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Park Cities scoop: 'Something significant has happened with historic preservation'

3819 McFarlin Boulevard in University Park TexasThis story is posted in its entirety with kind permission from Candy's Dirt. Pictured above: 3819 McFarlin Boulevard in University Park, designed by the legendary Charles S. Dilbeck and represented for sale by Briggs Freeman Sotheby's International Realty, which was founded in the Park Cities in 1960. 

 

July 20, 2023 | Karen Eubank

 

Preservation Park Cities employs a successful strategy to save historic homes

 

3805 McFarlin Blvd in Preservation Park Cities
The most important house in Texas just happens to be in the Park Cities at 3805 McFarlin Blvd.

 

Something significant has happened with historic preservation in the Park Cities.

I realized the full impact of the subtle and ingenious work of Preservation Park Cities when Terri Patrick Cox’s recent listing of the historic Tudor at 3325 Beverly Drive for $4.995 million blew off the market in a day — with multiple backup offers.

3325 Beverly Drive in Preservation Park Cities
A 1929 Tudor original at 3325 Beverly Drive.

 

As soon as I saw that happen, I started searching for historic Park Cities homes for sale, pending, contingent, and built before 1940.

In Highland Park, I found Briggs Freeman Sotheby’s International Realty agent Ralph Randall’s 1935 historic Tudor listing at 4337 Edmondson at $3.475 million.

Alan Sahliyeh with Briggs Freeman Sotheby’s International Realty has a 1930 Mediterranean at 4518 Fairway listed for $2.495 million.

Allie Beth Allman’s 3521 Beverly Drive listing, built in 1920, was designed by architect Anton Korn and is listed for $6.75 million. 

3819 McFarlin in Preservation Park Cities
The Charles S. Dilbeck at 3819 McFarlin

 

Next door in University Park, there are equally outstanding historic homes for sale, including a 1929 Fonzie Robertson at 4200 Windsor Pkwy listed by Lucinda Burford at Allie Beth Allman & Associates for $3.1 million and Briggs Freeman Sotheby’s International Realty [agents'] Jeanne Shelton’s [and Malinda Arvesen's] flawlessly restored 3819 McFarlin by Charles S. Dilbeck in 1934 for $3.95 million [also pictured at top of story]. 

And that’s just the top five. 

There are many more, which indicates something big has happened in the Park Cities in historic preservation. I rang up incoming Preservation Park Cities president Amy Beale for some insight.

The historic preservation wake-up call

Highland Park Neoclassical Mansion in Preservation Park Cities
Architect Hal Thomson designed this Highland Park Neoclassical mansion. It was demolished.

 

“When the home at 3800 Beverly designed by architect Hal Thomson was razed, it was a wake-up call and a catalyst for Preservation Park Cities to become more visible and relevant in the community,” Beale said.

During the pandemic, when the group was holding Zoom meetings, former Highland Park mayor Joel Williams offered the proverbial kick. He advised the board they could better fulfill their mission, or more significant homes would be lost to the wrecking ball. 

“One of the best things we thought we could do was write a book,” Bobby Clark said. Clark is a board member, architect, and former Mayor Pro Tem of the City of University Park.

The most important house in Texas

Dining Area at 3805 McFarlin Blvd
Architect David Williams’ “A House for Texas” is located at 3805 McFarlin Blvd.

 

As fate would have it, the most important house in Texas is in the Park Cities. The Texas Society of Architects has recognized 3805 McFarlin Blvd. as one of the 20 Landmarks of Texas architecture. Known as the Elbert Williams home built for the former mayor of Highland Park, it is one of only three residential buildings to be honored. To give you an idea of its importance, the other two residences are the Texas Governor’s Mansion in Austin and the Bishop’s Palace in Galveston.

Board member and architect Larry Good had recently retired from the architectural firm of Good Fulton and Farrell, where he was a founding principal and chairman. He took on the project, resulting in the book A House for Texas about this significant residence.

