About the Douglas Newby Architecturally Significant Homes Website

A huge thank you to my clients who have selected me to represent them when buying or selling a home, and to my many clients and friends who have recommended me to their friends, neighbors and associates. These generous people who have a passion for Dallas, neighborhoods, architecture and homes have, in effect, financed this website through their patronage.

Douglas Newby

Philanthropic Inspiration

The origin of this website came from a philanthropic inspiration. I did not have the resources to build a museum, a bridge or a university stadium, but I felt I could contribute to Dallas in a meaningful way by creating a website. The inspiration for this website came in the mid-1990s when the internet was just moving into a more public domain. Virtually no real estate agent had a website then and the concept of sharing real estate information with the public was counterintuitive. In the 1990s Dallas still had MLS books that could not be shared even with a realtor’s client. So it really was a counterintuitive idea to share so openly information that historically would have been held in-house, especially for a very private person like me.

I first realized this when Jamiel and Adriana Akhtar, who were newly engaged, called me.  Jamiel, a young partner with HKS, said that he and Adriana wanted to meet with me to discuss representing them purchasing their first home.  They said the reason they contacted me was because I had a website and they wanted to work with someone with an internet presence.  This began a business relationship in which I helped them buy and sell a home in Northern Hills, in Turtle Creek Park, and then ultimately an estate home on one of my favorite streets in Preston Hollow where they have raised their children.

SMU Press

SMU Press had agreed to publish a book, Dallas, 50 Significant Homes, that I was in the process of writing and I had an architectural photographer take all the photographs for the homes to be included. The book cover had been designed along with some of the book chapters. The funding for the book was well on its way, including a generous donation from Margaret McDermott and the McDermott Foundation. Ten years earlier, I had written and produced a book for the Historic Preservation League, A Guide to the Older Neighborhoods of Dallas. This book, published in 1986 for the Sesquicentennial, was a real success, it was number two on the Dallas non-fiction bestseller list. However, as the internet was emerging, I thought if I could publish these homes and the information about them on my website, while it may not be as prestigious as an elegant coffee table book, it could bring more attention to the homes, architecture and architects than a book.

The Website Was a Good Decision

It turned out to be a good decision. The money and time I would have spent on a book beautifully designed and printed in Hong Kong would have been gorgeous and informative. If it was widely popular, it might have sold 10,000 copies in Dallas. But my bet on the internet turned out to be the better choice as, eventually, I had 20,000 unique visitors to my website every month. With every real estate fee I earned representing clients, I was able to reinvest a good portion of that in hiring architectural photographers to photograph homes and web developers to create a platform for me to write about neighborhoods, architects, homes and the history of Dallas.

The Architecturally Significant Website Became Immensely Rewarding

My efforts with and investment in the Architecturally Significant website became immensely rewarding when people I just met said they had spent much time on my website learning about Dallas. I cannot begin to tell you how many people have mentioned they found their architect from my website. In the early days of the internet, architects did not even have websites and, furthermore, the past generation of architects had been taught not to advertise. I enjoyed making architects more accessible to those who desired to build a house. For people who have never used an architect before, it can be an intimidating experience to begin the process to find one. Before the internet, unless you grew up in an architect-designed home or had a friend who used an architect, how would you begin to find one, much less one you would enjoy working with and reflect your aesthetic.

Today, my effort to bring attention to the best Dallas architects continues. If one does a Google search for “Dallas architects,” my Douglas Newby Architecturally Significant Homes website comes up first in search results, even higher than the website of the Dallas Chapter of the American Institute of Architects.

A Guide to the Older Neighborhoods of Dallas

Dallas best-selling nonfiction book, A Guide to the Older Neighborhoods of Dallas, unveiled on the Texas Sesquicentennial March 2, 1986.
A Guide to the Older Neighborhoods of Dallas was written by Douglas Newby. As chair of the HPL neighborhood book committee, Douglas Newby also produced the book and was a major underwriter.

Having initiated, wrote and produced A Guide to the Older Neighborhoods of Dallas, I knew there was great interest in neighborhoods, their origins and history. Also, as a real estate broker, I came to recognize that when a neighborhood has a strong identity, a formal name and specific boundaries, the homes within the neighborhood became more valuable.

