Captain William Gaston
Peak’s Suburban Addition is the earliest developed portion of East Dallas as well as its oldest residential neighborhood. Some claim it is older than the city of Dallas itself, which was granted a town charter in 1856. Our neighborhood, Peak’s Suburban Addition, began with the large estate Colonel Jefferson Peak built in 1855 on the corner of Worth and Peak Streets. This house was the first brick house in Dallas. Peak was a major landowner who at one time owned all of the land from Elm to Capital and Carroll to Haskell. Major East Dallas streets still bear Peak’s name and those of his children: Junius, Worth, Victor, and Carroll.
After the Civil War, Captain William Gaston, a banker and land developer, came to East Dallas, establishing a 400-acre estate along Swiss Avenue and purchasing large tracts of land in East and South Dallas. Gaston donated the land for the State Fair and promoted its growth. He was also instrumental in moving the railroads east, away from Dallas and closer to his own land holdings, further promoting development in the East. Peak, Gaston, and other landowners soon began subdividing their vast estates in an effort to promote development, to diminish their own isolation, and later, to capitalize on a housing shortage once people began moving to East Dallas. East Dallas was originally hilly and swampy, which at first delayed large scale residential construction. Once the ravines and bogs were filled in, however, the neighborhood began to develop more rapidly. By the late 1880s, East Dallas was considered the most luxurious place to live in Dallas County. Ninety percent of its houses had running water pumped from deep wells. The main thoroughfares were well maintained, and a speed limit of 18 miles per hour was set to slow down swift horses. In the latter part of the century, a proliferation of streetcar lines also aided the development of East Dallas.
East Dallas suffered a downturn in development as the result of the national depression in the mid 1890s. A decade later, however, the economy of East Dallas picked up again, and a resurgence of residential building in the area followed. Many buildings that grace our neighborhood today were constructed during this time: Davy Crockett Elementary School on Carroll Avenue (1903), Grace United Methodist Church at Junius and Haskell (1903), East Dallas Christian Church on Peak (1905), and the Neo-Classical mansion (now the Schule house) at the corner of Peak and Swiss. In the first quarter of the century, the population of Peak’s Suburban Addition and adjacent neighborhoods grew tremendously as many old estates and farmlands were subdivided for new residences.
As a result of the years of steady development, the architectural styles of the homes in the neighborhood span several decades, creating diversity in both design and size of residences and civic buildings. Craftsman, Prairie, Classical Revival, Queen Anne and other Victorian styles are all represented in Peak’s Suburban Addition.