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Oak Cliff is a community in Dallas, Texas, United States that was formerly a separate town located in Dallas County; Dallas annexed Oak Cliff in 1903. It has since retained a distinct neighborhood identity as one of Dallas' older, established neighborhoods.
Oak Cliff has turn-of-the-twentieth-century and mid-20th century housing, many parks, and proximity to the central business district of downtown Dallas.
The boundaries of Oak Cliff are roughly Interstate 30 and the Trinity River on the north, Interstate 35E on the east, Camp Wisdom Road on the south, and Cockrell Hill Road on the west. In practice nearly every neighborhood south of the Trinity River (excluding west Dallas) is called Oak Cliff, though much of it was never part of the original town. For example, the South Oak Cliff neighborhood (one of the primary African-American and Hispanic neighborhoods in Dallas), which generally includes neighborhoods south of Illinois Avenue, was never part of the original town of Oak Cliff. Neighborhoods east of I-35 are normally considered part of Oak Cliff as well, in addition to the neighborhoods west of Cockrell Hill Road.
The suburb of 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. The farm was subdivided into 20-acre (81,000 m2) blocks, and the plat of the new suburb 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, and the principal north and south thoroughfare was Marsalis Avenue, 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. 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". 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. 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.
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.
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.
On November 22, 1963, shortly after the fatal shooting of President John F. Kennedy and the wounding of Texas governor John Connally (who was the jump seat passenger in the Kennedy limousine) at 12:30 p.m. and the fatal shooting of Officer J. D. Tippit at approximately 1:16 p.m., Oswald entered the Texas Theatre, located in Oak Cliff, shortly after 1:30 p.m. without paying for a ticket, ostensibly to avoid police. They were later informed by the assistant manager that a man had entered the theater without paying. The films being presented on that day were Cry of Battle and War Is Hell. Oswald briefly viewed the latter. Open daily, today it hosts a mix of repertory cinema and special events.
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 Justice Barefoot Sanders. As a result, DISD's schools were not officially declared desegregated until 2003.
Beginning in the 1970s there was "white flight" of white middle-class residents to nearby suburbs. Oak Cliff, especially South and Southwest Oak Cliff, became a dangerous low-income area by the 1980s, and even as late as 2004 critics were charging that Dallas chronically failed to provide adequate city services and police protection, causing developers to avoid the area. The recession that began in 2008 has hampered revitalization, and the La Reunion development was canceled.
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 in to 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 G. 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.
DART is planning extensions of both the Red and Blue Lines as part of the 2030 Plan, the latter of which will serve the new University of North Texas at Dallas campus.
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Prior to neighborhood desegregation, 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 South, many all-white neighborhoods transitioned to African-American And Hispanic neighborhoods due to both black and white migration: blacks moving to neighborhoods that they perceived as better and a whites moving from neighborhoods that they perceived as worsening.
Oak Cliff is considered to be part of the humid subtropical region.
The Dallas Independent School District operates district public schools.
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.
Zan Wesley Holmes Jr. Middle School, opening in 2013, is in Oak Cliff.
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