The Mystery of Beckley Club Estates

A secretive ad campaign built this neighborhood in the ’20s


Developer S.A. Temple built Beckley Club Estates in the 1920’s

One of the ads that promoted the new development in 1925.

One of the ads that promoted the new development in 1925.

Bound by Crestwood and South Shore drives, with Beckley and Ramsey avenues to the west and east, Beckley Club Estates exists as a small but quiet enclave nestled just two miles from downtown. The historic housing development began as a city-wide “mystery” that slowly unfolded through a Dallas Morning News ad campaign.

Real estate developer S. A. Temple needed a hook to nab readers’ attention, and he certainly accomplished his goal. Purchasing newspaper ads in four consecutive Sunday editions, Temple promised to reveal what he touted as a “different home place.”

The first ad, published May 10, 1925, presented a soon-to-be-revealed “secret.” The second spoke of “innovation,” giving the impression that homebuyers could acquire the house of their dreams if only they would wait to purchase anything until Temple’s “secret” was unveiled. Adding even more mystery and anticipation, the third week’s ad announced a partial reveal in the next Sunday edition.

However, Temple’s hand was forced. With reader interest at an almost fever pitch, on May 31, 1925, a full-page Dallas Morning News ad went ahead and let the cat out of the bag and presented Temple’s answer:

Beckley Club, the Beautiful.

Even with ongoing construction and messy improvement projects throughout the development, Temple continued running ads, and within six weeks, one-third of the available lots were sold. Quite a success, all things considered.

The subdivision’s homes number roughly 65, originally offering Tudor, Spanish Eclectic, ranch and Cape Cod styles, with stone entrances off Beckley and a rolling, tree-shaded terrain. The original homeowners enjoyed the highly unusual amenity of three small lakes placed strategically among the lots: Lake Helen, Lake Placid and Lake Junior (thought to be named after Hugh January, Jr., the son of Temple’s head sales agent; also the namesake of Junior Drive in East Kessler, where Temple was instrumental in the development of Kessler Square). The original sales office was located in the center of Lake Helen, accessible only by footbridge or boat, and styled like a Japanese pagoda. Unfortunately, the lakes’ unsafe conditions necessitated dynamiting the dam on Cedar Creek that facilitated the formation of the three lakes. .

Although numerous influential Dallasites purchased homes in the development, undoubtedly Beckley Club Estates’ most famous resident at the time was Lynn Landrum (1891-1961), a veteran Dallas Morning News writer of the front-page column “Thinking Out Loud.” Landrum often shared stories about his beloved home on Seevers Avenue (nicknamed Billy Goat Hill) and about his wife’s ever-expanding garden. Another prominent resident was a famous dancer from New York who, according to reports, added a studio onto her Beckley Club home, while stories still swirl about a cousin of Clark Gable living in the neighborhood.

And probably Beckley Club Estates’ most famous resident? Try cowboy singer Michael Martin Murphey, who grew up on the corner of Seevers and Crestwood. Not a bad history at all.

Like many areas of Oak Cliff from the mid-1950s through the 1980s, Beckley Club Estates experienced a reduced level of homeowner interest and began a slow and sad decline. In the 1990s, however, urban pioneers began taking notice of the charming and architecturally diverse array of cozy and mid-sized homes the sub-division offered … and the transformation began. Today, Beckley Club residents are once again enjoying the winding streets and one-lane bridges that punctuate the neighborhood, along with a sprinkling of original tile roofs and native stonework (some of the many features from the initial designs that still remain), along with the brick and stone houses that were built later in the development’s history.

Now a member of the Old Oak Cliff Conservation League, Beckley Club Estates is enjoying an upswing in curb appeal and resident involvement, as witnessed by the resurrection of its homeowners association in 2000. And, according to the association website: “Because of its proximity to the Dallas Zoo, Beckley Club is one of the few neighborhoods where one is likely to encounter a stray exotic animal,” which only adds to the area’s charm.

The neighborhood is unlike any other I’ve seen in Big D. To say it’s eclectic wouldn’t quite cover the description. I think S. A. would be pleased with the present-day outcome of his “most distinctive real estate sub-division ever offered in Dallas.”

Why not drive through and make your own decision? But, oh! Perhaps not. I almost forgot. Shhhh! It’s a secret.

By |2013-02-19T13:26:19-05:00February 19th, 2013|All Columns, Back Story, Development, Home and Garden, Oak Cliff History|21 Comments

About the Author:

Gayla Brooks
GAYLA BROOKS co-authored the books "Images of America: Oak Cliff" and "Legendary Locals of Oak Cliff" and writes a monthly history column for the Oak Cliff Advocate. She can date her neighborhood heritage back to 1918, when her father was born in what was then called Eagle Ford. She was born at Methodist hospital and graduated from Kimball High School. Email gbrooks@advocatemag.com.


  1. […] home is shown as forest and farms. Other areas, such as the estate of S.A. Temple, who developed Beckley Club Estates in Oak Cliff, and all the forest along the north side of Gaston Ave., are now residential […]

  2. Tina April 4, 2013 at 2:49 PM

    I live in Beckley Club and we have watched these peacocks grow up from tiny chicks. How could they do this?? Call Dallas Animal Control about a pitbull running loose and terrifying the neighborhood and nothing happens unless you have it fenced in for them. Does Animal Control have a buyer already in place or something?? They don’t hurt a thing and are so beautiful. It makes my day seeing them in all their glory. What can we do???

