The Dallas Times Herald, April, 1986
Balusters have been freshly painted, windows washed and brass fittings buffed to celestial brilliance as residents of East Dallas prepare for the fourth annual Old East Dallas Tour of Homes. The tour, next Saturday and Sunday, will feature 15 homes in 10 different neighborhoods. Open from noon to 6 p.m. each day, the homes offer a unique opportunity for visitors to trace the city’s pattern of development between 1880 and 1940, and to see how local architects interpreted national trends as Dallas’ residential neighborhoods spread north and west from downtown.
“People who see the conspicuous new development in the city since 1950 sometimes forget that Dallas is as old as San Francisco,” says Doug Newby, owner of Douglas Newby & Associates, and a member of the tour committee. “We have a wealth of old housing stock in viable neighborhoods.”
Newby points out that East Dallas revitalization of early 20th-century architecture, from Italian Renaissance mansions to Craftsman bungalows, is contiguous all the way from downtown to Mockingbird Lane, the 1945 city limit.
“Preservation is as alive and healthy in East Dallas as new development is in the city’s northern reaches,” says tour chairwoman Helen Swint.
Although some of the neighborhoods on tour have remained basically intact since they were built, others have undergone nearly 100 percent transformations, with residents laboriously reclaiming multifamily rooming houses for single family homes. The tour presents every facet of restoration, including one house in the sawdusty process of renovation, and several modern concepts in inner-city living such as a sleek Deep Ellum loft and a new three-story townhouse in Bryan Place.
Munger Place, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, sits at the heart of the restoration corridor, and offers the greatest continuity of two-story prairie style houses in Dallas. A walking tour of this 12-block area takes in four homes on Victor Street, one on Junius, and an apartment renovation on Worth Street.
The Victor Street houses, known for their symmetry and horizontal lines derived from Frank Lloyd Wright designs, sport 30-foot front porches, columns with recessed paneling banked on brick pedestals, 3-foot roof overhangs and sweeping eaves. The house at 5115 Victor St. combines ornate Mediterranean-style columns and other touches of elegance, such as original hand-stretched ripple glass and leaded glass windows in geometric designs, which make it a standout on the home tour.
At 5023 Victor St., a new home duplicates the authentic detail of the old prairie style with contemporary materials. Farther down the street, the old and new are artfully blended at 4909 Victor, but the hand-turned parallel staircase presents a splendid example of an original Victor Street entry. Across the street, at 4906 Victor, restoration is under way, and visitors will have the opportunity to see custom molding being stained and installed.
A classic in Frank Lloyd Wright interior detailing, the Tudor home at 4907 Junius St. incorporates at least a dozen noteworthy elements of architectural design. Among them are elaborate banded ceilings, bookcases with stained glass doors, quarter-cut slotted oak paneling, two Rookwood fireplaces with shield medallions, guilded plaster fixtures and chicken wire tile floors in the kitchen.
A second phase of restoration in Munger Place is upscale rental space in historic buildings. The split-level apartment on tour at 4921 Worth St. provides an excellent example of preserving architectural integrity – crown moldings, hardwood floors, original hardware – along with innovative bath and kitchen designs.
The other residences on the tour are easy drives from Munger Place. Free brochures and maps will be available at all tour homes to guide visitors into the adjoining neighborhoods.
Mill Creek, the oldest neighborhood in Old East Dallas, invites visitors into a rambling airplane bungalow at 4717 Swiss Ave. Unusual windows and transoms are a singularly striking feature of the home. The bungalow is nominated for the Dallas Restoration House of the Year award.
Traveling south to Bryan Place, visitors can enjoy the view from a rooftop deck of the Georgian townhouse at 919 Liberty St. The roofs and chimneys of Bryan Place stretch several blocks to the east, and to the west rise the monolithic towers of Dallas’ central business district. Inside, the townhouse is a study in multilevel living, and provides a stunning setting for a diverse collection of European and American Art.
Closer to town in Deep Ellum, a glass block façade and gray painted concrete floor set the stage for a dramatic hi-tech studio/residence. Exposed brick, air conditioning ducts painted in a bold tropical turquoise, boxed steel beams, and a 15-foot tin ceiling demanded a sculptural, modern design for the owner’s living quarters. The renovation story here involved inventive space definition, sound insulation, and other adaptations that set the studio/residence apart from its tour partners.
Returning north, visitors will discover a cottage in Junius Heights, 5502 Victor St., that looks like a doll house with its soft patterned wallpapers and whimsical angles. Of special interest is an unusual bay wall in the dining room.
At 5638 Gaston Ave. is another Junius Heights house, a two-story stucco structure rich in the detailing typical of houses on Gaston Avenue. Highlights are the grand entry hall and a formal stairway.
Vickery Place, built on the hilly terrain just east of Lower Greenville Avenue, offers a glance through a Colonial clapboard at 5609 Miller St., one of the first houses in the neighborhood. The house has been slowly restored over the past five years.
At 5543 Mercedes Ave. in popular Greenland Hills, visitors will be treated to a fine example of a late ‘20s English-style cottage, completely updated with whitewashed oak floors, reconstructed woodwork and a new kitchen. The home’s original stained glass cupboard doors were worked into the new kitchen cabinets, and the owners kept such distinctive features as the basket-weave bathroom tile, handsome stained glass windows and old fireplace molding.
In Belmont, the neighborhood closest to Mockingbird Lane, a homey brick two-story at 6026 McCommas Blvd., with a quaint castle-keep entry, projects the neighborhood’s family atmosphere. Parks, well-manicured lawns and convenient shopping make Belmont a favorite East Dallas neighborhood among young families.
Five-dollar advance tickets for the old East Dallas Tour of Homes can be purchased by calling the Munger Place Homeowners Association, 824-2895. Six-dollar tour tickets will be sold at the door of each house at tour time. Proceeds from the tour benefit the neighborhood associations of East Dallas and are applied toward landscaping, restoring historical markers, establishing parkways and installing antique street lights. For additional information, call Helen Swint, 854-8373l.