A 112-year-old wall and other Oak Cliff places that deserve preservation

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Preservation Dallas called out two locations in Oak Cliff for its 2019 list of endangered places.

The list spotlights buildings, neighborhoods and public spaces that are “too important to lose, for their historic integrity to be diminished, or for the loss of their ability to be used to their full potential.”

The nonprofit, which advocates for the preservation and revitalization of historic structures in Dallas, included Pike Park Recreational Center in the list, which was built in 1913 and has significance in the history of Mexican American culture in Dallas. The surrounding neighborhood, now part of Uptown, was settled by Jewish immigrants in the early 20th century and was known as “Little Jerusalem.” At the same time, the Mexican Revolution drove immigrants up from the border, and that neighborhood eventually became known as “Little Mexico.” The recreation center was nearly demolished in the 1960s, but Anita N. Martinez, Dallas’ first Latina City Council member, made revitalizing the center a priority when she was elected in 1969.

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While Pike Park is maintained and used, the recreation center has been closed for years due to environmental and code-compliance problems. Now the Dallas Mexican American Historical League is working with the Dallas Park and Recreation Department to find ways to reopen the center.

“Funding is the issue to make that happen and is needed before the building gets to the point where it is no longer feasible to be rehabilitated,” Preservation Dallas states.

Here are the two Oak Cliff locations on the list:

Tenth Street Historic District

This is the oldest intact freedmen’s town in the nation, and it made the Advocate’s “Architecture At-Risk” list in 2018. Don’t let the “historic district” tag fool you. Most of the buildings in the district are susceptible to demolition, and with its proximity to Downtown and the planned deck park over Interstate 35, real estate developers already have their sights on it.

Over the past few years the district has suffered from numerous court ordered demolitions of deteriorated and neglected vacant houses in an effort to ‘clean up’ the neighborhood. If the demolitions continue unchecked, it could lead to the demise of historic status for the neighborhood. In addition, as the new deck park is built there could be additional pressure to redevelop the neighborhood with inappropriate new construction. The neighborhood residents have recently formed a new neighborhood group that has been active in attending Landmark Commission meetings and opposing demolitions in the district, but with a court order the Landmark Commission is powerless to stop the demolitions.

Photo by Doug Klembara, via the Elmwood Neighborhood Association

Tennessee Dairy Wall

A low stone wall along Edgefield Avenue is a remnant of Tennessee Dairies Inc., a 640-acre dairy farm established in 1907.

While part of the dairy farm wall has survived for more than 110 years, another section is in danger of disappearing and a middle section has been removed entirely. Some property owners would like to see the wall stay while others are indifferent and some may not have the means to preserve the wall. The Elmwood Neighborhood Association is supportive of the wall staying and looking for ways to help property owners preserve it. The Elmwood Parkway, a greenbelt that is part of the Dallas park system is nearby and a historic marker or interpretive sign could help people understand more about this fascinating part of Oak Cliff’s early history.

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