BREAKING: O’Neil Ford-Designed Penson House on Armstrong to be Demolished, Lute Riley New Owner

Penson House Demolition 1

On September 27, when the Penson house at 3756 Armstrong Parkway sold at auction, a handsome gentleman with white hair was the buyer. He walked out of the house that day smiling broadly with his agent, Allie Beth Allman.

He was Lute Riley of the Honda car dealership fame. As we told you, he paid $4.95 million, including the buyer’s 10% premium, for a home that had almost a Camelot presence in Dallas. Built for Jack and Nancy Penson in 1954, it is one of architect O’Neil Ford’s largest residential projects, and was designed in one of his favorite styles, Texas Regionalism. The exterior and interior of the 9,800-square-foot home remains very close to the original design with the exception of a second story addition, a massive, indulgent master bath expansion, and enclosure of a rear porch.

The home remains an architectural icon that has been named by Preservation Dallas as one of the major Dallas buildings in danger of destruction.

Sadly, a permit has been pulled to demolish the home.


Penson House Demolition 2


Penson House Demolition 3



When I first called Riley to ask him about his purchase, he was a bit taken back. He wanted to know why I was calling him. I explained he had just bought a very significant home. I had heard that after the sale, as he took his wife through the house, the couple considered keeping it, with perhaps some renovations. Their children are grown, it would be a fun project for the successful former auto dealer.

Lute offered no explanation, just shock that I would call. I even dared to ask if he planned to build a new home there …

“No,” he told me, “no, we live in a lovely home already.”

3318 Saint Johns Drive

3318 St. Johns Drive

Would that be 3318 St. John’s Drive, which he bought in September of 2014 for $1.55 million on a gorgeous corner lot? It was built in 1920 and renovated in 2005, giving me ever so much hope.  The Rileys lived there for about a year, then sold it in December, 2015.

Perhaps, I offered, you are fixing the Penson house up for re-sale after getting such a fantastic deal?

He wouldn’t say.

The Rileys live at 4201 Edmondson, not too far from the Penson home. They built their new 9,516-square-foot home in 2012. The place is four years old.

Lute Riley Edmondson

4201 Edmondson

So, yeah. A big old JR Demolition excavator is sitting on the former Penson property. Once the utilities are disconnected, O’Neil Ford’s Dallas masterpiece will be torn down within 10 business days.

From Hondas to haciendas. My best guess is something else I heard from a source: 3756 Armstrong is an investment project for Lute and his son. I had just hoped, as did everyone involved in the sale, the investment would mean keeping the original home.

“As far as we knew the home was going to be restored, but we obviously cannot force everyone to love architecture,” says Nate Schar with Heritage Auctions Luxury Real Estate, the company that handled the home auction. Twelve bidders bid on the house with a reserve starting at $3 million.

“It’s like buying  house and insisting that the artwork and furniture stays exactly the way it is, everything in the same place,” says Schar. “It’s very sad, because it’s a beautiful home, but when you spend money on a house, particularly a lot of money, that is simply the buyer’s prerogative.”

I had asked Read Penson Gendler, a Penson daughter who grew up in the house, what she would do should the unthinkable happen.

“In a way, this is our house and always will be, the way our parents built it, and how our family lived there,” she said. “If someone else tears it down, then we will have been the only ones — no one else gets to live there.”


Penson House Demolition 4

12 Comment

  • This just hardens my heart against Hondas.

  • Dallas, this is part of your soul.

  • Guess we get to see another horribly ugly McMansion built in its place. Great job Lute. I know where I’ll never go looking for a car.

  • Was the house in bad shape when auctioned? I seem to remember the previous photos showing the house had been taken care of, even though not updated recently. Is that correct? I don’t know what people are thinking sometimes!! Very sad to tear down another Dallas iconic home.

  • This is a travesty and another example of the many historical and architecturally unique masterpieces that have been demolished for charmless, glitzy boxes. Money doesn’t buy finesse or an appreciation of history.

  • Oh if only we COULD get others to love the original!
    However, I await the new creation with wondrous curiosity!!

  • This breaks my heart. I went to the preview showing before the auction and what a wonderful, warm home. You could feel the love there. It was amazing that so many of the original details were still there. The home could have been so beautifully restored. I saddens me to see so much of the architectural history of Dallas being torn down.

  • An objective observer would note that any preservation restrictions would have considerably reduced the property value the previous owners could have realized. Whether they were willing or able to impose preservation restrictions or not, the owners made the ultimate decision to put the property on the market knowing the circumstances and likely outcome (or perhaps not). Regardless, if the structure is to be demolished, they are as complicit as the new owner in the destruction of this gem.

    • This is the same kind of logic is advanced by defenders of “honor killings” in the Mideast. Unless extremely wealthy in their own right, the children of the original owners are in a similar position to the owners of old construction condo units with little or no remaining useful life and are just as blameless for selling. There is no reasonable alternative available to them and everyone has a right to get on with their lives.

  • Wish all you jerks who want to tell others what to do with their assets would move to California. And then secede as they threaten.

  • By the way, the house looks like an ugly elementary school built in 1955. Should have been torn down 20 years ago.

  • Sad. The almighty dollar rules again. The family who owned it could have sold it to someone with the condition that it not be torn down, however that would have cost them a lot of $$$.