The Miller-Stemmons National Register of Historic Places Historic District is located in the heart of Oak Cliff and is one of the oldest neighborhoods in that area. After the annexation of the City of Oak Cliff in 1903 by the City of Dallas, Leslie A. Stemmons and Thomas S. Miller, Jr. developed what became the Miller Stemmons Addition of more than 200 buildings. The development consisted primarily of one and two-story single-family residential buildings dating from 1910 to the late 1930s with 1920s multi-family apartment buildings mixed in. The buildings are primarily wood frame or brick and reflect the popular styles of the day, including many bungalows and four-square designs.
The development is roughly bounded by West Davis Street on the south, Neches Street on the north, Elsbeth Street on the east and Woodlawn Avenue on the west. It was originally promoted as an affluent neighborhood with more substantial houses constructed on Bishop Avenue, which was particularly popular due to its proximity to the streetcar line. The south end of Bishop Avenue was anchored by a brick fire station. Prominent doctors, lawyers, and business leaders built many of the houses in the district.
As the Bishop Arts District has grown in popularity it has brought increased development pressure for the close by Miller-Stemmons District. Even though it has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1994 it is not afforded the protection of being a City of Dallas Landmark District. In 2010, Bishop and Davis were heavily up zoned for more intensive development. A maximum height of 38 feet (or 3 stories plus an attic) is now allowed along Bishop Avenue, with mixed-use buildings being allowed to go higher. Above ground parking structures are also allowed along with remote parking lots. The historic structures are typically on 50-foot-wide lots; however, lots may now be combined to 150-foot-wide lots encouraging larger scale development and new out of place 3 ½ story buildings. Some new construction has been compatible while some has not. Several new buildings on Bishop have been constructed with a reduced front yard setback and a much larger scale than the historic homes surrounding it which disrupts the rhythm of the historic block-face.
New large scale development is being constructed along Davis Street and Zang Boulevard which will only increase pressure on the Miller-Stemmons neighborhood with developers wanting to replace historic houses with denser development on the lots. Recent demolitions have occurred on Elsbeth Street, Madison Avenue and Bishop Avenue and there will undoubtedly be more in the future as developers look for opportunities.
Unfortunately, the character of the Miller-Stemmons District is changing with more intensive zoning and encroaching development. That pressure will only put the historic nature of the neighborhood at increased risk. The only way to protect the neighborhood’s character is to establish a City of Dallas Historic District or Conservation District.