Driving under a canopy of oaks and pecans that graces the parkway, a visitor to the M Streets, today, might pause to rethink the original meaning of suburb. In the 1920's, Greenland Hills, now commonly known as the M Streets, represented a conscious attempt to create a quality residential development on the fringe of Dallas. Built on rolling hills, this plan incorporated strict architectural guidelines and well-conceived landscaping. This careful thought has culminated in fully grown trees, picturesque streets and the same pleasant environment that continues to attract, and retain, residents who appreciate the charm of this historic neighborhood. In fact, many residents have lived in Greenland Hills for years and, when faced with larger home needs, have chosen to expand their existing home or purchase a nearby, larger home in order to stay in the neighborhood.
Unlike the surrounding Belmont and Vickery Place neighborhoods -- whose development took place in distinct phases, with larger homes first and smaller, less expensive infill later -- Greenland Hills was planned and developed all at once. In 1923, when Dallas' boundary ended at McCommas Avenue, brothers Frank and Fletcher McNeny bought, platted and subdivided 98 acres of the Bennett farm creating the Greenland Hills development. The McNenys built streets and sewers, and then parceled out the land to individual builders. Despite the Great Depression, the houses proved popular to young professionals who could not afford the more opulent homes in Highland Park and Munger Place, which were developed only a few years before Greenland Hills. Located between the Houston & Texas Central railroad tracks (later the route of Central Expressway) and the Interurban rail line on nearby Matilda Street, Greenland Hills was well-served with transportation options to carry residents downtown to work.
Though public transportation was plentiful, more than any other single factor, the automobile dictated the layout and appearance of Greenland Hills. The opportunity to build homes on larger lots (Greenland Hills' lots are between 50 & 60 feet wide - large for the 1920's) was made possible by the automobile, in that homes could be built further away from the city center as neighborhoods were no longer dependent upon being within walking distance from public transportation. Garages also became part of the building landscape - detached, and built at the rear of the lot as early automobiles were considered a fire hazard.
Although the houses were not all built by the same builder, they all seem to be variations on a theme: Tudor-style versions of English cottages. In house after house are seen distinct high-gabled roofs, leaded-glass windows, intriguing stonework, large masonry chimneys, carved columns and other scaled-down, castle-like features. The architectural style of the neighborhood was influenced by the development of brick veneering which was developed after World War I. This technique went hand-in-hand with the demand for new styles reflecting the diversity of European and English styles seen by servicemen during the war. Greenland Hills builders chose historical revival styles for their houses reinforcing the romantic imaginations of homebuyers who were exposed to exotic locales and interesting architecture in the movies and other popular forms of entertainment.
Despite their planned development ancestry, each home possesses distinct facades and interiors replete with alcoves, mantels, ceramic tile work, hardwood floors and stained or leaded glass windows. The passage of a conservation district ordinance in 2002, guiding future renovation and construction, ensures that Greenland Hills will continue to represent one of Dallas' most enduring and uncluttered districts in terms of architectural continuity.
--thanks to Suzanne Cabral for much of the historical information contained here