  3. Benjamin Roberts April 4, 2013 at 1:40 PM

    HELLLLP! The Dallas Animal Control is attempting to round up all of the wonderful neighborhood peacocks! One of the most charming aspects of our neighborhood is being stolen by the City of Dallas!

  4. Cyndi D March 13, 2013 at 3:16 PM

    I was so interested in this article as it answered some questions I had always wondered about. I grew up on Vermont St in the 60’s and played in the creek at the end of South Shore days on end. It was our Castle 🙂 ….it had the arched hole in the dam, and a tall cement thing shaped like a coke bottle. Once there was lots of rain that moved the rocks all around. There were some rough sidewalks running across the creek that were exposed. We could tell there had been something there at one time, but never knew what. We would roam the creek from there up to Beckley….Very fun times.

  5. Alicia Quintans March 2, 2013 at 10:04 PM

    future story idea: the history of the peacocks in Beckley Club.

  6. Gayla Brooks
    Gayla Brooks March 2, 2013 at 1:36 PM

    Love your comments, Alicia! I think Beckley Club folks have all stumbled onto a read treasure that the rest of the city it missing. How charming to have roaming peacocks! Now that’s a feature that you don’t see on many sub-division fliers! Thanks for posting.

  7. Gayla Brooks
    Gayla Brooks March 2, 2013 at 1:32 PM

     I’ll have to make a special trip to see if any of the peacocks are out when I’m there. Sounds like  Beckley Club residents have many “amenities” that other neighborhoods don’t! Thanks for posting.

  8. Gayla Brooks
    Gayla Brooks March 2, 2013 at 1:30 PM

     Thanks, Cherie! I appreciate your kind words. Beckley Club is quite unique,  tucked away and hidden from most Dallasites. Whenever I drive through, it’s sort of like roaming through one of those neighborhoods in many of the classic black and white movies on TCM.

  9. Gayla Brooks
    Gayla Brooks March 2, 2013 at 1:21 PM

    Actually, you’re right. I never received a detention. But…I had your mom for study hall. I remember her well and was sorry to hear that she recently passed away. I send my sympathy to you and your family. But isn’t it it comforting to know that so many Oak Cliff students (now adults) remember your mom? My mother, too, attended Adamson; my dad went to Sunset. I went to Kimball My siblings attended Carter. My children’s godfather graduated from SOC and their godmother from Adamson. My heritage sort of covers the entire neighborhood! Thanks for posting. Do so anytime. Great to hear from you.

  10. MICHAEL SHADDOX February 28, 2013 at 11:00 AM

    I live in Beckley Club. It is indeed a charming part of Oak Cliff. On any given day, you can find Peacocks by the dozen roaming the neighborhood, chickens, and a very friendly owl that sings me to sleep.

  11. Jefferson February 28, 2013 at 9:12 AM

    “Like many areas of Oak Cliff from the mid-1950s through the 1980s, Beckley Club Estates experienced a reduced level of homeowner interest and began a slow and sad decline.”…

    Aaaand why would that be?  Inquiring minds want to know.

  12. Cherie McBee February 27, 2013 at 7:23 PM

    So interesting. I have a slight idea where this is but my brain is a little fried these days but I can imagine how beautiful it is and was. Your words are so descriptive it’s like being right there
    Thank you Gayla.

  13. Kksailer February 26, 2013 at 5:40 PM

    Gayla, you probably never had a detention, so you may not have known my Mother, Orelya Kline.  I grew up in Winnetka Heights and then west of Hampton on Sunset.  Mother went to Adamson, my Father and Aunt, Sunset, my brother Bill Kline and I, Sunset, my sister Cyndee Kline, Kimball.

  14. Alicia Quintans February 24, 2013 at 2:04 PM

    Loved the story about Beckley Club Estates – thank you Gayla!
    My husband and I have been BCE dwellers for 22 years and celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary this week (photo from 20 years ago attached).
    We moved in as renters in 1991 – 4 years before buying the property – and never left.A truly great place to live, and I was thrilled to read your story and more of the history.Currently, the talk of BCE is peacocks…on roofs, in the creek, in the street, as baby chicks. They multiply around here and everyone gets a kick out of posting photos on our BCE Facebook Page. 

  15. Sandy February 22, 2013 at 10:53 AM

    Love reading your articles.  Next time I am in Oak Cliff I plan to check this secret place out!

  16. Mary Newton Maxwell February 22, 2013 at 10:51 AM

    I didn’t travel much around that area, but may have to pick up Angeline and check it out.  Always love your columns, my friend.

  17. John Byers February 22, 2013 at 10:50 AM

    Interesting story, Gayla! It would be great to read an historical account of the Belmont Hotel. 

  18. Penny Precopia February 21, 2013 at 3:22 PM

    That is a very informative piece….thanks for sharing.  Did I tell you that we lived on Overcrest close to Steven’s Park Golf Course when we first married? Even though we only lived in the area a year,  before moving to Grand Prairie, I always enjoyed Oak Cliff.
    Penny Precopia

  19. Angeline Churchill February 21, 2013 at 3:17 PM

    Thanks for another lovely article that will necessitate a trip across Oak Cliff to check out the neighborhood.

  20. Benny Kirtley February 21, 2013 at 7:30 AM

    Gayla, I used to play baseball at Thomas Hill. Is this the area you are describing? If so, it has alwys had a certain beauty about it. I remember playing baseball at Thomas Hill and thinking how pretty of a setting the ball park was in. Nice article and spot on! 

  21. Patsy Summey February 21, 2013 at 7:15 AM

    You did it again, Gayla!  Perfect story for such a neat area– ‘Billy Goat Hill’ would be a good description for several of those streets!

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