This has to be one of the most significant Monday Morning Millionaires we have ever featured on CandysDirt! 4412 Lakeside is a perfect example of an historical, iconic Dallas home that has been loved, preserved, updated, and cherished with every design sensibility spanning several well-heeled owners. It was one of the very first homes built in the Park Cities, 1918, in the second installment of Old Highland Park. The home is large but not garishly so, designed by the late Harold B. Thompson. Texas native Hal Thompson had a privileged background and graduated from MIT. His homes sport gentle curves, generous front porches, grace and proportions. One of his crowning Dallas glories is Aldredge House on Swiss Avenue. Because of it’s maturity, the home’s setting is breathlessly beautiful along the most scenic parcel of Lakeside Drive. It faces west, but exceptionally deep eaves preserve and protect it from the sun’s glare. The entrance is not your typical yawning foyer with a stairway to the left, living room to the right and (can you guess it?) great gargantuan room in the center. No no, the front is a lovely open terrace, with gated stone balustrade, which surveys the sloping front lawn and overlooks Lakeside Park and Exall Lake right across the street. At twilight, pin lights shine upon the house as do the LED tree lights, casting a subtle hue across the grounds. This is classic Highland Park living with a Who’s Who list of previous owners ranging from members of the Henry S. Miller family to Frank and Maryanne Mihalopoulo to Ronald and Terry Lee Unkefer.
But this is also a house of fun and games. And when it comes to the backyard, people, it’s time to play ball!
Behind all the fine art and Santa Barbara smoothness of the home’s elegant interiors, where you could have a black tie cocktail party with about five minutes notice, exists a backyard turned baseball field. Turns out the owner of the home, Jim Lucas, wanted a baseball field in his backyard for his sons and friends to enjoy. As the man who created the automation wrote:
Not just any field. The field that reminds us where we had a catch with our dad. The one that looks like our favorite ballparks and baseball movies. As an audio/video company owner, I frequently get requests for cool solutions involving outdoor living areas. When Lucas told me his idea for the backyard, he became the second best dad in the universe after mine.
Lucas brought in Don Lemaster, owner of Players Choice Turf, to bring his idea to life. Don’s company specializes in artificial turf that is so aesthetically pleasing, in fact, he has turfed a few pro ball stadiums: the Mav’s Ballpark and Dr. Pepper Stadium up in Frisco. Tommy Kissell, Jr. of Eco High Fidelity brought in the same Lutron lighting that you find in Fenway Park. So the backyard of 4421 Lakeside is essentially a built- in amusement park. The challenge of putting a baseball facility in a Highland Park backyard included the obvious aesthetics to blend into the landscape and sophisticated backyard decor — pool, patio, outdoor kitchen and guest house. But there is also a challenge for the builder and designer to plan irrigation, drainage, how the artificial meets the natural and to keep it permanent. Most importantly, it needs to feel like you’re playing in your favorite major-league stadium.
Mission accomplished in more ways than one. Lemaster found ways to handle excess rain and the daily doggy deposits. The result: a beautiful baseball facility that included a batting cage and field to practice pitching, swing and grounders. Consider it a 21st Century version of The Sandlot. There are two computers in the stadium to analyze pitching and swing. With all the electronics, this is virtually a regulation-sized baseball field on a .60 acre lot!
A little background here. Jim and Mitzie Lucas are the proud parents of two boys, and family is their life. Jim Lucas is the former CEO of California-based River Ranch Fresh Foods, a leading supplier of packaged salads and cut-vegetables. He is the man who marketed salad in a bag, and for that I will hold him forever dear. All those years of washing and chopping lettuce when someone — Jim Lucas! — finally said, bag it and they will buy! Jim and Mitzie moved here from the Peninsula of Northern Cali to retire; they bought 4412 Lakeside Drive on Halloween in 2008.
Though the home was built in 1918, Sebastian & Associates remodeled it to the studs in 2000 to 2002. The main house has 9035 square feet on three stories plus a basement wine cellar, and there is a detached guesthouse over the three car garage. Though the essential re-building of the home came under the Mihalopoulos watch, each owner has added more and more. I toured the home when the Unkefers had it listed in 2008 — stunning! The Lucases acquired the property for $11,570,00 and added about two more million in upgrades to the property. The list is exhaustive but includes totally remodeling the guesthouse (love the new convection Wolf stove up there in the guest kitchen), replacing and expanding all exterior lighting, almost a million alone on the backyard with the baseball field, batting cage, outdoor kitchen with grill, oven, fridges, pizza oven, burners, sink and cabinets, gas pit, pool and spa updates including cool automated covers that are remote controlled, exterior cooling misting system and mosquito control, and oh Lord more. I think the kitchen has been updated and the laundry room made more storage efficient. The new roof is genuine slate and lead-coated copper, probably cost a fortune. Tommy Kissell’s Eco High Fidelity is basically the home automation guru to the stars: not only did he oversee the back yard ball park, he updated the lighting system to a high-end Lutron and added almost $700,000 worth of tricky automation to the house. The owners, after all, moved here from Silicon Valley: they wanted sophisticated toys.
But where this home really enchants is the materials — floors, walls, ceilings. You will be hard-pressed to find a typical sheetrocked wall, even in a closet. Crisp white plaster walls and maple hand-hewn beams crisscross the major living areas downstairs. The ceilings are organically tall, as they were back in 1918. The formal living room and foyer share a limestone tile floor; there are wide-plank Brazilian hardwoods in the library, study, great room and kitchen and the walnut is continued up the staircase, which I have always thought is a work of art.The living room has several sets of screened French doors leading to a screened Loggia. In effect, you could open up the whole room to the outdoors if you desired. The living library and study have thick walnut walls and shelves. The two-story Great Room, family room and powder plus kitchen and breakfast are comprise the entire first floor. Upstairs are the master suite with groin vault ceiling, sitting area, fireplace and breathtaking spa bath, three more en suite bedrooms, a laundry room, capped by a third floor exercise room or fifth bedroom and bath. There is a charming wine cellar of Leuders limestone floor and walls tucked under the main floor.
Want an elevator? Space for one has been provided.
4412 Lakeside is a house of historical significance in Dallas, but it is also now a recreational paradise for a family. Perhaps because the owners transplanted from a part of the country where driving is a chore, they aimed to turn their home into a fun one-stop spot for their children and friends. Hence a pool area where pizzas can be made, a fire pit and sitting area where the parents can sit and watch the kids play baseball as the sun sets. The biggest tribute to the loving spirit of this home is the game room, anchored by a ping pong table, the walls lined with electronic games for kids of all ages. This is the heart of the home with it’s transom windows and second story overlook. Though this room was clearly intended for the kids, I suspect many an adult has wandered in after traversing the house and settled on this room as their favorite spot.
After all, it was Jim Henson who said, “the most sophisticated people I know, inside, they are all children!”