Originally a part of the large Gratiot League Square grant, by 1860 the Clifton area was comprised of portions of five large tracts owned by B. F. Buchanan, David W. Graham, Peter Lindell and the Christy and Cooper estates.
In the middle 1880's, subdividing for residential purposes began in three of these tracts. Earliest of these were Dillon's and Bradley's subdivisions in 1884. They were located in the southwestern corner of the Christy tract near Fyler Avenue and the Frisco tracks. They were soon followed by the adjacent Hume's and Quinette subdivisions in 1887-88. In the Buchanan tract, the first residential subdivision was Breezy Heights, platted near Arsenal Street and Ivanhoe Avenue in 1885. Adjoining plats were opened by Octavius C. McCune in 1886 and in Von Phul's Addition to Breezy Heights in 1887. McRee's Clifton Terrace was opened in 1886 on Tamm Avenue, north of Arsenal.
The southwestern corner of David W. Graham's Sulphur Spring tract was sold in 1885 to a group headed by a Methodist minister, Rev. Benjamin St. James Fry. They hired Julius Pitzman to survey and lay out Clifton Heights subdivision, with its curving streets and park. To the north of this, Ritter Place was recorded as a subdivision in 1887. It was bounded by Knox, Wilson and Famous Avenues, near the Frisco Railway. To the east of Ritter Place was Thomas Campbell's subdivision, platted in 1889.
Between 1890 and World War I, the Clifton area experienced considerable subdivision development. Among these were Smiley's subdivision at Arsenal and Jamieson in 1892 and Kirschbaum's Addition at Tamm and Scanlan in the same year. The original Clifton Heights subdivision was flanked on its eastern side by Eitman's Addition in 1890, Newberry's Addition in 1894 and Cliftondale in 1908. On its southern side, across Columbia Avenue, were Cramer's Addition in 1898, Hallock's Addition in 1900 and Wentworth in 1906. Further west, along the south side of Southwest Avenue, were the Buchanan Estate subdivision in 1901 and Liberty Heights in 1907.
The earliest subdivision in the vicinity of Arsenal and Watson was Grandview Place in 1912. Several new developments occurred in that area during the 1920's, including Seever's Clifton Addition and Hampton Terrace in 1923, Highland Park in 1924 and the large Arsenal-Watson Park, between Arsenal and Fyler, in 1925. Harry C. Vollmar's subdivision was opened at Sulphur and Elizabeth Avenues in 1925 and Franke Court was developed, off of Smiley Avenue west of Tamm, in 1926. There was not further activity until the large Clifton Hills subdivision, north of Southwest Avenue and west of Tamm, was platted in 1953-55.
The only park facilities in this area were originally private in character. Clifton Heights Park, in the center of the subdivision of that name, was provided as a recreational space for the residents in the development. This 4.40 acre park was dedicated to the City in 1912. A 1.25 acre addition to Clifton Heights Park was acquired by condemnation in the early 1920's. Frisco Park, on Clifton Avenue near the Frisco Railway, was privately used and was finally abandoned in later years. It was partly within the right-of-way for Highway 44.