Preservation Accomplishments of Douglas Newby

Simmering in self-indulgent outrage does not save historic homes.

Douglas Newby

Douglas Newby’s first transaction was motivated by his interest in preservation and revitalization. Preservation has always been an important part of his business and his interest. He initiated the first single-family historic district in Dallas and created the nation’s first Restoration House of the Year Award in Dallas. This award was presented by the mayor of Dallas and received much media attention, creating awareness for the restoration of historic homes. Throughout his career, he has helped owners who would like to see their homes preserved after they have sold it. As a real estate broker, Douglas Newby understands that a home can be sold with preservation deed restrictions for a higher price than the appraised value.

Existing homes in any condition are nutrients for a city.

Douglas Newby

Douglas Newby Preservation Projects

Here are some key preservation projects that Douglas Newby initiated that changed Dallas and became national success stories for preservation.

The Revolving Fund for the Historic Preservation League Was Initiated by Douglas Newby

Douglas Newby read an article about how some in Pittsburgh had purchased options on historic homes and resold these homes with deed restrictions to homebuyers who would fix them up. He thought this could be a good strategy for Munger Place, a neighborhood where he had bought a historic home for himself to live.

The homes in Munger Place were mostly owned by absentee owners and they had been divided into four or five apartments with weekly rentals. Many owners had two or three properties. Douglas Newby created a plan to buy options on targeted properties owned by these absentee owners with the terms of the options spread over 6 months, 12 months and 24 months. This timing would allow the properties to gradually be purchased and sold simultaneously to homebuyers who would agree to the deed restrictions requiring the homes to be converted to single-family and the architecture protected.

Douglas Newby presented the idea to Virginia Talkington, the president of the Historic Preservation League, who liked the idea. Virginia then approached Lee McAlester, then dean of the SMU Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences, to get his input. Lee McAlester also liked this idea. The three of them then created an organizational structure for the Dallas Historic Fund, a revolving fund to purchase and sell historic homes in Munger Place. Douglas Newby would become chair of the investment committee and he outlined in detail which properties and property owners might be approached with the concept of buying an option on the properties they owned in Munger Place. The rest of the committee chairs making up the executive committee were selected and volunteers began to be recruited to fill the committees.

At this point, it became clear that it was going to be difficult to find a real estate agent who knew the neighborhood well enough or would be willing or capable to undertake the project. Each home sale would bring a commission less than what one would earn from selling a Kirby vacuum cleaner. One afternoon Lee and Virginia asked Douglas Newby if he would be willing to obtain his real estate license and execute the real estate plan of buying the options on the targeted historic properties in Munger Place. Lee and Virginia told him that he was young, in graduate school, did not have a robust income anyway, so he was the perfect candidate to do this for the cause. Douglas Newby agreed to obtain his real estate license and represent the revolving fund as its real estate agent. He recalls joining friends driving to Oaxaca for their academic work abd sitting in the back seat of the car studying for his real estate license exam. On his return, he passed his test and quickly after that his first real estate transaction was negotiating 21 options from several property owners over seven or eight days. These negotiations needed to be done quickly so word would not spread that there was a buyer in the neighborhood wanting to purchase divided-up renthouses.

The revolving fund was extremely successful. While other groups of neighbors and investors were also interested in buying distressed Munger Place properties and renovating them, Douglas Newby thought the revolving fund would best protect the properties since they would be resold with preservation deed restrictions. Homebuyers were indeed willing to buy these properties with the preservation deed restrictions. Also, each property sold for a price much higher than the option price. This profit allowed the Historic Preservation League to hire their first executive director.

Securing these homes with options and then selling these homes with deed restrictions began a real estate career for Douglas Newby. From his work with the resolving fund, he understood that a seller can determine the future of a historic home. Douglas Newby also understood the importance of how a real estate agent can create a marketplace for buyers and sellers who have a common interest in preserving historic homes.

$1 Billion of Renovation and Appreciation in Historic Neighborhood

Douglas Newby, as the East Dallas Community Design Committee (Chris, please link to Susanne Starling Legacies article) Zoning Chair and as the Chair of the Property Owners for Single-Family Zoning, initiated the largest rezoning in Dallas history: 100 blocks of 2,000 properties that were changed from MF2 multifamily zoning to single-family zoning. This successful rezoning was the foundation for $1 billion of renovation and appreciation for the 2,000 homes that were saved. These homes had been slated to be demolished for potential new apartments.

