Photo: Homes on Cedar Hill Avenue, Kessler Park Historic District, Dallas. The Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1994. Photographed by user:Renelibrary, 2022, [cc-4.0], accessed September, 2022.
The Kessler Park Historic District [†] is an excellent collection of 1920s-1940s bungalows and large, revival style houses. The historic district consists of four additions that have a very high percentage of minimally changed or imaltered dwellings. The historic district also has a distinctive design aspect resulting from the side-by-side positioning of two neighborhoods with common architectural stylistic influences, that appeal to different socio‑economic groups. Numerous, modest revival‑style cottages cover the flat terrain in the south (Kessler Square) and east (Kessler Highlands). These areas, platted in 1923, contrast sharply with the imposing residences just north of Colorado Boulevard in the two hilly Kessler Park additions laid out in 1924. The Kessler Park additions and adjacent Stevens Park golf course form the north and west portion of the historic district. The curved streets and large, irregular sized lots of these latter additions are particularly significant and illustrate the developers' appreciation of Kessler Park's hilly terrain. Of the district's 558 properties, 413 are listed as Contributing, including Stevens Park as a Contributing site, and 145 are Noncontributing.
The large, irregularly shaped Kessler Park Historic District is approximately 275 acres, three miles west southwest of downtown Dallas. The north edge of the district is adjacent to and south of IH 30, which connects Dallas to Fort Worth (25 miles to the west). Kessler Park is considered the northem anchor of the Oak Cliff community. Colorado Boulevard, a neighborhood artery running east‑west through Oak Cliff, cuts the district into two sections. The primary thoroughfare through Kessler park is Tyler Avenue which runs from north to south through the eastern part of the district. Kessler Park shares a short boundary with the King's Highway Historic District on the south, four blocks farther south is the Winnetka Heights Historic District.
Over one‑third of the Kessler Park Historic District is city park land (the Stevens Park golf course). The Contributing site wraps around the west and north sides of the residential development, almost indistinguishable from the privately landscaped yards across Kessler Parkway to the southeast. Stevens Park is part of the Coombs Creek system and follows the creek from southwest to northeast, draining into the Trinity River. Much of the park's appeal lies in its utilization of natural landscaping features and native plants. This feature is shared with the lush landscaping of Kessler Square and Kessler Highlands — the first and second additions in the subdivision. Within the park are several buildings, including the Colonial Revival Stevens Park Clubhouse (1941, Contributing) and 1930s open-air buildings with fieldstone veneers.
Two distinct residential areas with underlying bonds of architecture and landscape are found in the Kessler Park Historic District. The plat design of the Kessler Park additions (north of Colorado Avenue and west of Windomere) is irregular with thoughtful conformity to the hilly terrain. Streets curve around hilltops and wind through draws to Stevens Park. The orientation of each house varies with the curve of the street. Stevens Park is barely separable from the residential development.
South and east of Colorado and Windomere are the rigidly laid Kessler Heights and Kessler Square additions. West of Turner, closely spaced cottages are set on long rectangular blocks oriented to the north‑south running streets. Alleyways split the blocks lengthwise and Temple Drive bisects the enclave from east to west. The regularity of setbacks, stylistic influences, scale, materials and landscaping is repeated east of Turner, but the street and building orientation changes to east‑west.
Many of Kessler Park's original auto garages remain intact. In the southeast part of the district, garages are accessed from the carefully planned alleys, while the more substantial homes to the north and west have garages connected to the main residential streets with long drives. Some of the newest contributing buildings (late 1930s) and oldest Noncontributing structures (late 1940s) reveal a relatively recent concept — garages incorporated into the primary buildings.
Architectural development in Kessler Park subtly reinforces the distinctiveness of each addition and unifies the entire neighborhood through stylistic applications. Stylistic influences found in the Kessler Park Historic District are dominated by post World War I revivalism — Tudor Revival, Spanish Colonial Revival, Classical Revival and Georgian Revival. Far fewer in numbers are historic bungalows with craftsman details or other contemporaneous influences such as the Prairie School style.
The two Kessler Park additions within the district have numerous architect‑designed houses, generally more substantial and complex in form than the cottages to the east. Many of the former are 1‑1/2 or 2 stories. Custom window and door detailing and creative use of brick, stone, stucco and other decorative applications distinguish these dwellings from their more modest bungalow counterparts to the east. The smaller, mass‑produced Tudor Revival and other revival style bungalows are also exclusively of masonry construction, but their diminutive forms are more straightforward, repetitive in plan and simply detailed.
