Most Endangered Historic Places in Dallas

Preservation Dallas today held a conference to announce their 2016 most endangered listoric places in Dallas list. Photo: Irene Allender

“Historic preservation is the dynamic and deliberate process through which we decide what to keep from the present for the future, and then working to keep it.” —W. Brown Morton

Many historic buildings in Dallas face an uncertain future. Today, Preservation Dallas held a press conference to announce their 2016 “Most Endangered Historic Places in Dallas” list.

These are properties too important to lose, for their historic integrity to be diminished, or for the loss of their ability to be used to their full potential, said David Preziosi, Executive Director of Preservation Dallas.

“This list is a roadmap for advocacy, education and development of programs in the preservation community that address the needs of these endangered properties,” Preziosi said. “We must work diligently to protect the places on the list as they are important to the history and fabric of Dallas, for once they are gone, they are lost forever.”

These historic places are irreplaceable community assets that tell the story of the city’s development.

“We hope this list of endangered properties makes the citizens of Dallas aware of how many important historic buildings are at risk of being lost forever,” said Nicky DeFreece Emery, Board President of Preservation Dallas. “Preservation Dallas sees this list as an opportunity for all of us to be more thoughtful in how the city grows and develops.”

Some of them, like East Dallas’ Elbow Room, won’t surprise you. But others will. Read on to see the list.

 

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historic windows

Evelyn Montgomery and Ron Siebler will present their knowledge on how to repair and save your older windows and keep the character and historic integrity of your home intact. Photo: Preservation Dallas

Do your historic wood windows stick, leak, rattle in the wind, or slam shut on your fingers? Ignore those advertisements for replacement windows and learn how wood windows can be repaired, saving energy and your home’s history.

Preservation Dallas is presenting an introductory workshop that will tell you why these architecturally significant historic windows should be saved, and how. Hands-on activities will teach you to replace a pane of glass, or use glazing to stabilize a loose one. You’ll also learn how to fix broken ropes and missing weights so the window will stay open, and avoid the dangers of lead paint.

“Historic wood windows are an important feature of any historic home and can last a lifetime if properly maintained,” said David Preziosi, executive director at Preservation Dallas. “They will last much longer than replacement windows and can be repaired, unlike most replacement windows. This workshop will give people and understanding of how historic windows work and how to evaluate if they can be repaired along with how to repair glazing, sash weights, and more.”

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All photos courtesy of Plano Magazine.

All photos courtesy of Plano Magazine. Photos by Jennifer Shertzer.

The Collinwood House is the oldest structure still standing in the city of Plano, and it faces demolition to make way for a structure in a new park.

The 1860’s era house sits on city land being developed for a 124-acre park, which will include hike-and-bike trails, a dog park, and parking spaces. Plano officials are planning to tear down the Collinwood house to build a recreational pavilion.

The only thing that can save the historically significant house at 5400 Windhaven Dr. is if Plano City Council intervenes.

Collinwood House

Original hand hewn timbers and square nails peek out from under the brick skirting added in the 1940s; Concentric tree rings can be seen, accentuated by weathering at the ends of the two timbers.

“The Collinwood House is an extremely significant house due to the fact that it is the oldest house remaining in Plano dating back to the 1860s, still sits on its original site, and is an outstanding example of the rare Gothic Revival style of residential architecture,” said David Preziosi, executive director of Preservation Dallas. “The city of Plano has been progressive in other areas of historic preservation in the city and hope that can extend to saving the irreplaceable Collinwood House—they have a great treasure with the Collinwood House and they need to work to save such an important piece of Texas’ history from being lost.”

Candace Fountoulakis, a board member for Plano Conservancy for Historic Preservation, has been very involved in efforts to save this property. There have been multiple calls from the Plano City Council for RFPs, none of which have been accepted.

“The more we learn about it, the more we find out it’s a unique, rare, and special look into that era of Plano’s history and we don’t have anything like that left,” Fountoulakis said. “ It’s a huge learning experience, a picture of early frontier history and when you stand in there and look at it, it’s a visceral experience.”

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endangered places

Located in the city’s first residential historic district, the Aldredge House made the 2015 list for endangered places in Dallas. All photos: Preservation Dallas

We live in a city rich with historically significant homes and buildings. But all too often, they see the wrecking ball instead of preservation and protection.

With so many of our Dallas historic structures having uncertain futures, Preservation Dallas creates an annual Most Endangered Historic Paces List to call the public’s attention to sites that are too meaningful for us to lose.

“We stared the list in 2004 and ran it until 2010, skipping 2009—we then brought it back in 2015,” said David Preziosi, executive director at Preservation Dallas. “The purpose is to raise awareness about the threats many of our historic places are facing. The nominations are collected and a jury reviews them and selects the new list for 2016.”

Nominations are due soon for that 2016 list, which will likely feature some of the homes and buildings we know and love.