Douglas Newby Initiated the First Single-Family Historic District in Dallas

Douglas Newby initiated the first historic district that required single-family homes and historic criteria that reflected the historic style of the neighborhood. This historic criteria was required for the renovation of the existing homes and for the construction of new homes. Swiss Avenue was the first historic district in Dallas but it was zoned for the mixed use found on the street which included single-family homes and duplexes. Also, the original Swiss Avenue Historic District did not require historic architecture and the ordinance even gave examples of modern homes that could be built under a point system to determine if a new home would be approved. This point system included setbacks, height, trees in the front yard, and exterior materials. In contrast, the Munger Place Historic District, was zoned single-family with strict historic criteria that required homes to adhere to the historic architectural style and detail of Munger Place. Some years after Munger Place became a historic district, Swiss Avenue changed its historic district criteria to reflect that of the Munger Place Historic District. There are now dozens of historic districts and conservation districts across Dallas, including the Junius Heights Historic District and Peak Suburban Historic District, which were part of the 100-block area rezoned single-family.

Douglas Newby Published Reproduction of the Original Munger Place Book

In 1905, the Munger Brothers published a beautiful promotional book bound with a gold cord and filled with photographs and text describing the intent and reality of the Munger Place development. Douglas Newby had all of the original photographs and text reproduced in the same format on glossy oversized pages. Updates in content were written in italics and deletions placed in the footnotes so there was a historic record and a contemporary understanding of Munger Place. This reproduction was successful in reminding people that Munger Place was developed as the first and most prestigious planned development in Dallas, something hard to imagine since the neighborhood had become so deteriorated. The Munger brothers’ original content in the book provided motivation for the successful renovation of Munger Place and instilled pride in the neighborhood. This reproduction of the Munger Place book was referenced in A Field Guide to American Houses by Virginia and Lee McAlester.

Douglas Newby Initiated the Dallas Restoration House of the Year Award

The first Restoration House of the Year Award in the nation was initiated, coordinated and sponsored by Douglas Newby. When urban pioneers first began remodeling older homes in Dallas, they were taking great liberties with the original architecture. In Highland Park, Prairie style homes might be transformed into Georgian homes. The homes on the M Streets would routinely have their front side porches glassed in. The renovated interiors of older homes often looked more like new North Dallas homes than historic homes.

Douglas Newby created the Dallas Restoration House of the Year Award for two main reasons: 1) to help give guidance on how to restore a home to live in, 2) bring attention to Dallas historic homes, Dallas architecture and the Dallas neighborhoods in which fabulous historic homes were found.

This award was presented every year by the mayors of Dallas between 1979 and 1986 with massive print and electronic media coverage. A selection committee rotated annually that included the presidents of AIA, ASID, magazine editors, bank presidents, preservation experts and neighborhood representatives – all of whom had very different opinions on how to approach the restoration of a home in which to live. The committee’s discussions and exchange every year taught me much and provided the public examples and explanations to inspire and shape the renovation of historic homes.

Douglas Newby Initiated the First Two New Homes Built in a Historic District

In Munger Place, 10% of the lots were vacant because deteriorated homes had been torn down. Virtually no new homes had been built in Dallas inner city neighborhoods for over 10 years. Douglas Newby organized a group of neighbors and recruited Joe Goyne to become the general partner of this small investment group, Tremont Limited, to build two new homes in the newly formed Munger Place Historic District. This demonstration project was to show that new homes could look historic and there was a market for new homes that could fill the gaping holes in the block faces of the Munger Place Historic District. Mayor Jack Evans and congressman Jim Mattox cut the ribbon upon the completion of these two new homes and the event was covered by four television stations and several print reporters. (Actually, a padlock holding the ribbons in place across the front porch of the homes was ceremoniously cut with 30-inch bolt cutters which were presented to the mayor as an Old East Dallas skeleton key.)

These two homes quickly sold for a price higher than any of the renovated homes. Also, they sold to purchasers who had previously lived in a 150-year-old home and a 250-year-old home in Philadelphia and Providence, Rhode Island, respectively. This successful demonstration project prompted 25 new historic-looking homes to be built on the remaining 25 vacant lots in the 12-block Munger Place Historic District.

