The architecture of Stevens Park Estates is as diverse as the people who live there. Though the original subdivision began in 1925, development of the neighborhood was slow, with construction of new homes lasting until the 1950s. America’s changing taste in styles is reflected here, with Colonial, English Tudor, Neoclassical and modern ranch homes sprinkled along the tree-lined streets. Drive down Mayflower or Marydale and you’ll see houses completely different from each other, sitting side by side. Vacant lots still exist, generally owned by a next-door neighbor.
Architect Jim Barnes, whose family built their home here in 1957, loves the character such different styles gives to the area. Barnes’ passion for history has made him the unofficial neighborhood historian and he has collected Stevens Park Estates’ history in several-leather bound volumes, copies of which are housed with the Dallas Historical Society. Filled with photographs, land titles, maps and letters, the books offer a fascinating glimpse into the rich history of the Stevens family who founded the area.
The Stevens family built their farmhouse where Middlebrook Place stands today, and offered financing for families seeking to build homes. The Stevens’ placed covenant restrictions on the types of houses that could be built here, with an emphasis on tree preservation. The original restrictions have expired, and the neighborhood has applied for conservation district status.
People tended to buy lots beyond what was platted so homeowners have plenty of room for additions. Most lots are 75 feet wide and very deep, with no alleys. The Stevens’ also donated 40 acres to the Stevens Park public golf course, and Annie Stevens deeded triangles to be used as neighborhood parks.
The current residents of Stevens Park Estates carry on the tradition of friendliness and continue an active community characteristic of Oak Cliff neighborhoods. Board President Marty Brown moved here from Chicago and says the day the moving truck arrived, three neighbors came over to bring welcome bottles of wine. His family’s home was built almost 60 years ago, but he and his wife are only the third owners. Houses don’t change hands a lot. Many families live here but the wide age range of residents add to the charm. Brown says, “We could live in Plano, but it’s not as interesting.”
A neighborhood crawl in the spring, a fall chili cook-off and a winter holiday party are just a few events that keep this community together. There’s also an annual kids crawl that features an outdoor barbecue and usually a finale in someone’s swimming pool.
Oak Cliff is known for mature trees and beautiful flowers and Stevens Park Estates is no exception. For 50 years the local garden club met monthly to socialize, discuss gardening tips and take field trips. Mariana Griggs, who didn’t know much about Oak Cliff when she moved here, became a member when the previous homeowner introduced her to the club. She particularly enjoyed learning about organic methods and native plants, and she loves living where the trees are big and old and offer lots of shade. When the club disbanded, remaining monies from annual dues were left to the neighborhood for landscaping efforts.
Former Board President Jeff Harrington was invited to a neighborhood function when he was still looking for somewhere to buy a home. He was hooked when he discovered both babies and elderly residents in attendance, and he loves that the community includes everyone, even people who don’t live here. Harrington’s out-of-town friends are amazed by the hospitality and community involvement displayed here. It “belies the stereotype of what Dallas is about,” he says.
The seeds of the Fort Worth Avenue Development Project were planted at a neighborhood event in Stevens Park Estates, and Harrington was one of the original volunteers. Seeing that the commercial corridor doesn’t really serve the needs of residents on either side of the avenue, the group set out to let the development community know that this area is open for business. He’s proud of the truly grassroots effort of people who don’t own commercial property. Their interest lies in enhancing the quality of life for those who live in the areas surrounding Fort Worth Avenue.
Residents of Stevens Park Estates consider themselves lucky to be living in this little gem of a neighborhood. Bordered by Hampton, Plymouth and Atlantic, and with only 200 homes, “People don’t know this part of Oak Cliff exists,” says Brown.
It’s no secret anymore.