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Ronald Siebler, left, working on the

Ron Siebler, left, and Daniel Lohr making a final inspection of the restored bell after it was returned to its original home in the Renner Church tower. All photos: Fred Hight, New Hights Photography

The preservation man of the hour seems to be Ronald Siebler, a talented craftsman and preservation advocate with a long history of the highest quality work.

At the 2016 Preservation Achievement Awards from Preservation Dallas, he received the prestigious Craftsman Award, and was part of four other award-winning projects, a rare event.

“You’re lucky to get one award from Preservation Dallas,” Siebler said. “To walk across the stage five times – it shows you I had such a wonderful year of opportunities.”

It also tells you the caliber of his work.

“Ron is an outstanding craftsman and his work on historic buildings shows the care and quality to which he approaches his work,” said David Preziosi, executive director of Preservation Dallas. “Ron often uses historic techniques and tools to make sure his work is accurate for the period and respects the historic structure. He has worked on numerous Preservation Achievement Award winning projects in Dallas and his skill and dedication have no doubt been an incredible asset to those project teams helping them to win awards from Preservation Dallas.”

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The stately home at 4901 Live Oak was torn down by investors last year. It's just one of many that has faced that fate in Dallas.

The stately home at 4901 Live Oak was torn down by investors last year. It’s just one of many that has faced that fate in Dallas.

Preservationists in Dallas have had plenty of opportunities to get outraged in the past few years as building after building of historic significance have faced the wrecking ball and lost.

These treasures are gone forever, and this rash of destruction has inspired a reinvigorated, community-wide focus on preserving the older structures that make up part of Dallas’ vibrant and rich cultural heritage.

With that momentum, Preservation Dallas is partnering with several groups to offer a slate of free and ticketed public events, exhibits, talks, and tours for 43rd anniversary of National Preservation Month in May. The month-long observance is recognized nationwide, created by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Their slogan for the month is This Place Matters, an idea that resonates with many Dallas residents.

“In the past we’ve recognized it, but haven’t done a full-blown month of activities and since I’ve been here, this is the first time we’re partnering with other organizations,” said David Preziosi, executive director of Preservation Dallas. “We wanted to highlight historic preservation in Dallas, why its important, and look at all the groups who are involved and so important.”

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One of the many houses in the Swiss Avenue Historic District. Photo: Swiss Avenue Historic District

One of the many architecturally significant houses in the Swiss Avenue Historic District. Photo: Swiss Avenue Historic District

In the late 1960s and 1970s, the preservation climate in Dallas was almost nonexistent. Historic buildings were routinely razed on a whim and the city lost quite a few prominent structures, like the Commonwealth National Bank in 1969, the Melba Theater around 1971, the Southland Hotel in 1971, and the Hotel Jefferson in 1975.

The Swiss Avenue area, now one of Dallas’ most treasured neighborhoods, was almost destroyed by high-rise development and disinvestment. But in 1973, homeowners banded together to protect the area and through historic district status and many years of investment by property owners, created the first historic district in Dallas, and what is now the “crown jewel of East Dallas.”

The Swiss Avenue Historic District is truly a success story and one that blazed a trail for other future historic districts in Dallas to follow,” said David Preziosi, Executive Director of Preservation Dallas. “It stands as the finest example of an early 20th-century planned neighborhood with an eclectic mix of houses representing virtually every popular residential design style of the day.”

Those efforts, along with 12 projects, organizations, and individuals, were recently honored at Preservation Dallas’ 16th annual Preservation Achievement Awards. The awards recognize the most outstanding developments in historic preservation and individuals or groups who are committed to preserving Dallas’ history. They help continue the organization’s efforts to educate and advocate for the preservation and revitalization of the city’s significant historic buildings and places.

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The Davis Building, aka Republic National Bank Building, in downtown has Dallas Historic Landmark Designation. 1926 this structure was the tallest in Dallas. In 1945, this structure was the largest office site in Dallas. Photo: Davis Building.

Downtown Dallas’ Davis Building, aka Republic National Bank Building, has Dallas Historic Landmark Designation. In 1926 this structure was the tallest in Dallas. In 1945, it was the largest office site in Dallas. Photo: Davis Building.

Dallas has a rich historic and architectural legacy, shown through buildings like the Texas Theatre in Oak Cliff, DeGolyer House and Gardens in East Dallas, and the Eastside Warehouse District and State Thomas neighborhood in Uptown.

But just because a building or neighborhood plays an important part in the story of Dallas doesn’t mean it’s protected from big changes, up to and including demolishment.

Just last September, 1611 Main Street and neighboring buildings were razed as part of the Joule’s expansion plans. It was a beautiful Romanesque Revival built in 1885, one of downtown’s oldest structures. It sat next to the site of another Dallas landmark torn down by the Joule in 2012, the former Praetorian Building.

Lakewood Theater is another example of an unprotected structure—it may be beloved, but nothing stands between it and the wrecking ball besides the assurances of the owner that they won’t demolish as part of renovation plans.

That’s where historic designation comes into play and the efforts of Dallas preservationists to care for the future of the buildings and neighborhoods that have shaped what our city into what it is today.

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