Trinity Heights: The Tallent Furniture Studio and The Sunshine Home
by Paula Bosse
Vermont & South Ewing… (click for larger image)
by Paula Bosse
The postcard image above shows a bird’s eye view of a few blocks in the Trinity Heights neighborhood of Oak Cliff, from the late 1940s. As I looked at it, I wondered a) what does this intersection look like now, b) what is that unlabeled building that looks like a jail behind the furniture store, and c) what was Tallent’s Furniture Studio?
Tallent’s Furniture Studio, owned by Raymond E. Tallent, was located at 815 Vermont Avenue.
Not only did it house a furniture store, but it also served as an office for Tallent’s real estate business. According to Tallent’s obituary, he came to Dallas in 1920 and started his real estate business five years later. Starting out, he’d’ve been happy to trade you property for diamonds. “What have you?”
The first mention I found for the furniture store is this Christmas ad from 1947.
Tallent died in January of 1950 at the age of 53. Both of his businesses continued after his death, and the furniture store was still going in the late 1960s.
So, nothing out of the ordinary — just a small business, like thousands of other small Dallas businesses. Probably the most interesting thing about Tallent was that he had the good taste to have that great promotional postcard made. That strange little building behind the store was a lot more interesting.
What was that building? The first time it popped up on a Sanborn map was 1922: it was identified as a “County Detention Home” (click for larger image).
1922 Sanborn map detail — see full page here
Despite its name, the “detention home” was not a correctional facility for juvenile delinquents, but it was a home for dependent children who had been made wards of Dallas County because of neglect or abandonment or because parents had died or were simply unable to care for them. This detention home was built in 1917 at 1545 South Ewing (“south of Oak Cliff”). During its construction in 1917, its roof collapsed, killing one of the workers.
Dallas Morning News, Apr. 13, 1917
The home was almost immediately overcrowded, and its superintendents were constantly scrambling for an increase in funding. Children, ranging in age from toddlers to teenagers, lived there as long as they needed — some for a few months, some for several years. They attended nearby schools, and even though they were wards of the court and were living in an institution, the people who ran the place tried to make it as home-like as possible. In January, 1934, the name of the county facility was changed to the much more cheerful “Sunshine Home.”
In 1950, the Sunshine Home received $165,000 in bond money for improvements and expansion, adding modern structures to the large campus but still retaining the original two-story red brick building built in 1917.
In 1975, the Dallas County Sunshine Home and the Girls’ Day Center merged, and the former Sunshine Home was renamed Cliff House.
In 2014, the 28,000-square-foot property on just under five acres was put up for sale, and in early 2015 plans for a charter elementary school were approved.
Below, a Google Earth image of the same view as the postcard featuring Tallent’s Furniture Studio, captured before the old Sunshine Home buildings had been demolished (click for larger image).
The view is remarkably similar to the one taken more than 65 years earlier. A little bleaker these days, perhaps, but certainly still recognizable.
Sources & Notes
Top postcard is from the Boston Public Library Tichnor Brothers Postcard Collection; it is viewable here.
Information on the plans for the KIPP Truth Academy submitted to the City of Dallas (with interesting illustrations/maps on pages 10 and 11) can be found in a PDF, here.
A recent Google Street View of this block of Vermont Avenue can be seen here. The Tallent furniture store occupied the building to the left of the Vermont Grocery.
The heart-tugging article “For All Loving Care Bestowed, Sunshine Home, Space Small, Needs Much to Cheer Children” (DMN, July 24, 1941) — written by popular Dallas Morning News columnist Paul Crume — describes daily life in the Sunshine Home and can be found in the Dallas Morning News archives.
A then-and-now comparison (click for larger image):
Copyright © 2015 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.
change in oak cliff is strange….because it is across the river it changes due to other investors who are not aware of the the slowness…..of its change, always has been…..slow…..and on some scales it is vast..but over all, this is a good story that tells of how that kind of change is …just there.
Thank you so much for finding this Paula. My wife and her brothers were in the home from 1943 until 1947. She went to a foster home but the boys remained a few years longer. Her oldest brother remained as an adult and worked there sometime.
