For all of its progress toward becoming a world-class city, Dallas still has a lot to learn about the value of historic architecture.
We are tear-down happy. The list of demolished Dallas buildings with significant historic and architectural value would go on for pages. But here are a few recent examples:
- The 95-year-old red brick traditional at 4901 Live Oak a couple wanted to turn into a wedding venue
- The Bud Oglesby House at 10300 Strait Ln.
- A 1927 Bishop Arts building in North Oak Cliff demolished to make way for a parking lot
- An entire block of century-old buildings in downtown demolished by Headington Companies as part of the Joule’s expansion plans
We might have another situation happening now. The Mayrath house at 10707 Lennox Ln. is a Midcentury Modern gem. It was designed by Dallas architect and homebuilder Truett A. Bishop in 1956, and is largely unchanged since then.
A Dallas Times Herald article from Sept. 23, 1957, titled Not a Splinter of Wood Used In Outstanding Home in Dallas, describes the Mayrath House like this:
Wood, the most frequently used material in homes, is completely shunned in the home of one Dallas family. There isn’t so much as a splinter of wood in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Martin Mayrath, 10707 Lennox Lane…Built on columns of steel, the two story house is constructed with aluminum, glass, concrete and Austin stone. It may look like a country club at first glance, but it is a luxury home—one that probably is not equaled in the vast Southwest.
In terms of architectural value, this Northwest Dallas home near Royal Lane and Inwood Road is priceless. But it was listed Jan. 18 by Sharon Quist with Dave Perry-Miller Real Estate for $2.5 million, which is just the lot value.
That means the iconic Mayrath house and all its Midcentury significance is likely to face the wrecking ball, probably replaced by another generic McMansion or faux château.
When discussing this possible fate for the Mayrath house, a friend commented, “That is so Dallas.” But it doesn’t have to be. This home is worth saving.
The Mayrath house is a classic Austin stone Midcentury Modern structure, with original mint green Geneva cabinets in the kitchen (!!!), and one of the earliest microwaves. The entryway is a grand, two-story affair with a sweeping gold aluminum staircase and a black-and-white marble floor. The two fireplaces are beautifully atomic era in style, and the house boasts a geothermal HVAC system, as well as a balcony around much of the exterior.
It’s 5,240 square feet, with five bedrooms, five full bathrooms, and a half bath. It sits on a 2.29-acre lot, with three additional structures and a tennis court. There’s a cabana with a pool room, bar, and two bathrooms; a one-bedroom back house apartment; and an office/tennis house with three walls of windows.
“This is very special house—it’s quirky and it’s going to take the right kind of person to come along and buy the property,” said Donovan Westover, Events and Development Coordinator at Preservation Dallas. “It’s a time capsule—it looks exactly as it did in the old photos.”
Westover led a group on a property tour of the Mayrath house Wednesday evening. He noted that architects on the tour marveled at the home’s construction—the “no wood, all metal” style is quite rare.
Listing this house at lot value makes the assumption it is a teardown, and that’s a tragedy. One interested buyer has apparently already had an estimate done on teardown costs (which would be huge, because the structure is so solidly built.)
Razing this significant house is not the only option.
“It would be really cool if somebody restored this as a guesthouse and built their megamansion on the other side of the property,” Westover said.
In terms of living in the house, most buyers would want to do updates, and that’s feasible.
“The first thing everybody would look at is the bathrooms and the kitchen—the kitchen is small and by today’s standards, so I could see someone wanting to add space onto it, which would be sad, because the kitchen has the original Geneva cabinets,” Westover said. “I’ve seen a lot of historic homes, but I’ve never seen a set of cabinet in such pristine condition—it’s amazing.”
Four preservationists, Virginia McAlester, Jim Rogers, Lisa Marie Gala, and Neil Emmons, together founded the Dallas Endowment for Endangered Properties (DEEP) fund last month. The goal is to buy up properties in danger, place deed restrictions on them, and sell them to those who value the character historic homes bring to a city. (Read our post on it, Tired of Teardowns, Preservationists Form Fund to Buy Up Historic Properties at Risk.)
Could the DEEP be an option for the Mayrath house?
“This would probably be a property that would fall into their purview because it’s so significant, special, and unique, and once it’s gone, we do not have another example like it in the city,” Westover said. “However, the fund is brand new, they’re still building, and this price tag is probably way out of what they could do right now.”
So what is the solution for the endangered Mayrath house? I don’t know. But another McMansion isn’t going to add anything of value to the city, and tearing down this gem would be an irreplaceable loss for Dallas.
Leave us a comment with your thoughts on what can be done to save this architecturally significant home. We’d love to hear your opinion.