5.06.24 PM
Dallas Morning News Historical Archives

Those adorable tinks are Emmet D. Riggs and his wife, Dorothy Crabtree Riggs. The Riggses were featured in the Dallas Morning News on Dec. 25, 1955 because they had built and were finishing out a 1,600-square-foot house on North Oak Cliff Boulevard, near Stevens Park Golf Course, mostly with their own hands.

Emmet Riggs was 41 at the time and a senior electrical engineer for an oil company. Dorothy Riggs was a Spanish teacher described as “a 110-pound, blue-eyed redhead.” Both were Oak Cliff natives who had moved around for Emmet’s career, and by 1953, they had decided to settle in their hometown, according to the newspaper story. Neither had “built so much as a backyard chicken coop” before taking on their home-building project (although we assume they quickly built one, along with an organic garden and dumpster pool). They both had masters degrees and were amateur photographers — they had plans to use one of their bathrooms as a darkroom. And they had a dachshund named Cindy.

“Our terrace eventually will overlook No. 12 hole,” Riggs told reporter Francis Raffetto in 1955. “We may get an occasional golf ball, but not on the fly.”

As far as I can tell, the house isn’t there anymore. The address, 843 N. Oak Cliff Blvd., no longer exists. But we suspect the Riggses’ DIY spirit will live on here for many decades to come. A search for the Riggses names produces no obituary, and I suspect they are still alive, in their 90s, but I couldn’t find a working number for them. Does anyone know their Instagram handles?

UPDATE: From lifelong Oak Cliff neighbor Jerri Locke, “I knew Dean and Dorothy all my life. Great people with strong love of Scotland, oak cliff, church, family, and friends. Their house was gorgeous. Both have passed away. Their estate sale filled my kitchen with wonderful things and memories of them.”


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  • Rachel Stone

    Looks like her father was Ralph Crabtree, according to wedding shower announcements.

  • David Spence

    I wonder if Dorothy Crabtree Riggs was daughter to Hampton T. Crabtree, who built at least two small apartment buildings on N. Bishop Ave., one still unrenovated at the corner with Canty St., the other fully restored as Bishop Terrace Apts. at 835 N. Bishop. Crabtree was in that line of work during the late 1920s.