By Coleman Hamptom, Baylor Museum Studies Student
Most Texans are familiar with the bumper car style of driving on I-35. Long stretches of smooth sailing and verdant views can quickly become what feels like a Nascar race with 18 wheelers and Corvettes jockeying for ideal position. The interstate’s span from our border with Mexico all the way to Canada is 1,695 miles. I drive that far in two weeks on my daily commute to DHV from Waco…and back. Everyone said I was crazy for choosing a summer internship in Dallas (which counts for six hours graduate credit at Baylor). I heard, “You should find something closer to Waco, man”, or, “I’d find somewhere to stay in Dallas if I were you.” My answer to the latter inquiry is simple; I want to be with my wife at each day’s end, even if it means a longer commute. A response to the first question is a bit more complex.
My first encounter with Dallas Heritage Village and the Cedars neighborhood came in 2013 while transcribing interviews for the Baylor University Institute for Oral History. I worked on interviews with three long time members of the Cedars neighborhood, and a visionary who saw a bright future for the area. Transcribing an interview is kind of like reading a book. The transcriptionist forms a mental picture of the places and people described in the interview. This might explain my delight when our Museum Studies grad class visited DHV a year and a half later. Without ever visiting the area, I felt a connection to Dallas Heritage Village and the Cedars.
Visiting DHV was like watching The Lord of the Rings films after reading the books several times. Some things were as I imagined, and some different. But as a whole, the two complimented one another. I could hear the voices of those who once played in City Park and went to school nearby, and imagined the people I had heard about going on with their daily routine in the neighborhood. The value of Dallas Heritage Village soon became a reality.
I knew about the damage to City Park and the Cedars wrought by I-30’s construction. The concept was abstract, like most visualizations. Upon our arrival, everything made sense. The City Park cutoff line is plainly visible, and the effect on the Cedars neighborhood starkly apparent. I imagined what could have become of City Park in the late 1960s. It might have turned into a strip shopping mall, or worse, an abandoned lot. Instead, a group of hard working, resilient women saved Dallas’s only surviving antebellum mansion, Millermore, and worked tirelessly to incorporate it into an educational historic site at City Park. In the following decades, volunteers, Dallas citizens, staff members, and many others, have dedicated themselves to making DHV what it is today. It is home to twenty-two rescued structures of historical importance, a place for community members to gather, and a park saved that could have been a park lost.
That’s why I decided to drive 800 miles per week, for ten weeks, to be a DHV intern. This is a place of value, and I wanted to be a part of something important.