By Donovan Westover
My heart sank when I learned my favorite Charles Dilbeck-designed house had burned to the ground. An exterior appliance started the 2016 blaze, which quickly spread throughout the 9,000-square-foot house replete with acres of 55-year-old wood shingles, wood siding, and wood ornamentation. I was super sad for the loss to the family, as well as saddened for the loss of such a significant home … albeit not to a bulldozer, this time.
The home was built for local developer Sam Lobello, Jr. in 1962. He built a large number of Dilbeck’s projects and Lobello’s personal residence appeared to be a no-budget project. The house hubbed off a large central atrium in a donut of size and structure reminiscent of rustic WPA park architecture. Parchitecture, if you will.
The large Russwood Acres neighborhood cul-de-sac is an ideal setting to sprawl out, and the house takes advantage in every direction, creating a multitude of outdoor focal points and sitting areas. Dilbeck designed the 6,000-square-foot Matthews House (Dilbeck’s boldest contemporary design) two streets up for Lobello’s sister, and it occupies the land in the same cooperative and efficient fashion.
My heart also sank with a different sensation when I discovered the homeowners and their Droese Raney Architecture companions had located the original Dilbeck blueprints and drawings, and they were rebuilding the house to original 1962 specifications. The Phoenix is actually more of a replication and the material list includes the original California driftwood stone (post blaze reuse) as well as vast amounts of pecky cypress and redwood. Oh, and beams, lots of huge wooden beams.
Observing the un-construction and rebuild, I watched two fireplaces gracefully appear like cairns (parchitecture) and then drift back into the landscape of the rising house. This rising also reproduced a key component to the house, the atrium. Throughout all stages of construction, the atrium canyon has been my tracker in this large home. Now that the walls, windows and roof have been put in place, the atrium is once again at the heart.
On Saturday, October 27, Preservation Dallas will be presenting “Charles Dilbeck In Dallas,” our annual Fall Architectural Tour featuring a complete lineup of Dilbeck designed homes. With everything from ranch houses, to French Norman houses, to storybook cottages, it will be a day of quirk and magic.
In addition to several other distinct Dilbeck tour homes, guests can experience the replication process at the Lobello House. More information and reservations are available here.
And yes, I asked concerning reconstruction of the Lobello House, and there will be a fire sprinkler system.