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Reviewed by:
  • Oak Cliff
  • Jennifer S. Lawrence
Oak Cliff. By Alan C. Elliott, Patricia K. Summey, and Gayla Brooks Kokel. Images of America Series. (Charleston, S.C.: Arcadia Publishing, 2009. Pp. 128. Illustrations. ISBN 9780738570686, $21.99 paper.)

Oak Cliff is part of Arcadia Publishing's Images of America series. As is customary in this series, the volume features numerous photographs documenting events, places, and people along with short bursts of text giving the reader brief historical background on the area. It is an addition to the more than seventy other works that deal with Texas locales available from this publisher.

Oak Cliff began as a small community prior to the Civil War along the south side of the Trinity River known as Hord's Ridge. Founded around the same time as its more famous northern neighbor across the river, Dallas, Oak Cliff grew steadily over the following decades. The community incorporated as a city in 1890, taking the new name of Oak Cliff—a name bestowed on it by developers. A lake, park, and hotel were soon built. Financial adversity followed later in the decade, and Oak Cliff was annexed by the city of Dallas in 1903. It has remained a suburb of Dallas ever since. In the twentieth century, Oak Cliff saw continued growth as new high schools, churches, restaurants, and businesses opened. It also faced an uncertain future as business closures in the last quarter of the twentieth century and the continued encroachment of Dallas threatened to erase what it viewed as its distinctive identity.

The volume is organized chronologically with chapters on the early history of the area, events in the early 1900s, the world wars and Great Depression, the postwar era, struggles through the 1970s, and the restoration efforts that began in Oak Cliff in the late twentieth century. The authors utilized donated photographs or images available at the Dallas Public Library. The stories included were obtained from interviews, but were fact-checked when possible.

The early chapters featuring the period when the physical separation from Dallas was most pronounced due to the small number of roads that crossed the Trinity River were the most interesting and provided the most focus on how "separate" Oak Cliff was from the larger city. The photos in these chapters also offer examples of the diverse interests of residents and the local influence of resident artist Frank Reaugh.

One of the noticeable items lacking in the work is photos of some of the historic or older homes that have been renovated by recent purchasers. Most of the chapter on restorations deals more with business revivals than the neighborhoods included in the chapter title. The later chapters also dwell slightly too much on the social activities of the local students. The book offers little historical analysis of [End Page 199] the events it mentions and little comparison to other neighborhoods throughout Dallas. This is to be expected, though, when considering the aims of the publishers and the authors.

The authors certainly met their goal of reviving the stories and images of Oak Cliff and making them available for others. The book retains the nostalgic flavor of residents telling the reader stories from their youth and how things used to be. It is recommended for those interested in local history, the history of the Metroplex, or suburbs in Texas.

Jennifer S. Lawrence
Tarrant County College


Additional Information

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pp. 199-200
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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