THE “terminal merchants” who came with the railroads in 1872 not only added a business area to Dallas, they created a fashionable new residential neighborhood, for most of them chose to build their homes in “The Cedars.” This was a real estate development that lay southeast of the pee-railroad village and gained its name from the large number of cedars growing there. At the end of the eighties, the brothers Sanger, Philip and Alex, as befitted the “merchant princes” they were becoming, erected “mansions” for themselves in the Cedars. These were on the old Miller’s Ferry Road, by that time rechristened Ervay Street after the Mayor who had defied carpetbag rule in the state.
The two houses were within three blocks of each other, built of wood with spacious galleries and in their elaborate fret-saw decorations admirably satisfied the feeling for elegance of the time. The Alex Sanger residence was nearer to town and many years ago gave way to a hotel, but Philip Sanger’s home, where his son Eli lived for more than sixty years, remained to become the only nineteenth century home of impressive proportions left in the vastly changing city. In its ample grounds, it sat in a neighborhood that gradually became twilight and worse before business reclaimed it. Mrs. Eli Sanger wisely kept the original handsome furnishings just as she found them when she came to live there as a bride. A link to a vanished era of luxury, more and more extraordinary to come upon, the house was fondly regarded by Dallasans and was frequently the object of pilgrimage for visitors to the town.
One delightful touch out of its leisurely past was the silver whistle of Philip Sanger on the mantel in the back parlor. In the days when mule cars passed in front of the house, he used it to notify the driver to stop and wait for him — sometimes until he finished his lunch — a request that was made the easier to grant since Alex Sanger’s brother, Lehman, owned the lines.