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Community Profile

Community Profile

Just a few miles southwest of Downtown Dallas you will find the unique and culturally diverse community of Oak Cliff. Oak Cliff derives its name from the massive oak trees and rolling hills that characterize the landscape of this area just across the Trinity River. Oak Cliff offers panoramic views of Downtown and close proximity to all that city life has to offer.

As early as 1837 pioneering families settled in this area, but the settlement of William H. Hord and his family in 1845 is generally thought to be the start of what would later become Oak Cliff. Hord and his family opened a boarding house, gradually creating a small farming community that became known as Hord’s Ridge. By 1887, this thriving community had caught the attention of Thomas L. Marsalis and John S. Armstrong, two developers who envisioned great things for this beautiful landscape. The several hundred acres they purchased in and around Hord’s Ridge was transformed into a prestigious residential area and was officially renamed Oak Cliff.


Oak Cliff became incorporated as a city in 1890 with a population of 2,470 people. Although Armstrong would later leave the partnership, Thomas Marsalis continued to develop this area and planned a vacation resort that included a four-story Victorian hotel, an opera house, a zoo and an elevated railway over the Trinity that connected Oak Cliff to the Dallas courthouse. The Panic of 1893 brought Marsalis’ vision to a shuddering halt. With the economy in decline, he was forced to sell the property.

Financial hardship caused voters to approve annexation of Oak Cliff into Dallas in 1903, increasing the size of the city of Dallas by one-third. Although Oak Cliff became synonymous with the growing city of Dallas, the physical barrier of the Trinity River continued to give Oak Cliff an identity all its own.

Between 1911 and 1920, Oak Cliff saw an increase in its population, with many large houses being built along Oak Cliff’s tree-lined streets and growing interest from developers and business owners alike. Lake Cliff Park was established as an amusement park complete with water rides, a vaudeville parlor, a roller-skating rink, a carousel, six tennis courts and a trolley ride. By 1921, the community was becoming a leading place for businesses of all kinds. The economic appeals encouraged the establishment of the Oak Cliff and Dallas Commercial Association — an organization that later became the Oak Cliff Chamber of Commerce.


The Great Depression brought about an economic decline for Oak Cliff. It was during this time that Oak Cliff’s dynamic law-breaking duo, Bonnie and Clyde, began their crime spree throughout Texas and surrounding states. It wasn’t until the end of World War II that Oak Cliff began to attract thousands of new families and businesses again. The Oak Cliff streetcar provided quick access to any part of Dallas during this time and the 820-acre Wynnewood Village became the shopping hub of Oak Cliff.

The late 1950s and early 1960s were a dark time for Oak Cliff. The tornado of 1957 devastated many of Oak Cliff’s historic homes. The shock of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963, left a dark cloud of sadness on the city of Dallas and Oak Cliff in particular. Accused assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, himself an Oak Cliff resident, reportedly shot Dallas Police Officer J.D. Tippet in Oak Cliff and fled to the nearby Texas Theatre where he was arrested. Despite these events, Oak Cliff continued to grow, and by 1980 redevelopment of the Bishop Arts District, Davis Street, Hampton Road and Fort Worth Avenue brought about a resurgence of many Oak Cliff neighborhoods.

Oak Cliff’s historical past is still apparent, from the original city of Oak Cliff on the north to the many smaller communities that became part of Oak Cliff over the years. Today, Oak Cliff’s dynamic community, made up of a blend of Anglos, African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans and Asians, continues to celebrate its great diversity year after year. The strong sense of community spirit is undeniable, with a population that is distinguished by its independence, hard work and unwavering pride for the place they call home.

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