Historically Sensitive Remodel of The Castle House Bucks Trends For Character, Charm

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Jeff and Leon Henderson embarked on a full-scale, historically sensitive remodel of The Castle House in Cochran Heights. You can see it up close on April 6.

The inaugural Cochran Heights Home Tour made us fall in love with this neighborhood, which is full-to-bursting with adorable, quirky Charles Dilbeck designs. This year, deepen your affection for this East Dallas nabe on April 6, and get to know a whole new crop of homes, both Dilbeck and not!

This year, CandysDirt.com was lucky enough to have a Q&A with the owners of one exceptionally notable tour home — the Castle House. The owners, Jeff and Leon Henderson, gave us an unprecedented inside look into what went into this beautiful home’s renovation. 

Want to see the Castle House and the three other incredible Cochran Heights homes on this year’s tour? Ticket are $20 and can be purchased online. Want to see them all for FREE? Stay tuned next week to CandysDirt.com for a ticket giveaway! 

Get a sneak peek at the Castle House now:


What room or design element of your home will stand out to home tour goers?

Jeff and Leon: From the outside, visitors are always curious about the turret. Spoiler Alert: It’s just a closet! The design element that stands out the most inside are the angular ceilings in all of the rooms on the second floor. This feature makes the rooms feel warm and cozy; like we are getting a big hug.

Is there any feature or finish in your home that tour-goers shouldn’t miss?

Jeff and Leon:  Visitors love the windows. We installed full-pane European style tilt and turn windows and glass doors throughout the home. They are a rare find in U.S. homes, but are standard in Europe. Since we grew up Europe, we knew the value of having these windows. They can easily be tilted inward to let in the breeze and sounds of the rain. And they open like a door for easy cleaning. Also, they are very energy efficient and do a fantastic job keeping out the noise. The family-owned Dallas company that produced them for us, never made doors in this style. So we challenged them to produce double doors for our three patios. They are fantastic!

If you had to choose one spot — inside or outside — on your property where you could spend all day, where would it be and why?

Jeff and Leon: The living room wins because it has the fireplace.

What are you doing to prepare for the home tour?

Jeff and Leon: Praying for the garden to grow.

Jeff and Leon Henderson are hoping that their garden at 5029 Milam will be grown in by the Cochran Heights Home Tour on April 6.

What construction or renovation have you completed since you moved in? In what ways have you put your fingerprint on your home? Additionally, were there any challenges you had to overcome to complete your renovation project?

Jeff and Leon: On the very first day, we removed the gravel parking spot the previous owners created on the front lawn. Its removal was one that was celebrated by long-time Cochran Heights neighbors. In fact, that is how we met most of our neighbors! Additional exterior projects included a new sidewalk, driveway, fence, three new patios including the walk-up and modifying the landscape and garden to include raised beds to grow herbs and vegetables. For the house, it was important for us to maintain the Dilbeck style and charm of having a “warm and inviting, perfectly imperfect” home. We did not want to tear down walls and things just because it did not fit the trends. That is wasteful. We wanted to make sure that what worked, stayed … so the original horse hair plaster walls remained along with other features, such as the built-in cabinetry. Renovations happened when it was necessary to correct issues. It was important that the inside of the home complemented the outside and we let the home tell us what it needed.

We listened and adjusted the foundation, refinished the original floors, installed new carpet, recessed energy-efficient LED lighting, and repainted inside and out. Then in the first few months, we installed custom windows and garage door to match the original front door. Later, we rebuilt the original stained glass windows to correct the bowing, and added matching stained glass to a new eyebrow door on the smoker’s balcony. In addition, modern conveniences such as new plumbing, HVAC, kitchen countertops, appliances, an updated half bath and master bathroom were part of the remodel.

Old houses talk a lot and have a lot of infrastructure needs, so the biggest challenge in all of this was keeping calm and carrying on. A lot was done in the 5 years that we have owned The Castle House. We were invested in preserving this 80-year home and was on a path to correct the things that most people would never see and usually take for granted. Visitors don’t say, “Wow! That is a gorgeous water heater!”

Is there any history behind your home? Your neighborhood? Care to share?

Jeff and Leon: According to the 1940 Census Report, 5029 Milam was first purchased by James E. Bledsole, a district agent for the steam railroad. He was 47 years old and his wife, Luceale Bledsole, was 31. James was from Tennessee and Luceale from New Mexico. The family’s income in 1939 was $3,600. The home was valued at $5000. Not bad for a man who was known to have an eighth-grade education!  It is believed that the home was possibly purchased the first week of April based on the documentation for the number of hours worked the week of March 24-30 of 1939; which was 44 hours. It is unknown whether or not they had children.

To our knowledge, this pre-war Charles Dilbeck home originally had three bedrooms and one bathroom. This was later confirmed by the Henderson sisters, who lived here from 1954-1958 along with eight other family members! The original bathroom was turned into a closet at some point. A part of the door trim still remains as marker of its history. One of the bedrooms was turned into a bathroom. It has the original wood floors with a view onto the balcony and the backyard. In the ’50s, like many of the houses on Milam, the house exterior was painted white.

The home has been expanded over the years to be suitable for larger families and more modern times; although the Dilbeck style, charm, and quirks remain. Original mouldings, floors, doors, trim, and walls composed of horse hair plaster can still be found throughout the home. Nine families are registered to have lived here. Previous owners converted the furnace into a half bath.The kitchen was expanded by relocating the utility room to the addition. The addition doubled the size of the home to a little over 2,800 square feet.

Along with the infrastructure, we restored the stained glass windows in the living room to correct the bowing. Also, the eyebrow door to the upstairs smoker’s balcony (facing Milam) was rebuilt to have stained glass to match the original windows. A master carpenter that specializes in period homes that identified that the clear panes of glass were not authentic to the doors. It most likely was stained glass. He rebuilt the windows and doors to include new screens and knobs, that are to that period. The original windows were replaced with full-pane, European-style, tilt-and-turn windows. The garage doors were also updated from its original wide plank herringbone pattern with white paint.

The house was lovingly named “The Castle House” since it was the way long-time neighbors described the home.

***According to the Henderson sisters that lived in The Castle House in 1954-58, this was the neighborhood and street that Mary Kay lived on when she started Mary Kay Cosmetics. She had a pink house, pink poodles, and a pink car. This could also be an urban legend.

Why did you fall in love with your home? Your neighborhood?

Jeff and Leon:  Cochran Heights has the perfect blend of city and suburb. It has given us a sense of feeling alive. It is exciting to live here! We are within walking distance of so many great restaurants and shopping. We can easily get to all of Dallas’ cultural venues, and on a beautiful day, we can walk downtown via the Katy Trail. We are surrounded by so many beautiful and interesting neighborhoods. Our neighbors are friendly and they are invested in their community. Many of them have lived here for over 30 years! They strive to make it a safe, fun, and friendly place to be. Who wouldn’t fall in love with that?

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Joanna England

If Executive Editor Joanna England could house hunt forever, she absolutely would. Instead she covers the North Texas housing market and the economy for CandysDirt.com. While she started out with the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University, Joanna's work has appeared in The Dallas Morning News as well as several local media outlets. When she's not knitting or hooping, or enjoying White Rock Lake, she's behind the lens of her camera. She lives in East Dallas with her husband, son, and their furry and feathered menagerie.

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