Original Munger Place book was reproduced by Douglas Newby in 1980
Original Munger Place book was reproduced by Douglas Newby in 1980

Munger Place

My first experience with boosting value for a neighborhood by identifying it was with Munger Place. Munger Place was a downtrodden, forgotten, unnamed neighborhood. By burnishing its identify with its proper name, its origin, history and potential future, Munger Place began to thrive.

Turtle Creek Park

Another good example of a neighborhood where the perception changed by identifying it was Turtle Creek Park. At the time, this was another unnamed neighborhood where one of my favorite friends and clients, James Shinn, the Dallas Director of International Affairs, and his wife, Patricia, lived. They had worked in the diplomatic corps and lived in glorious cities around the world and loved this small 33-home neighborhood of hills and curving streets framed by Rock Creek, Turtle Creek and the Katy Trail. It was not in Highland Park, so the real estate community greatly discounted prices in this neighborhood. However, once Turtle Creek Park was formally identified and promoted for its natural attributes, I began selling houses in Turtle Creek Park for more money per square foot than homes of the same size in Highland Park.

Home of James and Patricia Shinn at 3500 Rock Creek in Turtle Creek Park. The Highland Park resident who purchased the home from them paid a higher per square foot price for the home than their previous Highland Park home sold for.

Mayflower Estates

Another example is Mayflower Estates, a neighborhood of only about 100 houses that was only known as a neighborhood on the wrong side of Walnut Hill to be considered Preston Hollow. Thus, appraisers gave the land half the value of the estate lots south of Walnut Hill. Ten years later, after I had identified the neighborhood as Mayflower Estates and promoted the attributes of the neighborhood and the architectural significance of the homes, one acre of land in Mayflower Estates sold for more than one acre of land in the heart of the Preston Hollow estate area.

Very few people knew that the Crespi Estate even existed before I sold this home located in Mayflower Estates.

My Architecturally Significant Homes Website Could Be the Perfect Vehicle to Identify Neighborhoods

My next thought was that the internet and my website could be a perfect vehicle to help identify the finest neighborhoods in Dallas, but I did not want to identify neighborhood areas like as it is done in MLS (Park Cities, Bluffview, Preston Hollow, Lakewood, East Dallas). Instead, I wanted to identify specific neighborhoods and even the sub-neighborhoods of each neighborhood. Here was a chance to identify small niche neighborhoods and give residents of Dallas a greater understanding of their city. Also, it would be a way for those from out of town who were considering a move to Dallas to have a quick understanding of its neighborhoods. I have always considered a neighborhood to be the foundation of what makes someone love their home. Whenever I have a client coming in from out of town, rather than quickly showing them a dozen houses, I will spend the morning or afternoon showing them a wide range of neighborhoods and the nuances of each one.

Highland Park

Old Highland Park is a good example. When one does a Google search for “Old Highland Park,” my website comes up first in the search results above the website for the Township of Highland Park. In fact, when the previous Highland Park town administrator, who served for 15 years, was first hired, he told me he spent the first few months on my website learning about the neighborhoods in Highland Park. Each section and each addition of Highland Park has a distinct personality and character. Everyone knows Highland Park is one of the most beautiful towns in the country, but where, specifically, would you most enjoy living in Highland Park?

Highland Park Town Hall

Dallas Modern Homes

When the 20th century ended, a broader interest in modern homes emerged. In the 1900s, some great modern homes were commissioned by the avant-garde of Dallas. However, there was always a certain apprehension for buyers considering buying a modern home, that they wouldn’t be able to find another buyer when the time came to sell. Again, from being a real estate broker, I realized that there was more interest in modern homes than there was confidence in buying them. I thought if buyers came to know the names and the history and the architectural significance of modern homes, they could more easily embrace and purchase these Dallas modern homes with greater confidence. My website seemed like the perfect place to do this. I created a Dallas Modern Homes section that quickly became the most popular section on my website. Now it is hard to imagine that there was ever any reluctance to buy a modern home when even spec homes are now mostly modern.

The Rachofsky House is a Dallas modern home built at the end of the 20th century leading the way for more modern homes in the 21st century.

My Website, Architecturally Significant Homes, as a Business Vehicle

While the inspiration for the website was civically oriented, it quickly became apparent that an Architecturally Significant Homes website could be a powerful business source.

(More to come)