On August 20, 1999 the Charnwood Residential Historic District, Tyler’s first historic district, was officially listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Atop a gently sloping hill approximately one-half mile south of the Smith County Courthouse, the Charnwood Residential Historic District encompasses 12 blocks of late 19th and early 20th century residential development. Several land subdivisions conforming to a basic grid pattern comprise the district, which is bounded on the north by East Houston, on the east by South Oakland, East Wells and South Donnybrook, on the south by East Dobbs and on the west by Broadway.
The district’s historic buildings developed sporadically between about 1870 and 1950 on parcels of varying sizes and shapes, with single family residences and related outbuildings predominating. Landscape features such as low walls of stone, concrete or brick are found throughout the district and reinforce its historic character as do publicly funded infrastructure elements such as brick paved streets and a stone drainage channel. The district includes Tudor Revival, Classical Revival, Colonial Revival, Craftsman, Queen Anne, and Ranch style residences with brick veneer or wood siding. A few are expansive, architect-designed dwellings, but most were built by local carpenters and contractors for middle and working class families.
The district is significant for its architectural design and high levels of craftsmanship, and for the way it reflects community development patterns in Tyler between 1870 and 1950. The Charnwood Residential Historic District contains 208 properties that contribute to the historic character of the district, including residences, garages, servants’ quarters, garage apartments, duplexes, apartments, landscaping features, and brick streets. Of the 208 properties 111 are single family dwellings, duplexes or apartment buildings. The remainder are domestic auxiliary buildings, landscaping and infrastructure resources.
Though now considered part of the central city, the Charnwood neighborhood’s location below Front Street was known in the 19th century as South Tyler. The neighborhood’s roots date to the 1860s when the rural south edge of town included only scattered homesteads and the private Charnwood Institute on large parcels of several acres. By the late 1880s the area was evolving into a cohesive neighborhood of modest dwellings on parcels of seven or fewer acres. Within a decade portions of South Fannin, South Broadway and East Charnwood featured merchant class dwellings on tracts labeled “town lots” by the county tax assessor. Barns, sheds, domestic employees’ quarters and other buildings provided support for these residential properties. Development along Charnwood, Broadway, Fannin and Houston accelerated after 1900 as district residents subdivided their parcels to facilitate construction of modest one and two story single family dwellings. This trend gained momentum in the 1930s, when the East Texas Oil Boom created a housing shortage and neighborhood residents responded by constructing infill housing and new additions throughout the district. Garages and garage apartments replaced barns in this period as automobiles became more prevalent. By the end of World War II development began on the last large parcel of land in the neighborhood.
Throughout the district’s history development was shaped by a complex network of family, business and neighbor relationships, as well as investor and speculator efforts. The neighborhood continues to reflect this complex development history and contains the largest concentration of the oldest, most diverse, and best preserved properties in the city.