Douglas Newby Renovated a Historic Triplex to National Register Guidelines as a Demonstration Project

Since Munger Place and Old East Dallas had several historic duplexes, triplexes and fourplexes in serious disrepair, Douglas Newby renovated a triplex in Munger Place to show the economic viability of improving the apartments besides just improving the single-family homes. This restoration project was completed to the specifications of the Department of the Interior historic guidelines. It was featured in the national trade magazine Multi-Housing News, describing how the rents per square foot were higher on a renovated historic building than many new apartment projects.

Understanding neighborhoods and architecture is the foundation of preservation.

Douglas Newby

Douglas Newby Wrote and Produced A Guide to the Older Neighborhoods of Dallas

At a time in Dallas when neighborhoods were just informally identified in the most general terms, like Lakewood West, which covered every neighborhood from Abrams Road to Greenville Avenue, Douglas Newby wrote the book A Guide to the Older Neighborhoods of Dallas. He correctly thought that identifying individual neighborhoods would increase the awareness and desirability and value of these neighborhoods. Douglas Newby is still a firm believer in the idea that the more one knows about the neighborhood, the more pride one will have in the neighborhood, and the more buyers will be attracted to the neighborhood. A Guide to the Older Neighborhoods of Dallas was the first book written on Dallas neighborhoods.

Douglas Newby, a board member of the Historic Preservation League, was the chairman of the book committee that produced the book, he wrote the book, and he was one of the underwriters of the book and raised additional money to publish the book. It was the #2 nonfiction bestselling book in Dallas when it was published in 1986 for the Sesquicentennial. Now there are hundreds of neighborhoods with street sign toppers and distinct neighborhood identification.

Douglas Newby Initiated Home Tours and Co-Chaired Home Tours

Home tours have been an important 50-year tradition in Dallas. They have brought attention to neighborhoods, preservation, revitalization, renovation and architecture. One of the tours Douglas Newby initiated was a spring Old East Dallas Tour of Homes in one dozen neighborhoods from Greenland Hills to Deep Ellum. This tour brought attention to each neighborhood, but even more important, it showed Old East Dallas as a mosaic of vibrant Dallas neighborhoods, not just neighborhood islands.

Architectural Survey Identified Architecturally Significant Homes in Dallas

For the 50th anniversary of the AIA Dallas chapter, Douglas Newby recommended to Bryce Wiegand, FAIA, then the AIA Dallas chapter president, that 50 significant homes in Dallas be identified to celebrate the AIA Dallas anniversary. Bryce Wiegand said this was a good idea and asked Douglas if he would chair this effort. Douglas then assembled the presidents of eight museums, cultural and design organizations to serve as the selection committee and to also identify and recruit those in the community who could help identify significant homes in Dallas and the Park Cities. The result was the first broad-reaching architectural survey in Dallas. Homeowners began going into their attics to find original architectural plans that would identify the home’s architect. Historic information was gathered on each home.

In addition, Douglas Newby retained an architectural photographer to photograph over 100 of these homes to review with the selection committee at the home of the 50 Significant Homes honorary chair, Margaret McDermott. These photographs were also published on the Architecturally Significant Homes website of Douglas Newby to inform the public of the rich 20th century residential architecture of Dallas.

The publicity surrounding this project also changed the way the real estate community thought about homes. Previously, real estate agents might only identify the builder who built the house. After this architectural survey, real estate agents began to also identify the architect who designed the homes they listed. There are many homes that were identified and photographed that brought attention to them and helped them be preserved rather than torn down when they later came on the market. Good examples of these homes include the David Williams-designed home on McFarlin Boulevard, the Edward Durell Stone-designed home on Park Lane, the Philip Johnson-designed home on Strait Lane, the Harwell Hamilton Harris-designed home on Rockbrook Drive, and the Charles Dilbeck-designed homes on Shenandoah Street.

Douglas Newby has always understood that the more people know about a home and its importance, the better chance that a home will be renovated and preserved.

Neighborhood Videos Created by Douglas Newby

Douglas Newby in a Dallas neighborhood narrating a video and looking at a shot.
When shooting a video of a neighborhood, I can’t help myself and always want to see the shot. The brilliant videographer that I work with is very patient. Each neighborhood has a different personality – people and architecture.

