The Heart of Southside is more than a neighborhood convenient to Texas A&M University. It is home to the birth place of College Station in 1938 and currently a collection of neighborhoods eligible for the National Registry of Historic Places, as well as local Historic District and Neighborhood Conservation status, although no such recognition has yet to be obtained. While most homes in the Heart of Southside are not noted for their singular architectural contribution, there is a delightful commonality that combines to create an attractive, vibrant area to live. It is no coincidence that many find the Heart of Southside a charming and desireable place to live, permenantly, temporarily, or part-time. Aspects that can be attributed to this perception are invariably associated with qualities that foster a connection with community. Some of these common features are:
- modest scale of home (Less than 30' feet tall and 35% of the lot)
- sizeable lots greater than 8500 sq. feet
- inviting front porches
- open front yards
- garages and parking placed in back of the home
- large mature trees
This brings to mind the question often addressed by prospective homebuyers and preservations alike, “What is the Southside style?”
The development of Southside occurred most intensively between 1923 and 1960. Many of the winding roads and alleys close to Brison Park remain intact. Numerous old trees lining the small, narrow streets is a fine example of a pre-war automobile subdivision still remaining substantially intact.
According to an architecture survey conducted by Quimby-McCoy Preservation Architecture in 2008,
"The South Side neighborhood contains subdivisions ranging from those with rectilinear street grids with small residential lots to those with large picturesque lots with topographic variety, lush vegetation, and curving streets. The first subdivision to be platted in South Side was College Park in 1923. This subdivision was arranged around a dammed creek, which formed a lake. Later the lake was drained and became Dexter (now Brison) Park. The first houses in College Park were those of prominent citizens and Texas A&M University faculty members. As faculty housing was moved from campus, some of these houses made their way into College Park, and other areas of South Side. A map of the houses known to have been moved from the campus is shown in Appendix A, Exhibit 2. Following the success of College Park, the Oakwood subdivision was platted in 1932. Oakwood features many grand-scale houses in revivalist styles, with generous setbacks and treed lots. Many are excellent examples of their styles, and have been the home to prominent members of the Texas A&M faculty and the city of College Station. West of College Park is the Westpark subdivision, platted in 1940 and the W. M. Sparks subdivision, platted in 1949. Bordering Wellborn Road and containing the South Side shopping center, this subdivision contains more modest houses on rectilinear streets. The neighborhood is a cohesive group of houses of the immediate post-World War II building phase that occurred in College Station. The Southeast College Park (platted 1945), Woodson Village (platted 1959), South Knoll (platted 1954) and portions of the Holik’s and Leacrest (platted 1940) subdivisions are also cohesive representatives of their architectural period. These subdivisions contain good examples of Modern Period designs, including three types of Ranch style houses; as well as exceptional examples of the Populist Modern style. Some of the best examples of High-style Modern architecture in the region and state are located in The Knoll. This subdivision, platted in 1947, contains houses built by and for prominent architects of the time, including Ernest Langford, William Caudill, and Frank Lawyer.
Like several subdivisions in the Eastgate neighborhood, the integrity of several subdivisions in South Side have also been compromised by the loss of original buildings to new construction, the presence of vacant lots, and the poor condition of some houses. The subdivisions that have lost architectural integrity include Breezy Heights, Hrdlicka, McCulloch, and parts of the Holik’s and Leacrest subdivisions. The Dulaney subdivision contains newer houses built after 1970."
While most homes in the Heart of Southside are not noted for their singular architectural contribution, there is a delightful commonality that combine to create an attractive vibrant neighborhood. Some of those common features are:
COMMUNITY Walkable streets, front porches and cars in back seemed ideal to the pre-war planners and builders, when people, not cars dominated the streets. Unfortunately, changes in automobile use have changed the aesthetic patterns of the original Southside but not the spirit. This spirit of community still thrives today as residents show their support for a small local school, slow streets, and neighborhood gatherings in Brison Park.
SCALE Most original homes in Southside are similar in size and height on similar sized lots. While originally economically driven, that size and scale are valued today. There is attractiveness to the smaller scale and homebuyers are drawn to it. Speculators are not.
SETBACK Most homes are setback at least 25' feet from the street and a contextual setback requirement is in place. The minimum lot size is currently 8500 sq feet.
MATERIALS Most of the homes in Southside are wood construction with brick or wood drop-siding exterior walls. Most homes are pier and beam giving them a slight elevation from the street. Today, well done additions, remodels and new construction tend to have that same sense of materiality. While the use of cement siding boards is accepted, the use of stone is generally discouraged, as the traditional/original homes were built of wood and/or brick.
So again, “What is Southside style?” It is a collection of similarly sized one or two-story homes placed on their lots in a similar fashion. 8500 sq ft or greater sized lots and 25’ foot front setbacks dominate the area. Most homes are less than 30 feet tall and take up approximately 35% of the lot they sit on. The buildings are knit together by their similar shape, size, method of construction, detail and sense of community. Varied in style but similar in scale, they encourage a walkable neighborhood where you should not be surprised to hear a hello as you pass by.