Heritage Says Reserve on Historic Home Easily Attainable, Alan Peppard Looks at 3756 Armstrong Avenue

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3756 Armstrong Ave ext2One of my favorite journalists, Alan Peppard, is back and running at the Dallas Morning News. Alan toasted his return with a great piece on 3756 Armstrong Avenue, the Penson House, where we had a wonderful CandysDirt.com VIP party and preview Tuesday evening.

Alan asks the formidable question: why didn’t this major historic property, designed by O’Neil Ford, one of a handful in the city, so incredibly significant, sell?

Across Armstrong is the estate of Jerry Jones. Five lots to the south is Troy Aikman’s new place. Across St. Johns, the nearest house is on the tax rolls at $25 million.

But when the 8,900-square-foot Penson house at 3756 Armstrong was listed for $7.5 million and later $6 million, a buyer did not materialize. A recent appraisal of the property valued the land at $6.1 million.

I just got off the phone with Jonathan Miller, one of the nations’ top real estate appraisers and experts. Jonathan was in Dallas last week for the annual Relocation Appraisers & Consultants conference in Frisco. I asked him if he was seeing more trophy properties going to auction and he said, yes indeed, and we will see more. Because that is what the Penson house is: an architectural wonder, but a trophy property. And the market everywhere is a little soft for them.

Alan spoke to Greg Rohan, president of Dallas-based Heritage Auction, who said a smart buyer could come in, spend $2 million to refresh the home’s interiors, and enjoy an $8 million investment in a sea of $25 million mansions:

When it was listed, a lot of buyers didn’t have the vision or expertise to realize they could buy it for lot value,” says Rohan. “Then they could spend a couple of million dollars to return it to its original splendor.” At lot value plus a full restoration, the cost would have been about $8 million for a sprawling masterpiece on one of Highland Park’s most prized lots.

At that price, it would be $17 million cheaper than the house across the street.

Peppard’s story also yields great insight into the one family that built and owned this house. As we all know by now, it’s the story that makes a home.

So here’s the story and exclusive photos from our event where the Dallas real estate world really lived it up :

Penson House

Auction preview fun1
Keller Williams agents Nancy Markham & Rosa Collins & moi at CD’s VIP soiree with Heritage Auctions


Heritage preview party fun
Nancy snagged vintage wine from the Heritage raffle


Cowboys print Heritage
Rosa made off with a signed Staubach print


Literally oceans of custom built-in drawers in the master suite


Penson Master
Onyx master bath, “her side”


Custom toothbrush and cup holders in gold


Out of sight with a swivel


The master soaking tub drenched in rare onyx


Dream about it: a lazy susan in your master bath


Vintage built-in desk in one bedroom, cork floors


heritage phone nook
A telephone nook!

3756 Armstrong Avenue was built by Nancy and John G. “Jack” Penson, on land bought for them by Nancy’s mother, a descendent of the Penn Oil family. They commissioned Ford to build the 8900 square foot home and lived in it their entire life. The home was not just a place for the family to enjoy, but it became quite the focal house for charity events and fundraising.

Nancy Penn had gone east to college, to Wellesley College in Massachusetts, where she met Jack Penson, a student at Harvard. Jack was from Long Island, and worked for a bit on Wall Street. The couple moved back to Dallas in the 1950’s. That’s when they commissioned Ford, built the house, and moved into it in 1954 to raise their three girls.

The homeowners, the late Nancy and Jack Penson, in 1992. (Joe Laird/File Photo)
The homeowners, the late Nancy and Jack Penson, in 1992. Photo by Joe Laird

One of the Penson daughters, Read Penson Gendler, says she never realized the architectural significance of the home, not until she was in college.

The Penson house is so significant because it is one of O’Neil Ford’s first modern homes in Texas.. Having outgrown Texas Colonialism, Ford was leaning more modern. When another oil magnate, Fort Worth’ Sid Richardson and his nephew Perry Bass, commissioned Ford to design a house in South Texas (a private island retreat near Corpus Christi), Ford took the modern ball and ran, leaping into modernism.

The island house is low and linear and features one of the architect’s favorites: multipurpose rooms. There is a living room/dining room/porch divided by moving partitions.

His carpenter brother, Lynn Ford, used wood from the island to create cabinets and built-in furniture.

At the Penson house, that regional modernism matured. The long veranda has terra cotta floors, just like the island house. Larger rooms are separated by a moving latticework partition.

Inside, it’s a visual panoply of regional woods and built-ins by Lynn Ford.

3756 Armstrong Ave ext 33756 Armstrong Ave foyer3756 Armstrong Ave loggia3756 Armstrong Ave fountain3756 Armstrong Ave study3756 Armstrong Ave rear3756 Armstrong ave study 2The home did have one addition, the library and the magnificent master bathroom by architect Overton Shelmire. Just take a look at all that rare marble, the custom built drinking cup holders that swiveled shut, and hundreds of felt-lined drawers for jewelry.

There is at least one million worth of rare marble in that bathroom.

The home has been listed, as we told you, at a high of $7 (I think that was an off-market price) and then later reduced to the current appraisal of $6.1 million.
A far as the bidding, Greg Rohan says it “won’t sell for a bid lower than the undisclosed reserve price.” What he means is that they are not giving the house away for $1 million. In fact, $1M is the starting bid.

There is an undisclosed reserve, however, and no minimum bid, as long as it is over the starting bid.  

“There is a reserve, but the sellers see it only as an insurance policy against an unlikely series of catastrophic events leading up to auction day, like a financial market crash,” say Nate Schar, Director, Luxury Real Estate, Heritage Auctions.

“The property is owned by an estate that’s being finalized, they simply wanted an insurance policy to protect from the property selling for a ridiculous price,” added Schar. “The reserve is easily attainable.”

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Candy Evans

A real estate muckraker, Candy Evans is one of the nation’s leading real estate reporters. She is also the North Texas real estate editor for Forbes.com, CultureMap Dallas, Modern Luxury Dallas, & the Katy Trail Weekly. Candy has written for Joel Kotkin’s The New Geography, Inman Real Estate News, plus a host of national sites. Constantly breaking celebrity real estate news, she scooped former president George W. Bush's Dallas home in 2008. She is the founder and publisher of her signature CandysDirt.com, and SecondShelters.com, devoted to the vacation home market. Her verticals have won many awards, including Best Blog by the venerable National Association of Real Estate Editors, one of the nation’s oldest and most prestigious journalism associations. Candy holds an active Texas real estate license but does not sell. She is on the Board of Directors of Braemar Hotels & Resorts (BHR).

Reader Interactions


  1. CRITIC says

    Hopefully this home will be preserved and not meet a wrecking ball
    It would be tragic if a new Pink McMansion is constructed similar to the property adjacent to the East.
    Money does not = good taste

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