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You’re welcome, Mr. Brann!
My father and his siblings were at the Sunshine Home in the 1930s. My father distinctly remembers both Mr. and Mrs. O A. Teal– (Mother Teal and Father Teal). Do you know any more about the Sunshine Home and the Teals?
Hi, Joe. If you live in Dallas, you might want to get a Dallas Public Library card in order to search the online Dallas Morning News archives (free) — there are lots of articles/mentions of the Sunshine Home and the Teals. You might be interested in the “heart-tugging” article I linked to at the bottom of the post, above. O. A. (Orin Allison) Teal (1874-1974) lived to be 100, outliving his wife, Mrs. Azelia Teal (1883-1972).
Here’s what appeared in the DMN when Mrs. Teal was appointed to run the facility (1932), along with a photo of her that appeared in her 1972 obituary: http://bit.ly/2mKKvQT
Unfortunately, I live in Pennsylvania, but thanks for the article. DO you have a date for that article?
I looked at the link and there’s a date embedded in it: Dec 31, 1932. Could that be the date? Anyway, if you know of any clear photos of the Sunshine Home when operating or of the Teals, it would thrill my father to have some to look at and add to his scrapbooks. (We took pictures of the grounds in 2013 when I took him on his last visit to TX, but current satellite photos and the article you posted show the building has since been torn down).
Spent many a day in that furniture store. My dad, Shirden Tallent and his brother ran it there and after it moved to Hampton Illinois shopping center. Thank you for putting this out there as a searchable. Becky Tallent Faulconer
Thanks, Becky. I’m glad you saw it.
My little sister dated Wally Tallent back in the 60s in Oak Cliff, her name was Dorinda Cowley.
Good to see our name Becky. Was searching around and found this article.
Live in New Mexico now. How about you@
Hi John, We’re in far North Tx, also have place in Red River. Marj has my contact info.
Will get a hold of Margie to get your info. How about your brother Jim??
John, Jim is still living in The Colony. It’s just the 2 of us left. Where you living in New Mexico!
My sisters and I were there around 1959. I would love to see a picture of bldg.
Thank you for sharing this wonderful history. A few residents have taken initiative in the last year or so to begin a grassroots revitalization effort. You can follow their news here under the name “Vermont Village”: https://www.facebook.com/Vermont-Village-482088561972561/
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I had a dear friend from grade school through hisg school who lived at The Sunshine Home, abd after graduating he went to work there. He at one time had polio and wore braces. His name was Donald Robinson. Graduated 1965 from South Oak Cliff with me. Always wonder whatever became of him, a wonderful young man.
Should read David Robinson or Robertson.
Hi my dad was Raymond tallents second grandson. I would like to point out that he didn’t pass away until the late 70’s.
Hi, Kendall. Raymond Edward Tallent (the man discussed in the post above) died on Jan. 2, 1950, aged 53 (he was born in 1896). According to his obituary (Dallas Morning News, Jan. 3, 1950), in addition to his wife, he was survived by two nieces and two nephews whom he reared — one of the nephews was *also* named Raymond E. Tallent (Raymond Elijah Tallent, 1918-1978), an obvious source of confusion.
Here is the elder Tallent’s grave marker: https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/40433059
Here is the younger Tallent’s grave marker: https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/175985148
Thank you for this article. My grandfather and many of his siblings lived here for a few years in the 30’s most likely. They’ve all passed away and the story of being in an orphanage came up and a cousin knew a little bit. Living in Dallas, it is fascinating to read about our family history and know the locations.
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My mom was a social worker in Dallas back in the mid to late 1950’s. I remember traveling with her on Sundays to visit The Sunshine Home. I was very young, four to five years old I’d guess. It made quite the impression on me as I vividly recall the friends there I had met having to remain when my mom took me back home. Knowing I had a home to return to while those kids did not is something I obviously will never forget. I still recall being in the back seat of the car, looking out the rear window as we departed. That building was so big and stately looking. It was always fun to arrive yet sad to leave.
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Thanks for commenting, Bill.
My brother (Leslie) were in the home for a short period of time in about 1953 I believe