Stories about Oak Cliff and WH History

Winnetka Heights Urban Pioneers

Great story and video from the Advocate Magazine about three preservation pioneers here in Oak Cliff; OOCCL Co-founder Mary Griffith, Carla Boss and Diane Sherman.  We are grateful for these strong women today and the work they began in the 1970’s.  They are our first urban pioneers and they are the real deal.

Thirty Years As An Historic District! See Our Listing in the U.S. Registry of Historical Places

2011 marks the thirtieth anniversary of the designation of Winnetka Heights as an Historic District in the City of Dallas.  We will be commemorating the neighborhood’s achievement through the rest of the year.

Winnetka Heights residents are dedicated to the preservation of this area of Dallas as an enduring symbol of early 20th century life, while ensuring Winnetka Heights remains the most vibrant historic district in the city.  Our urban pioneers helped organize the Old Oak Cliff Conservation League and set the stage for the redevelopment of Oak Cliff.  While we all enjoy the new urban atmosphere of the Bishop Arts District, Fort Worth Avenue, and the Tyler Davis area, among other areas experiencing a renaissance, we need to remember the young families that moved to North Oak Cliff in the 70’s and 80’s to revitalize areas that had been neglected by the city and acknowledge the contribution of the families that have been here all along.

The listing on the U.S. Registry of Historical Places contains some great information on the neighborhood and some of the residents that have called it home.   Please take a look.  Thanks to Kirk Kirksey for tracking it down.

Link to our Listing:  WH National Registry Listing


In Memory of a Longtime Neighbor

Sterling Hornsby, a longtime resident of South Rosemont Ave in Winnetka Heights, passed away on Christmas Eve morning at the age of 89. Mr. Hornsby was described by one neighbor as a “good neighbor, a good friend, and a compassionate man.” He is survived by his wife Velma of an amazing 65 years. Another neighbor who knew Mr. Hornsby for 20 years said that he “seemed like such a reserved man but could get his point across with polite strength” and who was a “loving husband with lots of children and love around him.”

Mr. Hornsby’s strength of character will be missed greatly by those who had the pleasure of knowing and living nearby to him.

Music in the Air

Oak Cliff has never run short on creativity, especially in the creative arts. A rich history that goes back almost 100 years and has produced some notable song writers, actors/actresses, artists, authors, publishers, musicians, and those who write poetry.

In 1924, V. O. Stamps founded a music company and entered into a partnership with J. R. Baxter, Jr. to become a leading publisher of gospel music. They eventually worked out of an office at 207 S. Tyler. Every summer, kids from across America came to Oak Cliff for a week or two of lessons in singing, writing, and playing gospel music. No telling how many were influenced and became well known, but all developed a passion for gospel music. One such little kid was Bill Gaither with a passion for listening to the gospel quartets of the day – many formed by the Stamps-Baxter Music Co. Gaither saved up his money to attend the school and never regretted the move. Although, Gaither became a school teacher, he always had a passion for gospel music. He married Gloria, and the two have written hundreds of songs that have won awards and have been sung by well known artists. He’s also responsible for bringing the greats in gospel together to form the Gaither Homecoming Series.

Glenn Payne started out working for the Stamps-Baxer Publishing Company and also sang in many of their quartets before becoming a member of the Cathederals. J. D. Sumner, a well-known bass singer, told a story of how some kid without money who admired the music of the Stamps Baxter Quartet always hung around the back stage door. J. D. would let him in to listen on the side of the stage. That kid was Elvis Presley. Elvis formed a relationship with the quartet later in life and they sang back-up on his records. Elvis also sang with the Blackwood Brothers and Jordanairs. J. D. says later it was he who stood at the backstage door without money, and Elvis would let him in.

In the early 1960’s, a group of kids from Adamson H. S. formed the Kingsmen Quartet. Tom McGown, B.J. Stevenson, Michael Martin Murphy and Hank Price would mostly sing where classmates gathered. They eventually went out on their own, but Stevenson, Murphy and Price each continued their lives that involved music in different areas from country to pop to opera, to writing and singing, to teaching at universities.

In the late 1960’s into the 70’s, kids from Kimball remember Stevie Ray Vaughn with his guitar singing blues along with his brother, Jimmy Vaughn. They each made a name for themselves in music.

Other greats include T-Bone Walker singing blues, and I know there are those who sing Jazz and Tejano we’re just not aware of yet.

You can read more about some of these people at under notable natives.

Freeways and Wynnewood

Did you ever wonder what Oak Cliff — or anywhere — was like without freeways? My grandmother told a story of how the family would pile in the horse-drawn wagon (on Winnetka) and take an all day trek to White Rock Lake. It took the horse forever to cross town, but it seemed to move so much faster coming home. Although cars were new when the neighborhood was built, many people still had a horse-drawn wagon because the streets weren’t paved. Cars were also very expensive, even if they were around $500. … 8/ads.html

R. L Thornton, south, (I-35) wasn’t built until the late 50’s and early 60’s. The first part only went from downtown to Clarendon and stopped. From there, Beckley was known as Hwy 77 (to Lancaster/DeSoto) and Zang Blvd was Hwy 67 (to Duncanville, and who knew Cedar Hill. note: Cedar Hill was country — absolutely nothing for miles.) Where blockbuster now stands was the Wynnewood Hotel. The extension of I-35 was built during the 60’s, but I think the freeway only went to the county line back then before they became 4 lane highways.

Once the freeway was completed, only the locals used Beckley and Zang Blvd. It had an impact on business in Wynnewood because it couldn’t be seen from the freeway. I found it once! There is an aerial photo on the internet of R. L. Thornton at Marsalis under construction. The area was already built up at that point.

Once the authorities decided their path, they moved all the houses — big and small — out of the way for progress. Some were grand homes of prominent people near the Marsalis Zoo. I think one was the E. P. Turner home. That’s when the one on Rosemont was purchased. Harry’s dad bought many of the smaller homes that were sold (they didn’t live in all of them) for very little and moved them farther out into east Oak Cliff and south Dallas. Kind of like an entrepreneurial experience for income. They ended up as rental or they were sold. Don’t know how many of the big houses survived or where they ended up.

These are links to photos: … otos.shtml

Wynnewood Village was new and expanding across the fields, literally, just before the completion of the freeway. The first part of Wynnewood was off Illinois and Llewellyn, and then they built the section with Kroger years later, before they built the strip next to it where Ross is located. Believe it or not, the store on the corner was once a Titches, which later became Dillards, I think. During the 70’s, these stores merged and changed names too often. The last part to be built was the strip with Factory 2 U. Besides a grocery store, there was a cafeteria and a clock store. Wynnewood, throughout, had many upper and middle class clothing and shoe stores, along with drug store, 3 grocery stores, bakery, eateries, dime store, toy store, a theater, bank, post office and doctor offices. It was always busy. As the freeway progressed, and forced busing took place, many of the people moved further out to the burbs.