The Birth of Belmont 1890
BELMONT became a suburban addition to the City of Dallas on May 1, 1890, when Colonel Henry Exall submitted the Belmont plat map.
He purchased the land for $100,000 approximately five weeks earlier on March 22, 1890. The property for “Belmont” consisted of a 160-acre parcel from the original Allen Beard survey and a 10-acre parcel from the original Robert Ray Survey. The purchase was financed by Adolphus Busch, the Anheuser Busch Brewing Company president, through the St. Louis Trust. Mr. Exall immediately hired Murphy and Bolanz to draw the plats for the new Belmont Addition. Murphy and Bolanz was a real estate development firm that drew most of the property maps for neighborhood additions in Dallas County. That same month, Exall made his first sale, 5701 and 5711 Belmont Ave. These lots sat just across from Bosque Bonita, the Walter Carruth residence on the opposite side of Greenville Ave, which later became the Hockaday School and in 2020 became The Alexan Apartments.
Exall’s vision for Belmont was grand. An April 1890 Dallas Morning News advertisement outlines his neighborhood’soriginal plans. Belmont Ave would be 90 ft wide with 36 ft in the center to be improved through macadamization. Five foot wide sidewalks and a parkway 22 ft wide on either side with grass, trees and only a short trip into the “business district” which we now know as Downtown. The marketing campaign, along with Henry Exall’s reputation, proved to be a successful combination. Many lots were sold to investors and home seekers within the first year.
The Panic of 1893
Henry Exall continued to make sales and improvements in Belmont, but when the panic of 1893 gripped the nation, it took a toll on Henry Exall’s investments and his Belmont Addition. On May 1, 1894, at 4 PM, all remaining unsold lots in Belmont were sold at the Dallas County Court Doors to the highest bidder for $20,000.
The remaining lots’ purchaser was no other than Exall’s lender and friend, Adolphus Busch. In the years between 1893 and 1906, Exall poured most of his energies into his Lomo Alto Farm, where he bred horses. There he worked to recover his losses and those of his depositors.
To date, we have found no records of Adolphus Busch improving the neighborhood, promoting the area, or selling lots in Belmont sales from 1894 – 1911. However, there are records during that same time, which show that Adolphus Busch continued to acquire lots in Belmont either by purchasing them or through repossession. Some accounts tell that the land became overgrown with native Bois d’Arc trees, sunflowers, and weeds while it sat mostly vacant for nearly 17 years.
A Restart in 1909
On May 20, 1909, Adolphus Busch and his wife Lilly Busch gave power of attorney with rights to convey the property to their son and heir, August Anheuser Busch.
On June 23, 1911, August sold and financed 478 lots of the first 624 lots in Belmont to the Belmont Land Company for $200,000.00, an equivalent of $5,454,757.89 in 2020’s value with a $40,000 down payment.
Ben T. Seay, a Belmont Addition property owner along with Rhodes S. Baker and Jeff D. Robinson, had incorporated The Belmont Land Company just days before they purchased the land.
The Belmont Land Company founders set out to finish the job that Henry Exall had started more than 20 years earlier. They completed many of the promised improvements. They offered affordable terms and launched an aggressive and creative marketing campaign that put Belmont back on the map. A second renaissance came in the early and mid-1920s when most of the “Belmont” homes were built. In the 1920s, Belmont became one of Dallas’ premier neighborhoods.
Tough Times in the Age of Disco
During the 1970s and 1980s, when the urban flight took place, many Belmont homes were left unoccupied or turned into rental properties. Some of the older homes were divided into rental units and appeared that Belmont might forever lose its charm.
Rebirth of Belmont
In the 1890s, Belmont was considered a bit too far from the “Business District,” but in the late 1980s and early 1990s, people saw its proximity to Downtown Dallas as an asset and began moving back in. Since then, the area has experienced a total rebirth. Today, many new homes have been built, and most older homes have undergone substantial renovation. Present-day Belmont remains a mix of single and multi-family residences, many of which exude the charm of East Dallas.