Besides writing about more than 100 neighborhoods on his website, Douglas Newby has created several videos that discuss specific neighborhoods. These neighborhood videos provide historic information and the current tone and desirability of the neighborhood. Understanding neighborhoods helps preserve neighborhoods.

Douglas Newby Presentations and Talks on Architecture, Neighborhoods and Preservation

Douglas Newby has been invited to speak before many prominent Dallas groups and organizations. The groups to which he has made his presentations on preservation, neighborhoods and architecture include the Dallas Salesmanship Club at their annual meeting, the Dallas Women’s Club, SMU Town and Gown, the national convention of AIA when it was held in Dallas, the annual meeting of the Texas Chapter of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art, the Beverly Drive Book Club (the oldest book club in Dallas), the Shakespeare Club of Dallas (the oldest club in Dallas), the Dallas Architecture Forum, the Annual Legacies Dallas History Conference, numerous neighborhood associations, Historic Preservation League, TEDx SMU, National Convention of Realtors, Antique Society of Dallas, University of Texas at Arlington-Urban Studies class, SMU Urban Studies class, Dallas Historical Society.

Douglas Newby is Often Interviewed by the Media on the Topics of Preservation, Architecture and Neighborhoods

International media, including magazines and newspapers in Europe and Asia, have interviewed and quoted Douglas Newby on preservation and architecture in Dallas. Dallas and Texas and US media have also looked to Douglas Newby as a source when it comes to Dallas, real estate, preservation, neighborhoods and architecture.

Many book authors have acknowledged Douglas Newby in their credits. National preservation journals and shelter magazines have quoted Douglas Newby on preservation and architecture. Douglas Newby consistently has been an important voice on preservation that has brought a greater preservation awareness and preservation results. He has served on boards, executive committees and advisory boards of many historic and preservation groups in Dallas, the Park Cities and Texas such as the Dallas Historical Society, Historic Preservation League (now Preservation Dallas), the Dallas Architecture Foundation, and Park Cities Historical Society. Currently, Douglas Newby serves on the Texas Preservation Trust Fund Advisory Board. The most meaningful preservation work of Douglas Newby continues to be through his real estate business.

As a real estate broker, he has preserved homes by revitalizing a neighborhood that was in the process of being torn down. As a real estate broker, he has also sold homes that have been preserved that most people thought would be torn down. Douglas Newby understands that changing the perception of historic homes and a neighborhood provides a better sales price for the seller and a wonderful investment for the buyer. Instead of opportunities being overlooked, historic homes are purchased benefitting the buyer, the neighborhood and Dallas. This process requires reshaping public opinion, something Douglas Newby is good at.

Douglas Newby Reshapes Public Opinion to the Benefit of Sellers, Buyers and the Neighborhood

Initiating the single-family rezoning of a 100-block area is the best example. Former Dallas mayor Robert Folsom, a developer, campaigned against back-zoning when he was running for mayor. Douglas Newby was able to convince him of the economic advantages of a multifamily zoned area becoming zoned single-family. With Mayor Folsom’s support and the overwhelming support of the property owners (mostly apartment owners) the Dallas Apartment Association, the regional director of HUD, the regional director of FNMA, the school principals, and a few remaining homeowners, the single-family zoning was passed over the strenuous objection of the Dallas Plan Department, Plan Commission, and even the Historic Preservation League (now Preservation Dallas), all of which were in favor of mixed-use zoning, the zoning of the Swiss Avenue Historic District at that time.

Preservation groups claiming that government regulations are the only solution to saving historic homes are in effect advertising that no one in the world would want the finest or grandest architecturally significant historic homes.

Douglas Newby
Five Preservation Steps to Saving Historic and Architecturally Significant Homes in Highland Park and Across Country
Saving Homes – Preservation Step Two
Preservation Step Three and Four for Saving Homes is a Gamechanger
Preservation Step Five – Implementing Architectural Deed Restrictions Guarantee Saving Homes

Preservation Initiatives Continue to Economically Benefit Buyers and Sellers

Douglas Newby may be the only real estate broker in Dallas who understands that preservation initiatives often can increase home values rather than diminish home values. Douglas Newby believes in preservation and believes in Dallas.