By Judy Alter
Berkeley Place offers inner city living combining the best of urban life and a small-town atmosphere. Next year, both the Berkeley Place and Lily B. Clayton Elementary School, will celebrate centennial anniversaries. That makes it a good time to talk about why I love living here.
The school is the flagship for the neighborhood. Families often choose Berkeley so that their children can go to “Sweet Lily B.,” as we call it. The elementary school opened in 1922 as a four-room schoolhouse, and it was enlarged in 1934 with an addition designed for children. Exterior bas relief plaques and interior tiles depict nursery rhymes, and a fishpond in the kindergarten room still fascinates youngsters. Today, the school — with over 400 students — retains the warm personal atmosphere of an older school. Students learn in sunny classrooms, play in shaded courtyards and on inviting terraces, and strut their stuff in a wonderful auditorium with built-in wooden seats and tall, arched windows.
Annexed by the city in 1922, Berkeley Place is convenient to downtown, within easy distance of the hospital district and the restaurants of Magnolia Avenue. It is adjacent to Forest Park and the Fort Worth Zoo, and TCU sits just another mile or two to the southwest. The official boundaries are Park Place to the north, the railroad tracks at Eighth Avenue to the east, Ward Parkway on the south, and Rockridge Terrace to the west.
In the early 1900s, the area was a dairy and grain farm belonging to William Joseph Rogers. A development company acquired the land, sold a portion to a railroad company, and the ravine to the west, deemed a “wild and worthless area,” to the city. Forest Park and the zoo now occupy that land. Before development, Rogers’ property was the last farm within the city limits.
Berkeley homes are a mix of modest and grand in several styles. Single-story brick homes mix with larger two-story homes, and a classic red-brick Craftsman may sit next to a Mediterranean stucco dwelling. Houses generally fit the early 20th century feel of the neighborhood without any stark modern architecture. Several notable landmarks grace the neighborhood — the stone gates off Forest Park Boulevard marking the entrance to Forest Park were built in 1917 and rebuilt by the Berkeley Place Association in 1980. Just beyond them is the 12 story 1927 Forest Park Apartments, the city’s first skyscraper.
The remodeled Rogers’ farmhouse still sits on Warner Road, a two-story brick house that was once home to Lee “Pappy” O’Daniel of Light Crust Doughboy fame and later governor of Texas. Around the corner on Glenco Terrace is a low, ranch style house, one of the few remaining homes designed by pioneer woman architect Barbara Friedman in the 1930’s and 1940’s, before the era of ranch houses and when women were not generally accepted as architects.
Within the neighborhood proper, there are few commercial properties, but one of the earliest cafés, Harry’s Place, was located on Park Place just east of the railroad tracks. Today it is the Old Neighborhood Grill, one of a small cluster of restaurants that includes Chadra and Esperanza’s. Enchiladas Olé, Macaluso’s Italian Restaurant, The Greek House, and Tommy’s Hamburgers are at the south end of the neighborhood. All are within walking distance for most neighbors.
Buildings, houses and businesses alone cannot define a neighborhood. People are what make Berkeley a wonderful neighborhood. Residents are out walking, jogging, or riding bikes at all hours of the day, and no one is ever too busy to stop and say hello. We haven’t kept count, but I bet our neighborhood e-mail list has an unmatched record of reuniting lost pets with their families, finding new homes for old furniture, and keeping neighbors up to date. Our active neighborhood association plans several activities throughout the year — an Easter egg hunt, pumpkin painting for Halloween, Santa Claus in the park, and a Fourth of July parade. Berkeley joins with adjacent Mistletoe Heights for a pool party each summer and spring and fall garage sales. Obviously, we are all anxious about the fate of the Forest Park Pool.
Because many families have young children, kids are the focus of most of our events. At Christmas, volunteers get together to assemble gift baskets for the elderly and any shut-ins and, in a new tradition, the BPA invites us to an adults only annual dinner. This year, 125 people gathered in Joe and Mary Dulle’s yard for an al fresco feast from Enchiladas Olé with good food, good music and great people. BPA publishes a monthly newsletter with plenty of pictures of events, good and sad news about neighbors, articles of interest, even recipes and restaurant reviews. One more way that Berkeley brings residents together as a community.
For me, Berkeley defines the word neighborhood.
Judy Alter, 83, is a mystery novel author.
Census tract 1043
Total population: 6,322
Female: 53% | Male: 47%
80 and older: 1%
No degree: 10%
High school: 18%
Some college: 11%
Bachelor’s degree: 36%
Click on the link to view the schools’ Texas Education Agency ratings: