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Newcomer’s Guide to Dallas

Why I Love Hollywood Heights-Santa Monica

It's a neighborhood that preserves its historic homes while fostering a unique community spirit.
By Ed Zahra |
Photography by Melody Asgari

Like most who discover Hollywood Heights-Santa Monica, for us it was love at first sight. My wife and I were among the handfuls of young urban pioneers who settled among the neighborhood’s unique homes, rolling hills, and endless canopy of trees in the 1970s. The big city lights are minutes away, but when you’re reading a book in the shade of a 100-year-old oak, the big city can seem light years distant.

This corner of Dallas came to be in the 1920s, as American soldiers returned from World War I with new perspectives on life — and architecture. Doughboys had been enchanted by the stone mansions and cottages they had encountered overseas, and this led to the overwhelming nationwide popularity of the Tudor style during the postwar years.

The cut-stone architectural embellishments found in Dallas — chimneys, arches, and facades — are truly a Texas accent to an otherwise European style. According to Virginia McAlester, Dallas’ own noted architectural historian, no other American neighborhood is home to a larger intact collection of stone-embellished brick Tudor cottages than is found in Hollywood Heights.

By 1977, the original deed restrictions that had kept the neighborhood’s architectural integrity intact had expired. In areas throughout Dallas, the history and personality of neighborhoods were being destroyed. In a city in which the majority of historic landmarks had been sacrificed to make room for newer glass-and-steel monuments, it became clear that preservation of the Hollywood neighborhood would be the responsibility of the neighbors who lived there. In September 1989, after countless hours of meetings with neighbors and work with the city of Dallas, Hollywood Heights-Santa Monica became the city’s third conservation district. This designation preserves all the protections of regular single-family zoning, restores many of the original deed restrictions established by original developer the Hollywood Company, and preserves the right of property owners to make appropriate restorations, renovations, and new construction consistent with their home’s original architectural style.

For more than 90 years, Hollywood Heights has been a wonderful home to thousands of Dallasites. Today the neighborhood continues to work and play together to foster a welcoming community. From small block parties to the annual Home Tour, Art in the Park, Chili Cook-off, Halloween, and Christmas celebrations, our neighborhood residents know how to have fun.

This year, instead of being a spectator for the Easter Parade, my wife and I teamed up with our friends and Vivian Avenue neighbors, Dr. Kelli Slate and David Nixon (Kelli has a dental practice in Lakewood) to decorate her 1964 Ford Thunderbird — named Thelma — to be one of the floats. I designed custom T-shirts and side “Show Us Your Teeth” banners for the car. We added stuffed rabbits, bunny ears, and (of course) adult beverages, and we were ready to roll.

Kinky Friedman, the parade’s master of ceremonies, stopped by for his official Thelma T-shirt, and we tossed mass quantities of candy to the crowd, as well as floss and toothbrushes to even things out. From the smiles on the faces young and old, as well of those on the volunteers and organizers (whose tireless energy is the hallmark of the residents living in Hollywood Heights), it was another good time had by all.

If you like the idea of a historic neighborhood in the center of Dallas with tree-lined streets of Tudor cottages and a true sense of community, come and visit. We feel sure that you’ll find the eclectic mix of people and environment to be an exceptional choice for urban living.

Ed Zahra and his wife Kathy moved into their 1930 Tudor home in Hollywood Heights in December 1978.

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