Preserving the Past, Looking to the Future
In 2004, Belmont became a Conservation District. A committed group of neighborhood residents formed it to preserve the unique character of the neighborhood. The Conservation District regulates residential construction and remodeling. The intent is to maintain the charm that makes Belmont special. The camaraderie that put together the Conservation District led to creating various neighborhood committees and social events that have strengthened the neighborhood and instilled a sense of community.
What is known by all who live or have ever lived in the Belmont Addition, is that once here, one is enchanted by its architecture and mature trees, pampered by the convenience of its location just three miles east of Downtown and within walking distance of unique restaurants and retailers. Belmont residents are highly diverse, and the neighborhood is highly social, with multiple neighborhood events each year designed to foster a friendly and family-oriented atmosphere.
What’s in A Name?
For many years, The Belmont Addition was believed to be named and developed by August Belmont Jr. August Belmont Jr. was the son of August Belmont. He was one of America’s first self-made millionaire and founder of the Belmont Stakes. This story’s origins can be traced to 1965 when a well-known Collin County historian Captain Roy F. Hall, responded to Ted Dealey’s column in the Dallas Morning News titled Diaper Days of Dallas.
The source of Mr. Hall’s information is anybody’s guess. Still, an exhaustive search of property records, books and archives has revealed that neither August Belmont Jr., nor the Caruth family were ever participants in the development of the neighborhood or even owned property in Belmont.
Meet The Players
Colonel Henry Exall
Exall, a native Virginian and Civil War Veteran, came to Texas by way of Kentucky in 1876 after losing his wife and son. He came to Texas searching for opportunities in the Cattle business. He soon became a Texas Civil leader helping Texas farmers adopt scientific farming methods to improve the soil, increased efficiencies, and yields. He was also a prominent cattleman, horse-breeder, banker, and developer. He is most famous for assembling the land that is Highland Park today, a division he planned to call Philadelphia Place after his mother’s birthplace. There he dammed Turtle Creek to create what is known today as Exall lake. He is also credited with building the North Texas Bank, the tallest “skyscraper” in Dallas at eight stories high, and presiding over the Texas State Fair in 1889. In 1892 (before the panic), Exall made perhaps his most important investment when he purchased a horse named Electrite (born in 1888), a son of Stanford’s legendary sire Electioneer. The latter is still considered the most magnificent horse of his era. Electrite lived up to his father’s reputation and played a significant role in helping Lomo Alto ascend to the nation’s horse farms’ highest ranks between 1892 and 1910. There he would build a local reputation for trotting horses, which won many a race at the Texas State Fair.
Murphy and Bolanz
Courtesy of the Dallas Public Library:
In 1874, John P. Murphy established a real estate development firm and started doing plats of every neighborhood addition in Dallas County. Charles F. Bolanz joined the firm in 1884, and together they produced a set of maps that are incredibly detailed and provide information that cannot be found anywhere else. The Murphy & Bolanz Company became the official mapmaker for the City of Dallas. In an ad placed in the 1914 Texas Almanac, they stated that they have been involved in nearly every land deal in Dallas County. They also claimed to have the most complete set of block books for Dallas County. The result of their efforts was a set of maps of each block in Dallas and of some of the surrounding suburban towns, including original townsite maps of most towns and communities in Dallas County. The Dallas Public Library owns 10 volumes of the Murphy & Bolanz addition and block books containing detailed maps of Dallas and its surrounding suburbs from the 1880s to the 1920s and an index.
Click here to learn more. https://dallaslibrary2.org/dallashistory/murphyandbolanz/about.php
Adolphus Busch (July 10, 1839 – October 10, 1913) was the German-born co-founder of Anheuser-Busch with his father-in-law, Eberhard Anheuser. He introduced numerous innovations, building the success of the company in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He became a philanthropist, using some of his wealth for education and humanitarian needs. The Adophus Hotel in Downtown Dallas is named for him.