Will Pollard neighborhood be Tyler’s next historic district?

In a meeting Tuesday night, Historic Tyler and residents discussed the history and significance of the Pollard neighborhood in south-central Tyler in hopes of naming Pollard a national historic district.

The neighborhood, built primarily in the 1950s and 60s, represents the largest mid-century modern neighborhood in the state according to the presenters. 

A historical marker commemorating Tomas G. Pollard Sr. stands in Pollard Park. Some neighborhood residents and Historic Tyler leaders seek designation as a national historical district. 📷 David Harrison

Recently, Historic Tyler has led the effort to have the neighborhood made a national historic district. The designation, given by the National Parks Service, would grant the area national recognition, bolster preservation efforts and provide formal designation of historic significance, Historic Tyler leaders said. They also said they believe the recognition could promote tourism and economic development in the city as a whole. 

The Pollard area still encapsulates many architectural characteristics of the post-World War II era, such as multiple home designs by a number of architects.

 The area’s namesake, Tomas G. Pollard Sr., a former member of the Texas Senate, briefly farmed on the land prior to its development. The venture only lasted from 1929 until 1932, when Pollard turned his attention from farming to real estate development and private legal practice, according to the Pollard Farm Survey. Despite this, many of the area’s pecan and peach trees, which attracted early residents to the area, are still standing.

The neighborhood paints a different picture than a contemporary conception of suburbia. During this era, each house was designed by a different architect. 

The historic designation could help untangle the web of designers that contribute to the area’s uniqueness, said the presenters from Historic Tyler. 

As it stands, the Texas Historical Commission and Historic Tyler are still revising their draft proposal. The borders of the proposed district and which houses to include are specifics not yet finalized. Currently, 915 are included. Additionally, separate designations could be considered by the city.

Doing so would potentially grant the neighborhood similar prestige as the nearby Azalea Historic District, an older neighborhood which attracts thousands to view its early 20th century homes and gardens. 

Lorraine Pierce, a Pollard resident, appeared optimistic about the designation.  “It’s cool to get the recognition,” she said.  She also hopes the designation will “encourage people to fix up their homes because some are a little neglected.”

Pierce offered criticism as well, saying local historic designations by the city, which could provide tax breaks, should be pursued alongside national recognition.

Her husband, Stuart Pierce, said he supports the recognition. “You don’t see houses like this anymore; they’re all cookie cutter,” he said.

Historic Tyler and the Texas Historical Commission are still finalizing revisions to their proposal. They expect to submit it to a state-wide panel of architects and historians in Spring of 2023. 

David A. Harrison, a Tyler native, is a senior at the University of Texas at Tyler studying political science. Born into a working-class family, Harrison has faced houslessness and poverty for most of his life. As a result, Harrison plans to devote his life to fighting socioeconomic inequality. After graduating December 2021, Harrison plans on pursuing a Ph.D. with the aim of analyzing policies, practices and histories in order to achieve economic, social, racial justice for all.

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