“The book raised awareness and appreciation for the houses in the Park Cities,” Clark said. It was also instrumental in preserving this historic house. Sitting on an acre and a half and for sale when the book came out, it was prime territory for new construction. As many of our readers know, philanthropists and all-around good guys Jan and Trevor Rees-Jones were responsible for purchasing this remarkable home and ensuring it would stay intact for future generations. 

4321 Overhill Dr. in Preservation Park Cities
The stunning Mediterranean at 4321 Overhill Dr. by architect John Allen Boyle is on the Preservation Park Cities Top 100 List.

 

This was the first subtle salvo in Preservation Park Cities’ efforts. Under member and Realtor Burton Rhodes‘ skilled guidance, they rebranded in 2020-2021 with a fresh new name and look. Much-needed social media assistance came from local influencer Christina Dandar. Dandar created the blog The Potted Boxwood, which has delighted more than 180,000 followers and has grown into an interior design, architecture, and tastemaking brand. No one could be better suited to help raise the visibility of historic preservation in the Park Cities.

“People began mourning publicly on the Potted Boxwood and that is when I called up Preservation Park Cities and asked what they were doing,” Dandar said. “I told them there was momentum because I knew from the comments people were tired of historic homes being torn down. The momentum is there. It’s now about education. Instagram is the lifeblood of how you get the word out and we are up to 5,900 followers on the Preservation Park Cities page. If a house comes on the market, we can showcase it to the preservation community.” 

Good and the rest of the Preservation Park Cities board then determined a list of significant homes would be the next agenda item. They turned to the preservationist’s revered tome, Great American Suburbs, The Homes of The Park Cities, Dallas, as their go-by, along with criteria from the National Register of Historic Places. They began by prioritizing the 10 most significant homes. The list quickly grew to 100, and Good has turned that list into a presentation and now a book that is almost finished.

4144 Shenandoah in Preservation Park Cities
One of the four famous Dilbecks on each corner of Douglas and Shenandoah at 4144 Shenandoah is on the Preservation Park Cities Top 100 list along with the other three.

 

Changing the culture of preservation in the Park Cities

Former Preservation Park Cities president and board member Joan Clark is deeply involved in landmarking homes, which, contrary to popular belief, does not prevent them from being torn down or renovated. Deed restrictions are the only way to ensure a home is not razed. However, that landmark status is a feather in the cap of anyone who decides to sell because it symbolizes stewardship.

“Our landmarking is a way of honoring the homes,” Clark said. It has certain criteria that can be found on our website. Among those items are maintaining the exterior, having a house designed by a significant architect, or one where a notable person lived. Preservation Park Cities is an educational organization, and people have become more aware of our actions.”

Italian Renaissance Mansion at 4721 Bordeaux
The Italian Renaissance mansion at 4721 Bordeaux was completed in 1930 by legendary architect Hal Thomson and featured on the 2023 Preservation Park Cities Home Tour

 

The slow, steady, and subtle approach towards historic preservation by Preservation Park Cities is working.

“We have other factors making an impact,” Beale said. “Rising interest rates help with preservation and when these homes are validated by the media, it increases visibility and education. Our goal is to play a part in changing the culture, and you cannot do that if you don’t educate people to understand what is important and why and also celebrate good stewardship.”

4319 Versailles
The impressive Georgian mansion at 4319 Versailles was designed in 1936 by architect James Duff, who is responsible for more than 90 homes in the Park Cities between 1936 and 1940.

 

In addition to meetings and a distinguished speaker series, Preservation Park Cities hosts a home tour and a car show every year. They are busy recording oral histories and posting on their YouTube channel. Board advisory member Al McLendon has been collecting stories from residents, including Karl Kuby, owner of the legendary Kuby’s Sausage House and European Market; Michael Boone, partner at Hayes and Boone LLP; and SMU President Gerald Turner.

“People who never mentioned historic preservation or talked about it are now passionate about our history, so the awareness is growing,” Good said. “They are starting to react to how much history we have lost, and we are seeing a groundswell and a potential cultural change which is what we’ve been seeking. We know we will not get preservation ordinances, so it has to be a cultural change.”

There is no doubt in my mind that Preservation Park Cities has made an impact on the teardown tsunami. If you want to move to the Park Cities, consider a historic home. You won’t regret it.

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