A historic Oak Lawn house that was home to two formidable Dallasites is on the market — but where it ends up is still up for discussion.
The home, located at 3403 Knight Street, was home to Lois Bailey and Marguerite Mizell. Ron Watterson said he bought the home from Bailey in 1995. The house was built in 1914, and the Bailey family lived there from 1918 until 1995.
“We purchased the home from Lois Bailey in near original condition,” Watterson said.
Bailey graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Southern Methodist University in 1924, and then went on to get a master’s degree from Columbia University in 1930 and a second master’s from the University of Chicago in 1945.
“Lois was the librarian at Fondren Library at SMU from 1927 until 1968,” Watterson said. “She received the SMU Distinguished Alumni Award in 1969.”
Bailey was also an officer at First Presbyterian Church of Dallas — and was the first woman deacon and an elder there.
In 1950, she was joined by Mizell in the late 1950s. The two were fast friends and traveling companions, too.
“She traveled throughout Asia with her companion, Marguerite Mizell, a missionary in communist China,” Watterson said. Mizell’s importance to First Presbyterian is borne out in the fact that there is still a Sunday school class named in her honor. Her life in Asia made her a frequent speaker around the region, and a book detailing her life as a missionary is still available for purchase on Amazon.
“It is our understanding that the Lois occupied the property for nearly all of her active life, and was joined in the home by Marguerite in the late 1950s until they relocated to retirement homes in the 1990s,” Watterson explained.
Mizell passed away in 1995 at age 102, and Bailey died at 101 in 2005.
Nowadays, the lot the home sits on is incredibly valuable, and while Watterson and his family couldn’t bear to see their historic home demolished, they also couldn’t ignore the fiscal realities, either, he said.
We are offering the 11,200 square foot corner lot for sale as ‘land only’ since the land value is much higher than the ‘home with a yard’ value,” Watterson explained, adding that they made the decision after noticing a for lease sign in front of a neighboring home on Rawlins this spring.
“The home has a similar design to ours and had been extensively updated — when we called the number on the sign to inquire, we discovered the property had been sold to Larkspur Development, a well-known developer of condominium residences in East Dallas,” he said.
But Watterson has a plan that will save the house and open his spacious lot up for redevelopment, he said — although it wasn’t a decision entered into lightly.
“We realized that the home we had loved as our home for 22 years may have a higher value if the home were not there,” he said. “It was a hard reality, but one which we always knew may come one day.”
“We always said we would not sell the property if the home were to be demolished so we began to explore options to save the house,” he continued. “After investing several weeks in the effort to research a suitable solution, we were led to McMillan Movers — and a project known as Founders Row in Midlothian.”
Watterson contacted the Founders Row Stephen Hidlebaugh and then paid a visit to the Midlothian development, and found that his concerns about the fate of his house were alleviated.
“We felt comfortable that Stephen understood our concerns and have come to preliminary agreement to donate the home to their development, once the land sells,” Watterson said. The Bailey-Mizell home has also been listed for sale as is as well, with the understanding that it would be moved.
Watterson said that conversations with Larkspur Capital and another neighbor who owns the historic duplex behind their home have resulted in four parcels between Rawlins and Knight being offered for sale for $4.4 million.
“Founders Row has expressed interest in relocating all three of the historic homes to Midlothian if we are able to find a buyer for the land,” he said. “That would be a win-win for the homes — to have a new life on a new foundation and preserved for the long term, and cost savings for the purchaser /developer since there would be no cost to demolish the structures.”
Watterson said that he is at peace with the decision and confident it will mean that others will get to appreciate what he and his family have loved about the home for more than two decades — and what Lois Bailey and Marguerite Mizell loved about the home, too.
“Most importantly, the historic homes would have a bright future — one which would be shared by so many others whom we hope would get the same feeling we do every time we enter — of being in a very special home,” Watterson said.
“From the tall ceilings, the exceptional woodwork, original light fixtures and finish out, the leaded glass entry, and sensible floorplan, the ‘energy’ in our home is not found in homes available today, and we would be honored to share that feeling with visitors to Founders Row.”
“The decision was not easy or fast,” Watterson continued. “We love the home and our neighborhood but also realize that additional investment into the home in its current location — surrounded by condos and a strip shopping center of questionable quality, may not be a sound investment.”
“With our commitment to the preservation of the historical structure, yet mindful of the increasing land value, it we don’t opt to relocate the home now, but sell outright, the home’s future is questionable,” he said, adding that he declined a “very attractive” offer from a buyer who wanted to use the home for rental income until the buyer could find a developer for the lot.
“We opted out in hopes of finding a buyer who wanted to purchase the land only, allowing us to relocate the home to Founders Row,” he said.
“We hope to have been good stewards of the home for the past 22 years we have loved and occupied it, but know there may be a higher calling for the land and the precious structure,” Watterson said.