Oak Cliff

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Oak Cliff is a neighborhood of Dallas, Texas, that was formerly a separate town in Dallas County; Dallas annexed Oak Cliff in 1901. It has since retained a distinct neighborhood identity as one of Dallas' older established neighborhoods.

Oak Cliff has turn-of-the-20th century and mid-20th century housing, many parks, and is near the central business district of downtown Dallas.

The boundaries of Oak Cliff are roughly Interstate 30 on the north, Loop 12 on the west, Interstate 45 on the east, the Trinity River on the northeast and Loop 12 on the south.


Oak Cliff originated on December 15, 1886, when John S. Armstrong and Thomas L. Marsalis bought a farm of 320 acres (1.3 km2) on the west side of the Trinity River for $8,000.[citation needed] The farm was subdivided into 20-acre (81,000 m2) blocks, and the plat of the new town made. Armstrong and Marsalis began to develop the land into an elite residential area, which proved to be a success by the end of 1887, with sales surpassing $60,000. However, after a disagreement between the partners, Marsalis secured complete control over Oak Cliff's development. Armstrong would go on to create his own elite residential development on the north side of Dallas, known as Highland Park.

According to the first plat filed, the original township of Oak Cliff extended as far north as First Street, later named Colorado Boulevard just north of Lake Cliff, then known as Spring Lake, and as far south as a pavilion below Thirteenth Street. It was bounded on the east by Miller Street, later named Cliff Street, and on the west by Beckley Avenue. Jefferson Boulevard was the route of a steam railroad,[citation needed] and the principal north and south thoroughfare was Marsalis Avenue,[citation needed] then called Grand Street.

On November 1, 1887, $23,000 worth of lots were sold in the newly opened Marsalis Addition (Oak Cliff) before noon, and on the following day, ninety-one lots were sold for $38,113.[citation needed] Figures published later in November gave the new suburb a population of 500. Marsalis developed the Oak Cliff Elevated Railway to provide the first transportation link to his new development, using a small shuttle train pulled by a "dummy" engine. The transportation system was modeled on one in the city of New York and was promoted as "the first elevated railway in the South". The railroad ran special trains to Oak Cliff Park the home ground of the Dallas Hams.[1][citation needed] In reality, the railroad operated at ground level almost its entire course down Jefferson Boulevard and towards Lake Cliff; it only became slightly elevated as it crossed the Trinity River.[citation needed] This steam railway was continued for many years for commuters and pleasure seekers. Marsalis began two other development projects with the intent to promote Oak Cliff as a vacation resort. One was Oak Cliff Park, later called Marsalis Park and Zoo, a 150-acre (0.6 km2) park that included a two-mile (3 km)-long lake and a 2,000-seat pavilion in which dances and operas were held. Another was the Park Hotel, modeled after the Hotel del Coronado in San Diego, which included several mineral baths fed by artesian wells.[2]

The Hotel (c. 1890)
The Female University Projekt of T. L. Marsalis, president of the Dallas Land & Loan Company (c. 1890)

Oak Cliff incorporated in 1890 with a population of 2,470, and secured a post office which operated until 1896. The community had four grocery stores, two meat markets, a hardware store, and a feed store. Businesses included the Texas Paper Mills Company (later Fleming and Sons), the Oak Cliff Planing Mill, the Oak Cliff Artesian Well Company, Patton's Medicinal Laboratories, and the Oak Cliff Ice and Refrigeration Company. A number of new elite residential areas developed by the Dallas Land and Loan Company had pushed the community's boundaries westward to Willomet Street. Oak Cliff's first mayor was Hugh Ewing. In 1891 the community's first newspaper, the Oak Cliff Sunday Weekly, was published by F. N. Oliver.

Over the next three years Oak Cliff's development continued, but, during the depression of 1893, the demand for vacation resorts decreased, and the community's growth stagnated, forcing Marsalis into bankruptcy. Consequently, the Park Hotel was converted into the Oak Cliff College for Young Ladies. Another educational institution, the Patton Seminary, was established two years later by Dr. Edward G. Patton. By 1900 Oak Cliff was already no longer an elite residential and vacation community. Many of the lots once owned by the Dallas Land and Loan Company were subdivided by the Dallas and Oak Cliff Real Estate Company and sold to the middle and working classes, a trend which lasted well into the early 1900s. The census of 1900 reported Oak Cliff's population as 3,640.

