Jul 14, 2022 - News

Celebrating Oak Cliff's French ties on Bastille Day

Just across the river from Oak Cliff, a tower named for a colony. Photo courtesy of Justin Terveen

Oak Cliff was once part of a short-lived French colony whose influence remains in Dallas.

Driving the news: Today is Bastille Day, which celebrates the 1789 storming of a military fortress in an uprising that helped fuel the French Revolution.

  • Bishop Arts District will host its annual Bastille on Bishop festival tonight, featuring live music, local vendors and performances.

Flashback: In the 1850s, a prominent democratic socialist from France decided to create a utopian-style colony in central Dallas County, which includes present-day Oak Cliff.

  • He named it La Réunion.
  • Run as a direct democracy, residents were expected to share the colony's profits based on the money and labor they contributed toward it.

The intrigue: By 1856, the colony grew to nearly 350 people, according to the Texas State Historical Association.

  • Settlers included the French, Swiss and Belgians.

Yes, but: The colony was formally dissolved in 1857 because of financial issues, undesirable weather and colonists' inability to properly farm the land.

The big picture: La Réunion has continued to influence Dallas despite its demise.

Worthy of your time: Bastille on Bishop is 5-10pm today.

  • It's one of the few events in Dallas where open container laws aren't usually enforced.
  • The celebration evolved out of a French woman's annual lawn parties.
  • She once told Texas Monthly that Oak Cliff's vibe is like a "little French village."

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