Waking Up Every Day To an Unimpeded View of Lake Cliff Park
by Paula Bosse
by Paula Bosse
I saw this postcard of a row of houses on East Fifth Street in Oak Cliff and wondered if the house with the red roof and the low stone wall was still standing. Happily, it is. With a little digging, I discovered that the house at 320 E. Fifth Street was built in 1922 or very, very early 1923 for Frank Rogers, one of Dallas’ top photographers. A photographer would want to live with a beautiful view, and he certainly had it there — Lake Cliff Park was right across the street. (The artist Frank Reaugh also lived on East Fifth, a block or two to the west.) Frank Rogers (1878-1961) lived in the house he built at the corner of East Fifth and North Denver until his death at the age of 82.
It appears that Rogers bought the property in the survey area known as Robinson’s Park Place in December of 1920 for $8,000. The address does not exist until his house is built — it shows up for the first time in the 1923 city directory. The 1922 Sanborn map (see it here) shows the corner lot empty — as well as most of the rest of the lots along East Fifth between North Crawford and North Denver.
Here are a few bits and pieces of random information from a search on the address. In 1933, Rogers’ German Shepherd got loose. That park would have been an absolute paradise for a dog on the lam.
Sept. 2, 1933
And in 1936, for some reason Rogers was selling a “Nubian milch goat,” a friendly source of milk which was, presumably, kept on the property. Was it being sold at the behest of neighbors? The publication Milch Goat Dairy (1917) informs us that “no member of the goat family is more peaceful or gentle than the Nubian, and while the bucks of this breed have the same odor that all goat bucks have, the odor is far less in this breed.” Still. The other well-heeled neighbors might have had a few goat-related issues.
Nov. 17, 1936
There was a room or small apartment at the rear of the house, and directories show that (at least through the ’20s) there was an ever-changing roster of lodgers who lived there — every year a different name was listed. They were most likely employees. In 1929, the occupant was J. W. McCrimon/McCrimmon, who may have been the same person who, as a minor in 1922, was accused of wounding another minor with a shotgun.
Dallas Morning News, Aug. 29, 1922
Frank Rogers began his career as a newspaper photographer who later ran his own photography studio with his son, Norman. He preferred commercial jobs to bread-and-butter studio portraiture, though he did both. Whatever kind of job he was doing, he preferred to use flash powder when he could, a practice which caused several injuries (and even fires!) over the years.
A news article in 1945 described one such incident: during a commissioned job in which he was taking hundreds of employee photographs for a large company, his flash-powder gun exploded and he was “seriously burned on the hands and face. His spectacles, physicians told him, probably saved his eyesight” (DMN, Feb. 10, 1945).
And here he is in those spectacles:
Here’s another photo of the happy-looking photographer, posing with his camera and the potentially incendiary accoutrement.
But back to the house. Here it is today.
And another view, this time with the front of the house visible.
If I had access to flash powder, I’d go out today and take an extremely well-lit photo of an old Dallas building (and hope I’d survive the experience) — as a nod to Frank Rogers, his cool house, and all the wonderful photos of Dallas he took in the first half of the 20th century. Thanks, Frank!
Sources & Notes
Postcard is from eBay.
Frank Rogers was a busy man. If you’re interested in Dallas history (and I’m guessing you are if you’re reading a Dallas history blog), you’ve probably seen dozens and dozens (and dozens) of his photos without even knowing it. The Frank Rogers Collection is housed at the Dallas Public Library. I’ve used a few of his photos in previous posts — one of my favorites is his view of the Akard Street Canyon, here.
Another photo of the house can be seen in the 1980 photo below, from the Texas Historical Commission Historical Resources Survey, via the Portal to Texas History, here.
Take a tour of the Lake Cliff Park area via Google Street View, here.
And finally, here’s where Frank’s house is, marked in red.
Copyright © 2015 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.