In 1902, an interurban electric streetcar line controlled by the Northern Texas Traction Company, was constructed passing through Oak Cliff, and connected Dallas to Fort Worth. This line discontinued service in the late 1930s. Smaller residential streetcar service ran throughout Oak Cliff's neighborhoods, spanning over 20 miles (32 km). Known as a streetcar suburb, Oak Cliff's characteristic twists and turns are largely due to the area's topography, and the paths and turnabouts created by the streetcar service. Residential streetcar service ended in January 1956.[citation needed]

Oak Cliff was annexed by Dallas in 1903, after numerous attempts beginning in 1900. The proposal had met with little success, until the community's depressed economy produced a vote in favor of annexation by eighteen votes.[3]

Lee Harvey Oswald being brought out of the Texas Theatre immediately after his arrest

On November 22, 1963, Warren "Butch" Burroughs, who ran the concession stand at the Texas Theatre, located in West Jefferson Boulevard in Oak Cliff,[4] said that Oswald came into the theater between 1:00 and 1:07 pm; he also claimed he sold Oswald popcorn at 1:15 p.m.[5] Julie Postal later said that Burroughs initially told her the same thing although he later denied this.[6] Theatre patron, Jack Davis, also corroborated Burroughs' time, claiming he observed Oswald in the theatre prior to 1:20 pm.[7]

In the early 1970s, many Oak Cliff schools, along with those in South Dallas, became the focus of a long-running and bitter court battle over desegregation, famously overseen by Federal Judge Barefoot Sanders. As a result, DISD's schools were not officially declared desegregated until 2003.

Natural disasters[edit]

In April 1908, the Trinity River flooded its banks, rising to a height of 37.8 feet (11.5 m) by April 21. A temporary recession occurred, but rains continued into May, finally raising the river's height to 51.3 feet (15.6 m). The only bridge remaining that connected Oak Cliff with Dallas after the flood was the Zang Boulevard Turnpike, an earthen fill with a single steel span across the river channel, slightly to the north of the present Houston Street Viaduct. About this time, George B. Dealey, publisher of the Morning News, returned from a trip to Kansas City with the idea of securing for Dallas an intracity causeway similar to the one there. From his proposal sprang the Houston Street Viaduct (originally named the Oak Cliff Viaduct), begun October 24, 1910, and opened to traffic February 22, 1912, acclaimed as the longest concrete bridge in the world. This latter designation was later disputed as a publicity stunt.

In 1909, a disastrous fire occurred in Oak Cliff, consuming fourteen blocks of residences, including the Briggs Sanitorium.[citation needed]

On April 2, 1957, a tornado ripped through Oak Cliff as part of the Early-April 1957 tornado outbreak sequence, killing 10 people and causing more than $1 million in damages.[8]

In culture[edit]

Oak Cliff has been home to a long list of musicians. When T-Bone Walker made his debut with Columbia in 1929, he lived in Oak Cliff, and recorded as Oak Cliff T-Bone.[9] Edie Brickell's second album included a song about life in Oak Cliff titled "Oak Cliff Bra".[10] Other musicians from Oak Cliff include Michael Martin Murphey, rap artist Yella beezy, local celebrity Silas Alaniz, Stevie Ray Vaughan,[11] B. W. Stevenson, The D.O.C., Ray Wylie Hubbard and Jimmie Vaughan. Actors Yvonne Craig (television’s first Batgirl) and Stephen Tobolowsky lived in Oak Cliff.

Former NBA Player and now Hall of Famer Dennis Rodman grew up in Oak Cliff.

Omar Gonzalez was born and raised in Oak Cliff. He is an American soccer player who plays as a defender for Atlas in Liga MX and the U.S. Men's National Team.

Oak Cliff is the home of the Texas Theatre, where former resident Lee Harvey Oswald, the man who killed U.S. President John F. Kennedy, was arrested. The theater has appeared in many books and movies on the Kennedy assassination including Oliver Stone's 1991 film, JFK.

Oak Cliff is the setting of City Limit,[12] the novel by Lantzee Miller is a coming-of-age story and metaphorical portrait of the beginning of Oak Cliff's recent rebirth and self redefinition.[13]

Legendary Dallas radio station KLIF (the call letters survive today on different frequencies on both AM and FM) was named after Oak Cliff, the community the station was originally licensed to cover when it was founded in 1947.[14]

Areas within Oak Cliff[edit]

  • North Oak Cliff
  • East Oak Cliff
  • West Oak Cliff
  • Southwest/Red Bird
  • South Oak Cliff

Population and area[edit]

  • Oak Cliff: 290,365 (Area: 87.27 sq mi)
  • East Oak Cliff: 27,517 (Area: 25.72 sq mi)
  • West Oak Cliff: 107,824 (Area: 19.21 sq mi)
  • South Oak Cliff: 61,952 (Area: 18.26 sq mi)
  • Southwest/Red Bird: 93,072 (Area: 24.08 sq mi)


In addition, the Oak Cliff area encompasses Cockrell Hill, a separate municipality which is an enclave of Dallas.

There is a Map of North Oak Cliff Neighborhoods that are part of the OOCCL which shows the boundaries of some of the neighborhoods in North Oak Cliff: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1_FhmMmhELVF22txL-TaVJu8bRRw&usp=sharing[15]


Light rail[edit]


The Dallas Streetcar is a 1.6-mile (2.6 km) modern-streetcar line connecting Oak Cliff with downtown Dallas. It opened in April 2015, and extensions are planned.[16]



Prior to neighborhood desegregation and redlining, Oak Cliff was predominantly white. Many neighborhoods in the Oak Cliff area, especially the most southern portions, were targeted for desegregation. As was typical of desegregation in the country, many all-white neighborhoods transitioned to Black neighborhoods due to white migration to suburbs in North Dallas. Subsequently Oak Cliff has become a heavily Hispanic area.

