It’s funny how my life in Dallas has always had a connection to Northern Hills. Years ago, when we were in our thirties, friends owned a brick bungalow on Cragmont. Then my son became friends with the son of a friend who I had known in college, and she and her husband lived on Cragmont. Little did I know that the times we spent at those homes, I was passing by and probably parking in front of, the future home of one of the greatest architects of our time, Frank D. Welch.
Frank died in June, at the age of 90.
Often called the Dean of Texas Architecture, Welch, much like his mentor O’Neil Ford, explored and expanded a tradition of modernism in Texas’ landscapes, materials, style, and culture. His many Dallas residences (including that of two dear friends in Preston Hollow) blend warmth with sophistication. They are contemporary buildings that engage with their environments without screaming they are doing it, yet they are clean, crisp, stylish and, like the product of an architectural geniuse, display meticulous attention to detail, obsessive choice of materials (only the best), and an atmosphere of peaceful humanity through spacial design.
You just felt a beautiful peace in a Frank Welch home.
And so it is with his own home, hitting the MLS on September 25.
The single-family Northern Hills town home residence is adjacent to the Katy Trail, just outside Highland Park. Though he often designed mega homes, Welch’s personal residence is 3,008 efficient square feet (per DCAD) with three bedrooms, three baths, living-dining-kitchen, an elevator and pool. It was built in 1997. The clean lined, beige brick and siding town home is pleasantly surrounded by Ginko trees and red oaks selected by Welch himself. The listing agent is Tricia Weiner, with Dave Perry-Miller Real Estate, who has the home priced at $1,179,000.
“Frank was an unpretentious, articulate, interesting man, and he was profoundly influential,” Weiner said. “Those characteristics are pervasive in all of his work, especially this one.”
Some of Welch’s trademarks in the construction of his Cragmont Avenue home include his signature use of St. Joe brick (from St. Joe Brick Works, Inc. in Pearl River, LA), soaring ceilings, rift-cut oak cabinetry in the kitchen, and glass everywhere possible, including skylights, which let in volumes of light, a key element in his work. His homes are known for embracing light and artfully bringing it into the home.
To understand how significant Welch is to modern architecture, consider that his Midland design called “The Birthday” won a Texas Society of Architects’ 25-Year Award in 1997, an honor that was shared with Louis Kahn’s magnificent Kimbell Art Museum, considered by many architects one of the most beautiful architectural creations in the world. Sharing the honor with Kahn further underscored Welch’s importance and contribution to Texas architecture. The Birthday, his first residence in West Texas, was on a newly purchased ranch and had no electricity or plumbing, per the requests of the clients, John and Blee Dorn. It was marked with a massive, 20-foot railroad tie found on the ranch, which Welch used as a structural beam, that spanned a glassed-in shelter, plus an elevated split-level roof, and a porch cantilevered over an escarpment with vistas out to the distant horizon.
The structure was named for the stone commemorative monuments dotting the ranch, built by migrant Mexicans.
“His buildings were like him,” says architectural historian Stephen Fox. “Low-key and tailored in appearance; energetic, insightful, exuberant, and inspiring in spirit.”
“Frank Welch’s place in Texas cultural history was firmly established when he received the 2017 Texas Medal of the Arts award, joining the ranks of writer John Graves, singer-songwriter Willie Nelson, and playwright, Horton Foote,” said architect Max Levy. “His architecture can be characterized as modernism with a Texas accent, buildings that reflect the climate and native materials of the state. At the same time, they quietly bring into people’s lives a certain cultural sophistication. His town house on Cragmont Avenue in Dallas is a consummate case in point: an exterior easy on the eye in the glaring sun, and a shady interior of lofty, light -filled spaces, all of it subtly stitched together with refined details. There is something about his place that invites the inhabitation of books, artwork, music and conviviality.”
Indeed, it does. It is that light play that is like a refrain in every home Welch designed, including his own.
“No one understood Texas and Texas light, like Frank did,” agreed Welch protegé, Bentley Tibbs. “Light was such a central piece of his architecture.”
Welch lived and worked in Midland for 25 years, and told me it was one of the most beautiful places he knew — he loved the stark landscape, called it the perfect palette. In Dallas, Welch designed The Shamoon Residence near Turtle Creek and the Dillon House off the Katy Trail, the Lamplighter School and gymnasium, the expansion of the St. Alcuin Montessori School and the design of First United Methodist Church of Richardson. He worked up to the end of his life, collaborating with Max Levy, always a twinkle in his eye and the distinct conveyance that though his body and memory were failing him, he very much retained his playfulness and love of life.
3511 Cragmont hits MLS September 25, and given the hotness factor of the neighborhood, combined with the historical significance of the home, we do not expect it to last. 3511 Cragmont will be held open on Sunday, October 1st, from 1:00-4:00.
For more information, please contact Tricia Weiner at 214.535.1405 or email her at: firstname.lastname@example.org.