More than any other development, Munger Place set the tone and provided the impetus for East Dallas’s growth in the first two decades of the twentieth century. In 1905, cotton gin manufacturer Robert S. Munger began selling lots in what he hoped would become one of the finest residential developments in the Southwest, Munger Place. The original Munger Place included twenty blocks on Swiss, Gaston, Junius, Worth, and Crutcher streets between Fitzhugh Avenue and Munger Boulevard—an area encompassing 140 acres. Wanting to create a “strictly high-class residence district,” Robert and his brother, Collett Munger, the Place’s manager, spared no expenses in preparing the one-time cotton field for sale and development. Before the first lot was sold, sidewalks were built, streets paved, shade trees planted, sewers and gas mains installed, electric street lights provided, and land graded for drainage. To attract the right social element, the developers adopted strict deed restrictions—the first in Texas—on the homes that were to be built. For example, the homes on Swiss Avenue, the most exclusive street in the development, had to be two stories in height, cost at least $10,000, and be located at least sixty feet from the front property line. Other streets in Munger Place had restrictions with slightly different variations.
Despite the ups and downs of the real estate market, Munger Place lots sold quickly. The development was so successful that the Munger brothers enlarged it three times: in 1910 Live Oak Street from Fitzhugh to Dumas was added; in 1914 lots on more modest Bryan Parkway were offered for sale; and in 1922 Bryan Parkway and Swiss Avenue were extended to La Vista Drive. As the Mungers had hoped, their careful planning and choice location—only minutes from the central business district by streetcar—created a neighborhood which attracted many of the city’s leading businessmen and social elite. Some of these Munger Place pioneers included department store owner W. A. Green; Jesse Padgitt, co-owner of the Padgitt Brothers Company, one of the oldest and largest leather and harness companies in the United States; Carrie Neiman, one of the founders of Neiman-Marcus; bakery owner Joseph Schepps; Ben H. Stephens, founder of the Magnolia Petroleum Company; Edward Titche, president of Titche-Goettinger; cotton magnate M. H. Wolfe; Dr. R. W. Baird, a founder and director of the Dallas Medical and Surgical Clinic; Bishop Joseph Lynch of the Catholic Diocese of Dallas; Rufus Higginbotham, founder of the dry goods firm of Higginbotham, Bailey, and Logan; James B. Cranfill, founder and editor of the Texas Baptist Standard; and George W. Aldredge, chairman of First National Bank of Dallas.
The success of Munger Place led to other development ventures in East Dallas. None was more successful than the Hann and Kendall development of Junius Heights, located just northeast of the Place. On the day Junius Heights opened in 1906, 340 lots out of 343 offered were sold. Land-hungry people had camped on many of the lots waiting for the sale to begin. The Lakewood Country Club, Dallas’s second oldest country club, also developed as a result of Munger Place. With the popularity of golf and country clubs on the rise, Collett Munger and George Aldredge founded the club in 1912 at Gaston Avenue and Prospect Street, in close proximity to the development. Another amenity that Munger Place residents enjoyed was nearby White Rock Lake. As Munger Place had done, the lake would act as a magnet, drawing developers and residents farther east.
White Rock Lake was built as a result of the serious drought that plagued Dallas from 1909 to 1912.
At this time, Dallasites bathed, drank, and watered their livestock from the city’s main water source, the Turtle Creek Reservoir, but the drought was so severe that the city turned off the water and started wagon delivery to residents. The city quickly initiated measures to ameliorate the problem. Individual water meters were installed in Dallas homes, replacing the flat fees charged customers before the drought, and White Rock Creek was dammed to bolster the city’s water resources. Municipal officials chose White Rock as the site because it had a slightly higher elevation than the city and, once the pumping station moved the water over the Junius Heights ridge, the land sloped downward to the Trinity. This slope assured the city of adequate water pressure to reach the tops of Dallas’s tallest buildings. Construction of the dam and pumping station began in March, 1910, and was completed in September, 1911, at a cost of $800,000. Moreover, the city wisely purchased the land surrounding the lake and, in 1923, built a road around the lake and named it Lawther Drive, in honor of Mayor Joe E. Lawther. Though White Rock Lake was “out in the country,” it soon became a popular spot for picnics, leisurely drives and water sports.
Courtesy Reminiscences: A Glimpse of Old East Dallas. Other early East Dallas History can be found here.