By Donovan Westover
A crowning Dallas midcentury modern jewel, the Grady Vaughn house — family residence of the late Dallas developer Allan Zidell since 1971 — has hit the market. It is one of the most significant midcentury masterpieces not just in Dallas, but in the country. Built like a fortress with maple studs, the home sits on an unusually lush wooded and waterfront-ed 1.36 acres in the honeypot of Preston Hollow at 5350 South Dentwood Drive, right across from former Dallas mayor Laura Miller and former Texas state representative Steve Wolens.
In 1951, when Dallas was still learning to embrace the midcentury modern design movement, oilman Grady Vaughn commissioned architect Robert Goodwin of Goodwin & Cavitt to design his waterfront dream home in what we now know as the honeypot of Preston Hollow.
From a recent talk with Grady Vaughn Jr., I gathered the sprawling 9,500-plus-square-foot home (it has nine-and-a-half bathrooms) was designed to serpentine throughout the lush property, meandering alongside a pond on the Straight Branch tributary, weaving through and around original trees. Buildings developed for their sites have an inherent connection, and you feel it intensely walking around the Vaughn House setting.
Midcentury architecture was noteworthy for open floor plans, introduced through post-and-beam construction, and inviting the outdoors inside. The Vaughn House embraces these guidelines with ground-floor glass — and there is lots of it — sliding open as huge oversized doorways. Some sections are entire large, transparent walls, and smaller sections are actually window pocket doors. Think of large metal casement windows sliding out of sight for a perfect segue, a la the Camp House at Dallas Arboretum.
Also typical of midcentury modern design, Asian influences can be seen throughout the home, from cabinetry handles and pulls, to fireplace surrounds, to extra-deep pecky Cypress soffits, to privacy courtyards. As well, brass elements such as the (miles of) Terrazzo floor inlay and door hardware remind you how durable and beautiful it is. Not a single inch of space was wasted and there is storage everywhere, whether it be hidden panels and doors or walls and walls and walls of built ins.
For example, square wall panels in the dining room are really secured, felt-lined silver cabinets. The mistress side of the extensive master bath holds myriad jewelry drawers (also securable) as well as custom designed shoe cabinets. There are oceans of closets and pristine marble counters. The fixtures are top of the line from the day. And the luxurious thoughtfulness in each room is unprecedented.
The Roman brick exterior of this mansion seamlessly incorporates planters, privacy courtyards, retaining walls, an outdoor kitchenette, and even a small boat dock. Considering all the topography and curves, the fact that each stone layer is placed so perfectly made my OCD senses tingle. The giant “chapel” anchoring the front houses a staircase that is a work of art. I had opportunity to review the original drawings and Goodwin very specifically detailed every single facet of this project. I would imagine his carpenter had great job security.
Prior to Goodwin & Cavitt, there was Goodwin & Tatum, a prolific firm in 1930s and ’40s Highland Park home design. Goodwin & Tatum’s style was much more traditional and the Vaughn House exhibits Goodwin’s career evolution. Goodwin & Tatum’s most iconic homes include the the Henry W. Strasberger (founder of one of Dallas’ oldest law firms) House (3500 Rock Creek Drive), 4417 Versalles Avenue (Flippen Park), and the ill-fated 4307 Armstrong Parkway, all pictured above.
5350 South Dentwood is being marketed by Alan Press and Mark Woodling of United Real Estate Group.
It is worth mentioning that O’Neil Ford’s 1957 masterpiece, the Haggerty House, is across the pond, sharing its lawn sculptures with waterfront neighbors.
Of note: Vaughn’s previous home is the Anton Korn design at 6676 Lakewood Boulevard, which Stephanie and Hunter Hunt now reside in while they restore the Ray Hubbard House at 6800 Lakewood Boulevard.
Preservation Dallas will be doing an InTown Outing to the Vaughn House tonight, Tuesday, July 26, from 6 to 7 p.m. Admission is free for members of Preservation Dallas and $20 for non-members. Reservations are required and can be made at www.PreservationDallas.org or by calling 214-821-3290.