104 Year Old Bianchi House in Peak’s Addition Gets Landmark Commission Approval

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(Photo courtesy of Michael Cagle)
The Bianchi house at the corner of Carroll and Reiger in East Dallas is safe, at least for the moment. The 104-year-old Otto Lang & Frank Witchell (Lang & Witchell) “House of the Future” displayed at the Texas Centennial Exposition made it through the Dallas Landmark Hearing Monday afternoon. Whew! Hopefully, the move was step one for preservation and restoration of this beautiful property.
Robert Wilonsky has called it an “Airbnb for the homeless,” , and I see his point.  Monday afternoon DEEP founder Lisa Marie Gala and I walked up on the porch and were spooked by a homeless man, nice enough, just camping out on the porch.
An attic fire has all but destroyed the roof. The windows are boarded up, and weeds run as wild as a bunch of teenagers whose parents are out of town. But the owner, Rick Leggio, a former Dallas Plan Commissioner, has been impossible to reach to determine repairs or interest in selling the property.
The home is sorely in need of care. Preservationists want the home restored and preserved, not razed, as the city is apt to do to a place with an endless list of code violations and a tarp on the roof.
Since September (2015), the house has been on Preservation Dallas’s most-endangered list. Its roof is decorated with tattered strips of blue tarp after an attic fire almost three years ago. A giant concrete hunk of the house has fallen into the weeds.
Leggio has, or someone has, however, paid the property taxes.

As the process moves forward to secure the fate of the Bianchi House, DEEP – the Dallas Endowment for Endangered Properties, Inc., has committed to following the journey and fundraising toward the effort of receiving or purchasing the home for restoration, deed restriction, and re-sale.

Bianchi House plaque

Bianchi House ext Reiger

Binchi House door

The home has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1995, and was first identified by Preservation Dallas as an endangered property in 2016.

4503 Reiger was the “House of the Future” at the 1936 Texas Centennial Exposition at Fair Park, because of its advanced ventilation and plumbing systems and novel features such as closets in every room! Yep, that’s what I wrote, a closet in every room was considered a HUGE deal. Now, if we don’t have a bathroom in every room, our bladders go on strike.

Even better, in this home, in 1936, lights would come on automatically when one opened the closet door!
Otto Lang and Frank Witchell were Dallas architects and responsible for countless city landmarks, among them the Dallas Power & Light Building, Lone Star Gas Company HQ, Sanger Bros. Department Store and the Music Hall at Fair Park.
The home was built by and for Italian sculptor Didaco Bianchi, who was a general contractor for Lang & Witchell. Bianchi also was part owner of the Southwest Architectural Cement Stone Company…
which produced high-grade concrete with marble chips for pilasters, capitals and inlays in buildings that in large part no longer exist — like Dallas’s Tabernacle Church and Oriental Hotel. He built the home himself; that explains why the interior of a Mission Revival house would have decorative plasterwork, ornate pilasters (which he cast himself) and an incredible mantel cast from a single piece of concrete.
Which also explains why, despite a fire, the stone remains sculpturally interesting and the deep red bricks are still sharply pointed. Bianchi died in 1914, but his widow raised their two boys in the house until her death in 1979.
Bianchi’s son, Teddy, told Rick Leggio that when his father set the piers for the home 17 feet down, neighbors got an injunction to stop him, thinking he was building a commercial structure in a residential ‘hood. The home is rock solid! According to an article on Leggio and the house in the Advocate, written in 2000, the concrete mantel is still as smooth as satin.
We love smooth as satin. DEEP is alive and kicking its first set of preservation tires. An endowment fund was determined to be the best way to raise funds to ACTUALLY BUY AND PHYSICALLY SAVE important and worthy endangered structures in Dallas.  DEEP was, of course, the brainchild of the late, great Neil Emmons.
For more information, visit DEEP – Dallas Endowment for Endangered Properties, Inc. or our donation website: www.endowdeep.com




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).

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