The historic district maintains a high level of integrity, achieved through unchanged historic fabric and well maintained yards and public spaces. The conspicuous regularity of site planning and development pattems, even in the "natural" areas, and the kinship of architectural forms and stylistic influences throughout the district is striking. Many Noncontributing buildings are just under fifty years old. They conform in most ways to the earlier pattems and may be considered for eligible status at a later date. Noncontributing properties include post- 1944 buildings and historic buildings with unsympathetic alterations, such as enclosed porches and metal awnings. Few primary buildings have been razed in Kessler Park except for those lost during the widening of Tyler Avenue in the 1950s.
The Kessler Park Historic District is a remarkably intact residential area in Oak Cliffs most architecturally significant neighborhood. The district has a high concentration of 1920s and 1930s dwellings and boasts many outstanding local examples of Tudor Revival, Colonial Revival and Spanish Colonial Revival architecture. The district is eligible at a local level under Criterion C in the area of Architecture, as part of the historic context Suburban Residential Development in Oak Cliff, Dallas, 1887‑1944. The period of significance is from the sale in 1923 of the first parcel of land in the development to 1944, the fifty‑year cutoff date at the time of nomination. It includes four separately developed additions, all of which share the name Kessler in their titles, hence the district's name. Few post‑1944 buildings intmde upon its historic character and ambiance. Properties excluded solely on the basis of their construction date may be considered as Contributing upon reaching 50 years of age.
City directories and Sanborn maps reveal that much of the historic district was developed in the late 1920s and 1930s. Kessler Park's grand, formal mansions were home to many of Dallas' most influential political and business figures. While the district failed to surpass the prestigious reputation of Dallas' affluent Highland Park, it still was recognized as a place of lavish and architecturally graceful residences situated within a thoughtful and coherent urban plan. Kessler Park's unique features and many amenities (such as the Stevens Park golf course) attracted many locally prominent citizens who often erected houses that symbolized their financial wealth, social status and standing in the community.
The origins of the Kessler Park development date to March 19, 1923 when R.H. Stewart sold a parcel of land in northem Oak Cliff to S.A. Temple. Ten days later, these men dedicated the Kessler Square Addition. The addition comprised ten blocks in the southern part of the Historic District, along Windomere, Edgefield, Clinton and Winnetka avenues, between Colorado Boulevard to the north and Stewart Drive to the south.
The houses in Kessler Square are on small lots, and are rather simple in design. The house at 1035 N. Edgefield (1930) is a good example of the diminutive plan of most of the houses in this addition. It illustrates the Spanish Colonial Revival style quite well, with detailing such as a flat roof, stuccoed wall and a prominent doorway arch.
The second addition in the historic district, known as the Kessler Highlands Addition, was filed on November 30, 1923, by J.B. Salmon, president of the Kessler Highlands Development Company. The bulk of this subdivision consists of long, rectangular blocks that run east to west (8/ii). However, unlike the strict gridiron plan of the first addition, the portion of Kessler Highlands within the historic district is slightly asymmetrical in plan. The main north-south thoroughfare, Tyler Avenue, is west of the district's center.
The rhythm and regular setback of the houses in Kessler Highlands follows that of Kessler Square. The lots and houses are small, again differentiating this addition ft-om the later Kessler Park additions to the northwest. The houses on the south side of Salmon Drive (902- 918 Salmon) are all good examples of the Tudor Revival style, with steeply pitched roofs, side gables, tall, narrow windows, arched doorways and decorative chimney pots. A similar row of Tudor Revival style houses can be found one street down (1935).
The bungalows at 811 and 815 Stewart (1935) have craftsman details, such as large square porch columns and exposed rafters and brackets. While this plan and detailing were popular throughout Ocik Cliff, craftsman detailed bungalows were rare in Kessler Park.
Occasionally, houses with an eclectic blend of styles can be found within the Historic District. The 2‑story brick house at 951 Turner (1925) combines Prairie School details such as its hipped roof and long, narrow iron window railing, with Italianate roof brackets and arched windows. In addition, the fine ironwork above and within the projecting entry porch resembles the French Colonial buildings of New Orleans.
The third phase of the district's development occurred in 1924 when R.H. Stewart conveyed a tract of land to the North Texas Trust Company, E.S. Owens, president. On April 19, 1924, the company filed a plat for the Kessler Park Addition, which was immediately north of the Kessler Square Addition. Unlike the two earlier subdivisions, the Kessler Park Addition was irregularly shaped with large lots on each side of the circular Canterbury Court.
