Silk Stocking Row
A Walk on Oak Street
The city fathers probably did not expect much of the dusty road they named Oak St. in 1857, but the history of Denton is recorded there in architecture.
In 1857 Denton was barely one year old and rough and raw as any frontier town could be. With the help of barbed wire and railroads, Denton grew steadily. Rail lines supplied goods, markets and comparatively quick communication. Denton was suddenly linked to major cities in a way unimaginable in "wagon days"." Farmland was profitably exploited for the first time, and the exchange of merchandise and cash boosted the business community.
Prospering merchants proudly displayed their newfound wealth in the design of their . Impressiveness became the keynote and townsfolk settled on Oak Street's "Silk Stocking Row."
Originally, East Oak was the site of many notable homes, though only a few survive today. These remaining buildings are fine examples of Victorian cottages with generous porches, jigsaws work and tall narrow windows. They were a natural evolution of the simple frame or "East Texas" homes built by the earliest settlers. As the town grew, wealthy local men built their homes on Oak Street, until the street's western section also was the site of beautiful structures.
From 1857 to World War I's beginning in 1917, two major architectural styles-- Victorian and Classical Revival-- dominated Denton's early home construction. Victorian style and variations, Gothic, French and Italianate, influenced building 'til late in the century. Sometimes belittled as fussy and overblown, Victorian architecture reflected a time not given to understatement. Talented carpenters, eager to show their skills with the newly designed jigsaws and power tools, provided architectural frosting for the cake. Gingerbread trim became a carpenter's folk art.
Ideally a man's home reflected his status and accomplishments. The homes on Oak Street proudly announced that their families "had arrived," and Silk Stocking Row was known throughout the community. Pride and envy together coined the term, but for years it was synonymous with elegance and beauty which are rare today.
Published by the NTSU Historical Collection 1973
Text by Linda Lavender
Illustrations by Shari Burns