The Marsalis House: One of Oak Cliff’s “Most Conspicuous Architectural Landmarks”

by Paula Bosse

marsalis_sanitarium_oak-cliffThe fabulous Marsalis house in Oak Cliff (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

The Marsalis Sanitarium was a 15-bed private surgical and convalescent hospital in Oak Cliff, established in 1905 by Dr. J. H. Reuss and his partner, Dr. James H. Smart. Whether or not that building was actually pink (and I certainly hope that it was!), it was most definitely a show-stopper — one of those stunning structures that one doesn’t expect to see in and around Dallas because almost none of them still stand.

This grand home was built by Oak Cliff promoter and developer Thomas L. Marsalis in about 1889 as his personal residence at a reported cost of $65,000 (the equivalent of more than $1,750,000 in today’s money). It was located at what is now the southwest corner of Marsalis Avenue and Colorado Boulevard. The house was apparently never occupied. Supposedly, Marsalis’ wife did not want to live there because it was “too far from town” (!), but Marsalis’ financial distress throughout this time was probably more to blame.

Dallas Morning News

Marsalis’ insolvency resulted in the foreclosure of the house in the early 1890s and its ultimate sale at public auction in 1903. The winning bidder at that auction was Dr. Reuss, and the house became the Marsalis Sanitarium soon after.

1905 ad (click for larger image)

marsalis_sanitarium_dmn_010109DMN, Jan. 1, 1909

Worley’s City Directory, 1909

Sometime after 1909 it became a girls’ seminary, and then in 1913 it fell into private hands. On August 10, 1914 the poor house burned to the ground. The headlines the next day read:

“Oil Starts Oak Cliff Early Morning Fire; Fisher Asserts Some One Set Old Building Ablaze; Firemen Find Structure Completely Enveloped in Flames and Interior Roaring Furnace.”

marsalis-house-fire_dmn_081114DMN, Aug. 11, 1914

Such a sad ending for such a beautiful house!



Sources & Notes

1905 ad for the Marsalis Sanitarium from the December 1905 issue of the Texas State Journal of Medicine, found on the Portal to Texas History, here.

Black and white photograph of the Marsalis home in 1895 from the article in Legacies magazine, “Where Did Thomas L. Marsalis Go?” by James Barnes and Sharon Marsalis (which can be read here); photo from the collection of the Dallas Public Library.

For a biography of the family of Dr. Joseph H. Reuss, proprietor of the Marsalis Sanitarium, see here.

Click pictures for larger images.


Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.