The fourth and final addition in the historic district was the Second Section of Kessler Park, filed for record on August 23, 1924. Like much of the other property in the district, the North Texas Trust Company was involved in its development. This addition featured winding circular streets within an 11‑block area in the northwest comer of the district.
The houses in both the third and fourth Kessler Park additions exhibit irregular placement and setback. While much larger than properties in the first two sections of the historic district, these houses utilize the same range of styles. For example, the house at 1227 Windomere (1935) is similar to the smaller Tudor Revival style residences on Salmon Drive. The 2‑story brick house at 1206 N. Clinton (1925) is also a good example of the Tudor Revival style, with its unique faux thatch main roof and front porch roof. The massive Tudor Revival 2‑story brick house at 1414 W. Colorado (1935) has retained many superb details of that style including faux half‑timbered gables, bowed faux thatch roofline, diamond paned windows, and a massive chimney. Castellated cast stone window surrounds draw the eye from the chimney on the north (main) facade, to two massive octagonal cast stone columns on the east (side) facade.
The 2‑1/2‑story brick house at 950 N. Mont Clair (1925) features typical Colonial Revival detailing. This includes a side gabled pedimented roof, symmetrical front facade and small, 1‑story porch with decorated crown supported by slender Ionic columns and pilasters.
The Kessler Park additions also feature larger Spanish Colonial Revival style homes, such the house at 1215 Winnetka (1930). Although similar to the smaller Spanish Colonial Revival style houses found in the Kessler Square Addition, this house illustrates the more elaborate detailing applied north of Colorado Boulevard. Spanish Eclectic details include a low‑pitched roof of Spanish tile, stucco facade, and elaborate wooden door surrounds. Mature trees and gentle landscaping help to integrate this property into the rest of the neighborhood.
George Kessler, a landscape architect from Kansas City, Kansas, advocated the integration of greenbelts in urban developments. He had spent part of his childhood in Dallas, but moved away while still a youth. He returned a nationally recognized landscape architect in 1907. The four additions that comprise the Kessler Park Historic District were named for him, however research has failed to establish a direct connection between Kessler and the development.
In 1910 he was hired by the City Commission and the Fair Park Board to develop a master plan to manage Dallas' rapid growth of the early 20th century (see context statement for more information). He recommended that the city acquire more park land, and in recognition of the growing influence of the automobile, he suggested that the city improve and standardize street construction and improvements. For Oak Cliff, he called for the creation of a greenbelt boulevard to serve as a tie between Oak Cliff and greater Dallas and he spoke of the need for the construction of levees on the Trinity River since flooding had proven to be a serious impediment to the area's development.
Although never fully implemented, the Kessler Plan, as his report came to be known, influenced residential development in Oak Cliff and other parts of Dallas. The Coomb's Creek greenbelt in the northem part of the district complied with Kessler's desire for more parks and green space in the city. Concurrentiy, increased use of the automobile opened new lands for development and the natural landscape and craggy terrain that would comprise the Kessler Park Historic District suddenly became more appealing. Soon it was developed as an affluent residential neighborhood.
The Kessler Park Historic District retains a high degree of architectural and design integrity. Since its development in the 1920s, the district has remained an affluent neighborhood in Oak Cliff, with most of its houses continuously occupied by their respective owners. The historic buildings have been well maintained and preserved, and restoration activities have been limited due the sensitive care home owners traditionally have shown toward their properties. The district boasts many outstanding local examples of Tudor Revival, Colonial Revival and Spanish Colonial Revival architecture. Kessler Park is an interesting experiment in the democracy of design. Earlier additions featuring modest dwellings were juxtaposed with those sporting mansions. Overall, the district demonstrates an evolution of design, as George Kessler's ideas of became more important with each addition to the subdivision.
† Adapted from: Daniel Hardy, Preservation Consultant, Hardy-Heck-Moore, Kessler Park Historic District, nomination document, 1990, 1994, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.
Argonne Drive • Belleau Drive • Canterbury Court East • Canterbury Court West • Cedar Hill Avenue • Clinton Avenue West • Colorado Boulevard West • Edgefiekd Avenue West • Kensington Drive • Kessler Parkway • Kidd Springs Drive • Lausanne Avenue • Mont Clair West • Olympia Drive • Salmon Drive • Stewart Drive • Thomasson Drive • Turner Avenue • Tyler Avenue West • Windomere Avenue North • Winnetka Avenue North