When Erik Schuessler first encountered the midcentury modern house at 1434 Bar Harbor Cir. in the Wynnewood Hills neighborhood of Oak Cliff, he fell in love with its potential and retro aesthetic. As he renovated the 4,600-square-foot beauty and learned more about it, he also grew fascinated by its history.
In its heyday, Bar Harbor Drive was known as “Pill Hill” because so many doctors lived on the street. The house’s original resident, Dr. John B. Chester, ran Parkland Hospital and later ventured out on his own with The Chester Clinic and Hospital.
Dallas Morning News society editor Ann Draper wrote a piece in the early 1960s on his wife, Charlotte Chester, which described the Bar Harbor house as “among the most unusual and elegant in Oak Cliff. An indoor swimming pool has been a favorite with large and small groups of guests, as have rooms in the living area, which lend themselves to any number. Set in a wooded area, the house is on the very edge of the Oak Cliff Country Club’s No. 2 green of the golf course.”
Located near the intersection of W. Redbird Lane and S. Polk Street, south of Highway 67, the house was what Schuessler describes as “pretty beat up” when he purchased it in early 2012.
“You can tell it was designed so well, and the way it was built is head and shoulders above many other midcenturies I’ve seen, and newer properties,” Schuessler said. “You can look in every corner and see that it was thought out. I fell in love with the aesthetic of the house.”
And thus began a three-year renovation for Schuessler and his girlfriend Meredith Moore, with Schuessler as the general contractor, carefully overseeing every detail of the revamp. The goal was to bring the house back to its original glory and perhaps make it even better by updating key elements, like HVAC, pool equipment, and the roof.
He is selling the house himself—it is listed for $475,000, or around $100 a square foot—but the intent was never to flip the property. It was to restore it.
“I think most flips are terrifying—it’s a ‘beige-ification’ with beige walls, Berber carpets, boring, boring, boring, nothing original to the style of the house except for maybe a pillar or two,” he said. “I’ve had a couple of houses and I buy a place, I really get into it, live in for three to five years, then move on. I find myself enamored by a place or an area and I have to buy it.” Jump to read more and see photos!
The house cost about $189,000 to build in 1958, which is almost $1.6 million today, according to the CPI Inflation Calculator. It has three bedrooms, five full bathrooms, two large living areas, oversized laundry room, an indoor swimming pool, a three-car garage, and a wet bar, just to scratch the surface. Schuessler is only the third owner.
“The turnover is very low here and the people that lived here were heavy duty socialites, the crème de la crème,” he said, noting he learned from an archivist that Marvin D. Love built a house as a wedding present for his daughter on Bar Harbor, and business entrepreneur Jay Sarno, who owned Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, built on the street, as well.
It’s clear the house was built for the entertaining of that social class, not only from its size, but also from the flow from room-to-room and comfortable touches, like a stone double fireplace that separates two living areas. The indoor pool has a lounge area and his-and-her toilets, and the vast backyard looks onto what is now The Golf Club of Dallas, where the Byron Nelson Championship started.
“The bones of the house are what’s amazing,” Schuessler said. “Not just the exterior, but the interior as well. We went to a lot of trouble to stick with what was there.”
One of the most striking parts he refinished is the original large-chunk Terrazzo floors, which run throughout most of the house and are polished to a high shine. He also cleaned up the walls in the front rooms, half-inch tongue-in-groove walnut planks.
The wet bar is another aspect of this house’s entertainment possibilities and it still has the blender built into counter—perfect for whipping up drinks for a crowd.
Schuessler is particularly proud of the reno of the kitchen, which took a huge amount of research and effort to complete.
“I couldn’t recover the original Formica on the countertops, so instead we used a new release from Formica that’s based on their original color palettes from the early 60s. It captured the feel, but is a little more contemporary and a little less tacky,” he said. “On the cooktop island, we used a white quartz marble, which would be legit in that time period and it’s legit nowadays.”
For the edges of the counters, Schuessler installed aluminum bullnose trim, similar to what you would see on the edge of a 50s-era kitchen table. Updated stainless steel appliances make this kitchen modern, but without compromising the overall vintage feel.
The oversized master bedroom is practically a house in itself, with a private sitting parlor, his-and-hers walk-in closets with skylights, and a view of the golf course. Schuessler replaced the floors with bamboo.
The backyard, which looks onto the golf course, has a deck with era-appropriate decor. The driveway, which leads to the house, is 4,500 square feet, which can certainly accommodate the cars from a large crowd.
Schuessler says the overall reno took “ungodly amounts” of time and money, but he’s happy with the results, and eager to find the right kind of buyer.
“This is a different class of house—it’s like a really Kessler Court, that same level of build,” he said. “I’m looking for a buyer that wants something unique.”
I think this Oak Cliff reno is fantastic and applaud Schuessler and Moore’s attention to detail and care for the integrity of the structure. What do you think? Leave us a comment!