Winnetka Heights highlights history, friendliness

Winnetka Heights highlights history, friendliness

Architecture and charm draw people to the Winnetka Heights neighborhood in Dallas’ southern sector of Oak Cliff area, but friendliness keeps them there.

“Families who are outgrowing their bungalows are buying larger neighborhood homes and staying because of their love for Winnetka Heights,” says Lee Ruiz, president of the neighborhood association.

Diana Sherman, a 33-year resident of Winnetka Heights, Dallas’ largest historic district, says she found the old house and soulful neighborhood she'd always wanted. “I’ve made wonderful friends here and cherish the fact that I live in a rich and beautiful environment,” she says.

The neighborhood consists of more than 600 residential structures and 20 commercial structures on 50 city blocks. Winnetka Heights’ boundaries are approximately Davis Street on the north, Willomet Avenue on the east, Twelfth Street on the south and Rosemont Avenue on the west.

Neighborhood history

In 1890, Winnetka Heights was incorporated as part of the city of Oak Cliff, but in 1908 was re-platted as Winnetka Heights. Four prominent businessmen — L. A. Stemmons, T. S. Miller Jr., J. P. Blake and R. S. Waldron — developed the area as a prestigious suburb. Sales were brisk as several millionaires built Prairie-style homes in the first wave of construction. The four developers also built their homes there, but only the Blake home, at 401 N. Rosemont Ave., and the Miller home, at 101 N. Montclair Ave., survive. The original Blake residence, now known as the Turner House, is home to the Oak Cliff Society of Fine Arts.

Eventually, lots were subdivided to allow for bungalows and cottages. Each house, whether a large two-story Prairie-style or a smaller Craftsman, had distinctive exteriors and rich interior details.  

Neighborhood decline

As prestigious as the neighborhood originally was, however, a decline began at the end of World War II, as housing demand led many grand homes being divided into apartments. Deterioration continued until the 1960s, when young homeowners began buying and restoring homes, attracted to the low prices, good architecture and proximity to downtown.  

Winnetka Heights residents worked hard not only to restore individual properties but to change the neighborhood’s zoning designation to single-family, which led to a development plan passed in 1975 and the 1981 achievement of historic neighborhood status.

Thriving again

These days, the neighborhood is again a thriving area of mostly single-family homes, with residents united through the Winnetka Heights Neighborhood Association. The group’s projects have included park and street beautification, installation of historic street lamps, code enforcement and Christmas Candlelight home tours.  

Through the North Oak Cliff United Police Patrol, which aims to increase police presence in Winnetka Heights and four other North Oak Cliff neighborhoods, city police officers patrol streets, stop suspicious people and make arrests. Individual residents pay $1 per day into the program, and the neighborhood association pays a grant to the patrol program.

The end result is a great place to live, says Carla Boss, a 36-year Winnetka Heights resident who raised five children in the neighborhood.
“The architecture attracted us to Winnetka Heights and because we wanted an old house we could renovate, we certainly got more bang for our bucks,” says Boss. “We realized right away that we had bought into an active, friendly neighborhood. We truly love Oak Cliff.”

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Jane Blake Ford Slack

Subject: Neighborhood history

Thank you so much for mentioning my great grandparents John Philip Blake (and his wife was Dora Lee Breachbill Blake!) They built the home at 401 Rosemont. It is now called the Turner home. I have a wonderful picture of my grandmother Lucile Blake's wedding party outside on the back patio in 1915.

Jane Blake Ford Slack

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