For Sale: A 1937 Look at PWA "Low-Rent Housing Project" Off Maple That Still Stands

It's been a long while since we've looked at a historic photo of the city for sale on eBay, and since there are just two days left in the auction, we'd best hustle. Besides, this is an intriguing offering: a beautiful, expansive aerial look-see at Cedar Springs Place when the complex was built in 1937 on Lucas Drive, just off Maple Avenue -- only a few blocks away from Unfair Park HQ. But, of course, it wasn't just another apartment complex:

Per Jay Henry's Architecture in Texas 1895-1945 , it was the first Public Works Administration housing project west of the Mississippi, and was designed by several architects, with Walter C. Sharp taking lead. (The Dallas architect was also responsible in part for the Moorland YMCA that now houses the Dallas Black Dance Theater, the historically designated J.L. Long Middle School and a little something in Fair Park known as the Hall of State, a collaboration with the likes of Mark Lemmon, Roscoe DeWitt, Marion Fooshee, James Cheek and other revered designers of Dallas.)

As Henry wrote in his history:

Cedar Springs Place conforms to modern planning theories of the 1930s; it was influenced by the Garden City movement and by the 1920's housing in Germany, which had been warmly endorsed by Catherine Bauer in her 1934 treatise Modern Housing. The designs for both Garden City and German housing stressed the concept of treating the pedestrian superblock as park land, restricting vehicular access to the perimeter, and placing housing units to obtain desirable exposure to sunlight.
According to a survey of government-built projects between '33 and '39, the 598-rooms,181-units Cedar Springs Place was a bargain, constructed on 22 acres at the cost of $945,900, which included land acquisition -- or "$1,580 a room."

Per the wrap-up:

The average shelter rent, including water, is computed at

$6.77 a room. The average actual rent paid is $7.92 a room per month, which includes all charges for shelter, heat, hot and cold water, electricity for light and refrigeration, and gas for cooking. The date of first occupancy was September 18, 1937.

And according to PWA housing division district manager James Haile in a Dallas Times Herald story at the time:
"Every unit is physically completed, and all ranges, refrigerators and window shades have been installed. Only the landscaping, much of which will have to be done during the cooler months, remained incomplete."
But three years ago, when writing his book Long-Range Public Investment: The Forgotten Legacy of the New Deal, Arizona State University's Robert Leighninger pointed out that the PWA project still stands. Indeed: Having been expanded in '42 and updated in '89 and '95 it remains a Dallas Housing Authority property.

KEEP THE DALLAS OBSERVER FREE... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky