The early homes in Old Highland Park set the architectural tone for the Highland Park homes designed and built over the next 100 years. Architects Otto Lang and Frank Witchell designed this home at 3901 Gillon Avenue in 1914. Lang and Witchell architects designed this home for Jesse Johnson, who owned a large paper company that supplied paper to the Dallas Morning News, Dallas Times Herald and other newspapers in Texas. His substantial business gave him the resources to hire the preeminent architects in Dallas and use the highest quality materials including oversized commercial brick and old growth clear lumber. The home was further protected and maintained by it remaining in the family for over 90 years. Searcy Lee Johnson, an attorney in the oil industry during the boom, inherited the home that he and family members continued to live in until his granddaughter sold it in 2004 to the second owner who owns it today.
Original Owner’s Granddaughter Selected Prominent Dallasite Who Wanted to Preserve the Home as Next Owner
Every time a Highland Park home sells, it is in jeopardy of being torn down. This is especially true on Gillon, arguably the most prestigious street in Highland Park. Prominent homeowners here with unlimited wealth can afford to buy homes all around them just to expand their lawns. Homebuyers love Gillon Avenue as the place to build a new home. Against this backdrop of demand and appetite for land on Gillon Avenue, it is even more special that a home of this architectural significance and historical significance survives. This Lang and Witchell designed home is a beautiful landmark on the street.
Historical Significance in Highland Park
The central architectural landmark in Highland Park is the Highland Park Town Hall originally designed by the premier Dallas architects of the era, Lang and Witchell. Architects Lang and Witchell built two of the most impressive homes on Swiss Avenue when Swiss Avenue was home to the most prominent Dallas families, including the Higginbothams, whose daughter married Frank Witchell and for whom they built a home on Swiss Avenue, designed by Lang and Witchell, for their wedding present. This home was later owned by O.L. Nelms and Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, who as recently as 2022 said this was the favorite home that she had ever lived in. Lang and Witchell architects also designed an important home on Lakeside and Miramar, along with many significant downtown Dallas buildings.
Architecturally Significant Home in Highland Park
Lang and Witchell, who formed their firm in 1905, designed many famous commercial buildings in Dallas but relatively few residences. Their architecturally significant commercial buildings include the Dallas Cotton Exchange, the Southwestern Life Insurance building, the Sears and Roebuck building that has enjoyed a successful adaptive use renovation, and the Sanger Brothers department store. Each of the residences Lang and Witchell designed in Dallas and Highland Park are the finest in the neighborhood and in the city. These homes all had an early 20th century modern Frank Lloyd Wright influence on the European eclectic style of the homes they designed. This Highland Park home that Lang and Witchell designed shows how a home from 1914 can remain relevant for over 100 years and still stand up to the new homes being built in Highland Park.
Renovation Architect David Stocker
Most historic homes require renovation and expansion to keep them functionally relevant in their current era. It is fortunate an architect of David Stocker’s talent and sensitivity did the design work for the renovation and expansion, including the pool house, of this architecturally significant home. David Stocker of Stocker, Hoesterey, Montenegro Architects is most often associated today with designing new transitional modern homes in Highland Park. However, he has been very adept and detailed on his historic home renovations. It was David Stocker, AIA, who also designed the beautiful renovation, expansion, and pool house of a historic home in the Northern Hills neighborhood adjacent to Highland Park. A Highland Park renovation architect needs to have a clear understanding of quality and design needed to keep the distinction of the original historic home and provide the presence for a current home in Highland Park. This architecturally significant home at 3901 Gillon Avenue has both.