By Donovan Westover
The stately Jones House at Mockingbird Lane and Fairfield Avenue has commanded the Highland Park intersection for 98 years. I recollect, as you might, its former life as the big red house overgrown with trees, shrubs, vines, and bamboo across from the Dallas Country Club. Even in my most optimistic vision, I realistically envisioned the exceptionally large lot would be scraped for the usual 14,000-square-foot Neo-Gothic Greek Colonial Revival McCastle with lots of columns, and windows that do not open.
I recollect the first time I saw the house begin to emerge from the overgrowth and figured clean up was occurring because the end was coming. Over a period of time I watched, what appeared to be, renovation. While preferable to scraping, this may not always be my favorite alternative. With the always lurking façadectomy option, I now envisioned said 14,000-square-foot house blown out the back of this English Craftsman home like a fake Disneyland structure. Admittedly, my optimism is traumatized due to the architectural carnage I frequently see.
For months and months and months I paid close attention to what ended up being a $3 million project for Pete Livingston, now with Allie Beth Allman & Associates. Pete is a preservationist as well as a long time Park Cities resident, and he understood the significance of this 1918 house built for Fred A. Jones. Jones earned his degree in engineering from Cornell and opened offices in Dallas in 1906 and his company built iconic buildings such as the Dallas Country Club, Dallas Hall at SMU, White Rock Lake Dam and the old Beaux-Arts style Dallas Municipal Building. In addition, Jones built the Texas Interurban Railway that connected Dallas with Denison, Corsicana, and Waco. Jones married Gussie Holland, daughter of former Dallas mayor and publishing magnate, Franklin Holland (yes, the Holland Avenue namesake). Mayor Holland came to Dallas where he opened the offices for his fledgling agricultural journal, Texas Farm and Ranch. He later published the popular Holland’s Magazine and became the largest publishing business west of the Mississippi.
A point of pride was that from the front porch, Jones could see his Dallas Country Club or step across the street to board the streetcar, which he also was involved in building, at its terminus at Mockingbird Lane and Fairfield Avenue. Can you begin to imagine a streetcar running that line now?!
While unable to document the architect of record for the Jones House, it is believed C.D. Hill collaborated on this project, as he and Jones designed and built multiple others including the old Dallas Municipal Building. Hill received his architectural education at the Chicago Art Institute and opened his own Dallas practice in 1907, just as the development of Highland Park began. His designs were prolific and his project list included names like Munger, Tenison, and Flippen, as well as projects such as First Presbyterian Church, Oak Lawn Methodist Church, Melrose Hotel, Davis Building, State Fair’s Coliseum (Women’s Building), and Hyer Hall at SMU.
After two and a half years, the 6,800-square-foot house had been painstakingly restored with only a minor addition (no blow out here) that Pete’s business acumen told him to do to contend in the real estate market. The faux thatch roof returned in the original green, original windows and hardware were restored (me likey!), the giant and gorgeous butler’s pantry was restored, and the formal rooms were cleaned and polished back to splendor, including their vast barrel ceilings. Oh, and Pete lifted and rotated the rather large detached garage … a very logical and advantageous endeavor. It makes a lot of sense and the relocation created stunning grounds as framework for this marvelous home. Because someone will ask, Pete was convinced to paint the brick for marketing purposes even after he meticulously matched it on the addition. Always updating to keep up with the Joneses. Wait a minute, were they the Joneses we strive to keep up with?!
Preservation Dallas was proud to present a 2013 Preservation Dallas Achievement Award to Pete for this massive undertaking. After watching the process, it warmed my heart like watching a child graduate after so much hard work. Come warm your hearts and explore the Jones House and four other significant homes this Saturday, October 29, on the Preservation Dallas 2016 Fall Architectural Tour-Honoring the Legacy of Ebby Halliday. The Patron Party is tomorrow evening at the 1926 Hess House on Turtle Creek — on the actual creek and the drive.