Colonial Hill is the oldest of the South Dallas Historic Districts, located just two miles from downtown Dallas. The Colonial Hill Historic District is bound by Central Expressway on the northeast and Interstate Highway 45 and South Lamar on the west and southwest. Pennsylvania Avenue is the northwestern boundary, while the southeastern side of Bannock Street forms the southeastern boundary.
A National Register survey identified Colonial Hill as “one of Dallas’ largest intact and most illustrative examples of the classic streetcar suburban pattern.” Development followed the installation of the Dallas Rapid Transit streetcar in 1888, which ran the length of the district on Colonial Avenue from Warren Street to its termination at Hatcher Street. One-story commercial buildings were built at the streetcar stops and residential housing was built on either side of Colonial Avenue. Blocks and lots vary in size due to the fact that the district is made up of more than 20 smaller additions.
The additions that make-up Colonial Hill were situated between the Trinity River and the Houston and Texas Central railroad tracks, giving it a long rectangular shape. The earliest additions date to the late 1880s, although most of the extant buildings are from the turn of the nineteenth century through the mid-1930s. Most of the earlier, or upper and middle parts of the district were destroyed by encroaching commercial development and the construction of the Julius Scheppes Freeway (1-45) and Central Expressway in 1956. Some of the middle and all of the lower parts of Colonial Hill are intact and significant for their local contributions to architecture and community planning and development.
The prevalent architecture in the neighborhood includes the popular styles of the 1910s, ‘20s, and ‘30s, namely Craftsman and Colonial Revival. Colonial Hill is unique in the fact that the neighborhood possesses a few earlier examples of large Victorian and Neoclassical houses. Colonial Hill has also been privy to new compatible construction designed in the Craftsman bungalow style. The introduction of new construction to replace severely deteriorated homes in the district has encouraged homeowners to continue to maintain and enhance their houses by way of landscaping and painting.
The neighborhood continues to retain its historic character. On a Sunday afternoon passersby still witness homeowners enjoying a Texas breeze on their porches, and groups of retirees reminiscing over a game of dominoes. Colonial Hill provides an important link to Dallas history and remains a prime example of urban planning based on the installation of the streetcar.
1National Register listing: Colonial Hill Historic District, Dallas, TX, 1995, section 8, p. 23.
Preservation Dallas Vertical Files, 2006.
Author: Sarah Sibley
Editor: Michael Hazel
Photographs by: Discover Dallas! Volunteers