Next weekend’s 34th annual Ryan Place Christmas tour or Candlelight Christmas in Ryan Place, by its official name, offers an interesting mix of homes stretching through the decades and communicating the complex story of the historic neighborhood.
Tour regulars won’t be disappointed this year. Included will be a grand Southern Colonial Revival house built in 1918. Fabled Fort Worth architect, Wiley G. Clarkson — builder of many important landmark public buildings such as the Masonic Temple, First Methodist Church, and the United States Court House — will be represented by a fine “Italianate” house of his design on Elizabeth Boulevard. Another early house, built around 1920, will please classicists with its Georgian Revival style.
The neighborhood peaked in the late 1920s and went into a slow decline with little building activity until the 1950s. The tour includes specimens from that period as well, consisting of a “traditional minimal” cottage and a true midcentury modern abode, which has undergone a loving renovation. If there is any thread in this year’s tour, it is the youth of the participants, several of whom are newcomers pressed into neighborhood service. That young energy comes through in the design choices of the owners. Indeed, there is a modernity and lightness of touch which pervades throughout — even in the older tour homes.
A perfect example of this year’s youthful levity of approach is exemplified by the Sanders’ house, a venerable Elizabeth Boulevard grande dame which now looks fresh as paint. The new owners, former west siders, were both immediately taken with Ryan Place. Initially flirting with a “project house,” they chanced on the Elizabeth property driving through the area. Beneficiaries of prior pioneers, there was little for the young family to renovate. All of the invisible, expensive stuff-HVAC, wiring and infrastructure had been dealt with. “We loved the choices of the previous owners, including colors,” says Jenny Sanders. The Sanders epitomize the new wave of hip, young, Ryan Placers. Red Sanders is the founder of Red Productions a growing Fort Worth film outfit.
Relaxed, sophisticated, and confident are words that spring to mind to describe the Sanders’ style. Etherial Wedgewood blue beautifully enhances the lovely carving of the original chimney piece and plays beautifully against the veined black marble surround. Touches of gilt in the Restoration style mirror and the frames of the prints hanging from the picture moulding, betray their stint in France – in fact they were married in Provence.
Soft pastels, sparse, even minimal furnishings and a touch of ornamental brio in the Italian-style gold chandelier maintain a seamless consistency of decor. The Sanders plan to go light on Christmas decorations as well. “We will put up a tree and set the table with Christmas Spode, adding in some collected and family things that have meaning, but generally keeping it simple,” Jenny says.
“This is a great tour, this year,” says Kris Savage, a longtime Candle Light veteran and Volunteer Chair again this year, with the kind of enthusiasm which can’t be feigned. “It’s about the houses but of course it’s about the people who live in them,” she adds. The tour has raised thousands of dollars over the years, since its inception in 1983, for projects to restore and embellish one of the first planned developments in Fort Worth. The 1909 founder, John C. Ryan would recognize the formidable portals which have been reconstructed with tour funds, and approve of the period appropriate street lights sprinkled throughout the neighborhood streets. Tour tickets are $15 and may be purchased online, or $20 on the days of the tour: from noon to 9 p.m. Saturday, December 2nd and from noon to 5 p.m. Sunday, December 3rd.
Photography of 1200 Elizabeth Boulevard is by Jen Morley, graciously shared by Meda Kessler of 360 West magazine.
Eric Prokesh is an interior designer whose work has appeared on HGTV, and in books and publications including D Home, Southern Accents, House Beautiful, and House and Garden. In January 2005, HG named Eric one of the 50 tastemakers in America and D Home has included him as one of Dallas’ Best Designers for 10 years. Having lived most of his life in Dallas, he now calls Fort Worth home and is one of our experts on beautiful Fort Worth Dirt.