By 1900 the Colonial Hill addition became a desirable location for the affluent. The tremendous rise of industrial plants along the railroads flanking both sides of South Dallas had a direct cause-and-effect relationship with the growing prosperity of the core residential area of The Cedars. Many of the capitalists who owned these plants and mills lived in that sheltered province between South Harwood and South Akard streets just north of the City Park. Between 1880 and 1890 a map of the area almost resembled a medieval fiefdom. The financier-prince built his palatial Victorian mansion in the core area and his industrial concerns in the outlying fields, with a buffer zone of low-income workers between himself and the noise and smell of his plants.
In the eighties and early nineties this kind of social pattern remained possible in The Cedars, but by the turn of the century, the enormous growth and spread of the industrial areas and the buffer zones, coupled with the deterioration of the core area and the competitive lure of newer residential developments, led to the increasing undesirability of The Cedars as a place to build one of these Victorian palaces.
In 1888, the Dallas Rapid Transit Company opened a steam-driven excursion line from the courthouse down Lamar Street to Forest Avenue, across to the Fairgrounds and back downtown, as a promotion for the new Colonial Hills Addition. To meet the competition, the Dallas Consolidated Street Railway Company extended its lines down Akard, Ervay, and Harwood streets and east along Hickory Street toward the Fairgrounds and the Alamo School. This opened up the entire South Dallas area — which had heretofore been wilderness, accessible only by carriage or rickety, mule-drawn cars which only came as far as the City Park — to anyone with a nickel and a few hours of leisure.
This loss of exclusivity quickly killed The Cedars’ appeal to wealthy, snobbish home buyers, who after 1905 turned toward the contractually-guaranteed exclusive Munger Place and Highland Park Additions. As the older Cedars homes came up for sale, the owners found a declining market for expensive mansions which were rapidly aging out of style and favor. (In contrast to Frank Lloyd Wright’s new Prairie style
homes which became enormously popular between 1900 and 1920, the Victorians styles suddenly appeared “gaudy” or distasteful. But the continuing influx of people allowed The Cedars a second phase of development, approximately between the years 1890 and 1905.
Some nice, moderately priced, Victorian homes were built in this period and; and even a few mansions, like Simon Linz’s Prairie style home on the corner of Ervay Street and South Boulevard (which survives as the McGowan Funeral Home) and J. Ashford Hughes’ home, rose across from the City Park, like the specters of J. P. Morgan and Jay Gould roaring at the insolence and impudence of the picketing masses. The times had changed, however, and apartment houses, duplexes, and cottages were being erected in the gaps between the large estates; sometimes even the great houses themselves were ignominiously rented to boarders. With the expansion of downtown, the property also began to appeal to small businesses like laundries, saloons, restaurants, and repair shops — enterprises which traditionally cluster at the periphery of the business district.
Courtesy Dallas Rediscovered by William L. McDonald. Photo: Colonial Hill addition, looking West on Forest Ave. near S. Ervay St.