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