In 2001 Jim Schutze of the Dallas Observer referred to northern Oak Cliff as "Dallas' own Jerusalem, where various ethnicities choose to live close to each other and not get along."[17]


Oak Cliff is considered to be part of the humid subtropical region.

Government and infrastructure[edit]

Key precincts in Oak Cliff voted overwhelmingly for the Trinity River referendum on May 2, 1998.[18]



The Dallas Independent School District operates district public schools.

Zoned high schools within the Oak Cliff area:[clarification needed][citation needed]

Optional high schools within the Oak Cliff area:

In 2011 the district closed Maynard Jackson Middle School. Prior to summer 2011 the community often complained about poor conditions at the school. DISD rezoned the students to Kennedy Curry Middle School in southern Dallas.[21]

Zan Wesley Holmes Jr. Middle School, opening in 2013, is in Oak Cliff.[19]

Rosemont Elementary School is located in North Oak Cliff. In 2015 of The Dallas Morning News wrote that it had "strong academics, passionate students and devoted parents" and that it "is considered a neighborhood gem in North Oak Cliff".[22] The parents stated that principal Anna Brining had worked to make the school strong; in 2015 DISD notified Brining that her contract will not be renewed.[22]

In addition, Life School, a state charter school operator, has the K-12 Oak Cliff campus.[23]


High schools[edit]

W.h Adamson High School



  1. ^ Administrator. "The Dallas Hams of 1888". research.sabr.org. Retrieved 25 March 2018.
  2. ^ "The WPA Dallas Guide and History", page 75-76. Dallas Public Library and UNT Press, 1992
  3. ^ Slate, John H. (Fall 2002). "Dallas Fringe Communities and Annexation, 1890-1978". Legacies: A History Journal for Dallas and North Central Texas. 14 (2): 4–14 – via Portal to Texas History.
  4. ^ "The Texas Theatre in Dallas, TX | Directions and Parking Information". www.thetexastheatre.com. Retrieved 2015-09-26.
  5. ^ Douglass 2010, pp. 290, 466.
  6. ^ "History Matters Archive - Warren Commission Hearings, Volume VII, pg". history-matters.com. Retrieved 25 March 2018.
  7. ^ Marrs 1989, p. 353.
  8. ^ "News Script: Tornado aftermath". WBAP-TV (Television station : Fort Worth, Tex.). April 3, 1957.
  9. ^ "T-Bone Walker Biography". Retrieved 3 February 2013.
  10. ^ "edie+brickell"+"oak+cliff+bra" "Google search". Retrieved 3 February 2013.
  11. ^ "Stevie Ray Vaughan".
  12. ^ "City Limit". Retrieved 3 February 2013.
  13. ^ Fisher, Georgia (June 14, 2013). "Writer Sets Novel in Oak Cliff". Oak Cliff People.
  14. ^ "Hollywood Hills".
  15. ^ Beech, Jerry. "Map of North Oak Cliff Neighborhoods". North Oak Cliff United Police Patrol northoakcliffpatrol.org {non profit} and Old Oak Cliff Conservation League ooccl.org {non profit}. North Oak Cliff United Police Patrol {non profit} and Old Oak Cliff Conservation League {non profit}. Retrieved 3 September 2017.
  16. ^ Appleton, Roy (April 14, 2015). "Downtown-Oak Cliff streetcar debuts with speeches, curious riders". The Dallas Morning News. p. 1B. Retrieved 2015-04-15.
  17. ^ Schutze, Jim. "Absentee Minded." Dallas Observer. August 30, 2001. 1. Retrieved on January 12, 2010.
  18. ^ Schutze, Jim. "Absentee Minded." Dallas Observer. August 30, 2001. 7. Retrieved on January 12, 2010.
  19. ^ a b "New Schools-2008 Bond Program Archived May 9, 2010, at the Wayback Machine." Dallas Independent School District. Retrieved on January 8, 2010.
  20. ^ Williams, Shawn P. "DISD’s Barack Obama Male Leadership Academy says "Yes We Can" Archived 2011-11-13 at the Wayback Machine." Dallas South News. March 15, 2011. Retrieved on September 2, 2011.
  21. ^ Hobbs, Tawnell D. "Dallas school district to open 3 Wilmer-Hutchins campuses, close 2 others." The Dallas Morning News. November 24, 2010. Retrieved on July 15, 2011.
  22. ^ a b Haag, Matthew. "Popular Dallas ISD principal at Rosemont Elementary to lose her job" (Archived 2015-04-16 at the Wayback Machine). The Dallas Morning News. Retrieved on April 17, 2015.
  23. ^ "Oak Cliff." Life School. Retrieved on September 3, 2011.

Further reading[edit]

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