The City of Dallas purchased land to establish the first park north of downtown in 1913. The area chosen for the park was first settled by Jewish immigrants in the late 1800s who had left Eastern Europe. During this period the neighborhood was known as Goose Valley, Frogtown or Little Jerusalem. Living conditions were grim, but housing was inexpensive in an area of unpaved streets subject to frequent flooding. The park was formerly dedicated in 1915 and named Summit Play Park and included wading pools, tennis courts, and a baseball field. Dallas architectural firm Lang & Witchell designed a two-story field house for the park in the Mission Revival style with assembly rooms, baths, showers, a reading room, and a milk depot. The park quickly became a gathering place for Jewish immigrants. In 1927, the park was renamed Pike Park in honor of Edgar L. Pike, who served on the Dallas Park and Recreation Board from 1908-1919.
As Little Jerusalem flourished, prospering middle class Jewish families began to relocate to larger homes in other areas of Dallas. Concurrently, Mexican migrants (commonly referred to as colonists) began moving to the area surrounding Pike Park to escape the turmoil of the Mexican revolution. The neighborhood then became known as Little Mexico with the park becoming a central spot for celebrations of Mexican and American holidays.
In 1950, the upper floor of the field house was removed and the remaining building converted into club and recreation rooms. In 1956, the Dallas City Council approved federal funding for urban renewal in Little Mexico which included renovations to the recreation center, a lighted baseball field and expanded play areas. However, the renewal project also signaled the destruction of the vibrant historic neighborhood with the construction of the Dallas North Tollway in the late 1960s. The toll road sliced Little Mexico in half and impeded neighborhood access to Pike Park which caused user ship to decline. City officials considered closing it, but Anita N. Martinez, the first Mexican American elected to the Dallas City Council in 1969, made the survival and rehabilitation of Pike Park one of her first initiatives. Martinez regarded the park as, “the psychological heart of the Mexican American community in Dallas.” In 1978, the city renovated the building to its current form with an arcade of arched openings and a central Mission style parapet, and a red-tile roof. The swimming pool which had been in front of the building was removed and replaced by a brick plaza and a gazebo.
Today, the park grounds are maintained and used; however, the recreation center has been closed for years due to environmental and other non-code compliant issues. The Dallas Mexican American Historical League (DMAHL) has been working with the Dallas Park and Recreation Department to find a way to reopen the recreation center as a vital part of the history of the park and the surrounding community. Funding is the issue to make that happen and is needed before the building gets to the point where it is no longer feasible to be rehabilitated. The once vibrant community center sits silently, unused and overlooked waiting to be returned to its former glory.