Highland Park and River Oaks: The Origins of Garden Suburban Community Planning in Texas

By Sies, Mary Corbin | The Journal of Southern History, November 2015 | Go to article overview

Highland Park and River Oaks: The Origins of Garden Suburban Community Planning in Texas


Sies, Mary Corbin, The Journal of Southern History


Highland Park and River Oaks: The Origins of Garden Suburban Community Planning in Texas. By Cheryl Caldwell Ferguson. Roger Fullington Series in Architecture. (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2014. Pp. [xvi], 336. $70.00, ISBN 978-0-292-74836-1.)

In Highland Park and River Oaks: The Origins of Garden Suburban Community Planning in Texas, Cheryl Caldwell Ferguson describes "complex stories of the development of the Town of Highland Park and River Oaks ... [and] how these Texas suburban communities achieved such prestige, maintained their property values, became the most successful in their respective cities in the twentieth century, and still serve as ideal models for suburban communities in the state" (p. ix). Residents of Highland Park, developed by Edgar L. Flippen and Hugh E. Prather about four miles from downtown Dallas in 1906, and River Oaks, established by William and Michael Hogg and Hugh Potter near downtown Houston in 1924, will appreciate the detailed accounts of the development and persistence of these white affluent suburbs. Ferguson consults a rich range of primary sources to piece together her narrative: plans and drawings; developers' correspondence; pamphlets and advertisements; newspaper and magazine articles; city and suburban records; photographs; and historical society collections, archives, clipping files, and neighborhood newsletters. By placing her community histories in the context of broader Texas real estate trends and analyzing what enabled Highland Park and River Oaks to become islands of comprehensive planning in a state that often viewed planning with skepticism, Ferguson has produced a history that will also interest urban historians.

Careful readers of Highland Park and River Oaks will learn much about the characteristics of planned, exclusive suburbs in Texas during the interwar era. Drawing inspiration from exclusive neighborhoods like Maryland's Roland Park and California's Beverly Hills, the Texas formula included use of comprehensive planning, landscape aesthetics, parks and recreation, country clubs as social anchors, and lavish infrastructure. Ferguson painstakingly documents the details and costs of infrastructure for Highland Park and River Oaks. …

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