Comprised of more than 250 households, Munger Place holds the largest collection of Prairie-style homes in America.
In 1905, cotton gin manufacturer Robert S. Munger and his brother turned developers and decided to create “The City Man’s Home.” To attract the right social element, Munger Place was carefully planned. Just minutes from downtown Dallas, Munger Place became the very first deed-restricted neighborhood in Texas. Homes required a full two stories, had to cost at least $2,000 to build, and could not face a side street. The infrastructure featured new amenities of the time, such as sidewalks, paved streets, shade trees, sewers, gas mains, and electric street lights. Many of Dallas’ leading businessmen and social elite soon called magnificent Munger Place home.
Hence the never-ending charm. This year the tour features six homes rather than the traditional five. As a bonus, tour attendees can visit our “under construction” 1909 History Home to see all involved in restoring these timeless homes. At the bonus home, you will learn about the history of Munger Place and Old East Dallas while enjoying champagne and chocolates.
“Total transformation” is the expression that often comes up when comparing the summer 2018 version of this home to its current state. Where most others may have found this project daunting, the two design professionals who bought the house in June 2018 simply drew up a list of action items and got things done.
From the newly laid brickwork of the front sidewalk to the fresh new back deck, the house was overhauled, including all-new plumbing, electrical, and HVAC. That’s not say that original features weren’t retained, where possible. Two 1920s-era metal grates, for example, served as templates for new, custom-made grates used elsewhere in the house. The floors are all original but have been refinished throughout the house and now feature a much lighter stain. Three pocket doors – including one vast door that spans a wide-frame entry – still ably serve their purpose. And the front door and sidelights, while new, were custom-made to match the original.
The new owners removed a non-period fireplace mantle in what is now the dining room, replacing it just a few weeks ago with a new mantle echoing the design of the living-room ceiling. One route from the living room to the kitchen passes through a generous butler’s pantry. The lengthy kitchen, which incorporates space that was once a storage room, now allows streams of morning sunlight.
Munger Place neighbors looked on with interest, and then pleasure, as this formerly forlorn house was meticulously transformed over the course of several years. Those who have admired the exterior – the copper gutters, the shaker shingles, the well-crafted fence, and the charming trellis that shields part of the wraparound porch – will be equally taken with the interior.
Although restoration was the mantra of the current owners, the disrepair of the house called for a melding of old and new. The original floors, for example, had been sanded nearly to oblivion; there are now new oak floors downstairs. The floorplan is as built in 1913 (or 1909 – the records are contradictory), but a new bump-out allows for a small bathroom adjacent to the great room. History is evident in the heft of the solid pocket doors, but the nearby fireplace replaced the original, which was on the verge of total collapse. The seamless flow from kitchen to great room is a testament to how arts-and-crafts traditions can be re-shaped to fit a more contemporary style of living.
The “back house” is completely new and served as the owners’ primary residence while the main house was renovated. Inside, mesquite, mahogany, and ironwood elements are juxtaposed with highly efficient clay-plaster composite walls and unique finds reclaimed from New York City’s South Street Seaport Pier.
When stepping up to this 1920 home, visitors are given a choice of front-entry doors. Those options, along with the two distinct address numbers handsomely etched into the glass of two transom windows, are clear evidence that this single-family residence was once a house divided. It was, in fact, a four-plex as recently as 2013. Given the bright spaces and easy flow of the house, it may be hard to imagine it as four separate compartments. It can be a fun guessing game trying to deduce the likely layout of the former floor plan.
Coffered ceilings and an inviting brick fireplace are key features in the living room. Beyond the dining room, counter space abounds in a galley kitchen that spans nearly the width of the house. Two downstairs bathrooms offer a study in contrast – one is spacious and modern, while classic elements like beaded board and a clawfoot tub are found in the other. In the TV room, the current homeowners added a wall of customized, built-in shelving, replacing a set of racks for (now-passé) CDs.
Other custom woodwork appears upstairs in a built-in bunkbed in the boy’s bedroom. Not to be outdone, the girl’s bedroom is graced by both balcony and fireplace. The master suite includes a recently remodeled bathroom, a walk-through dressing room, and an office space that now serves as a corner retreat and yoga nook.
4921 Victor Street – Diane Jackson-Abel and Mark Abel
Touring inside this home as prospective buyers in 2016, the current homeowners had to tread lightly to avoid falling through the floors to the visible ground underneath. For a decade or more, the house had been neglected and vacant – not counting the extended family of raccoons residing in the attic. All-new plumbing was called for, as was a complete update of the knob-and-tube wiring. The 1910 house was also fitted for central air conditioning for the first time in its long history. Layer upon layer of wallpaper was removed (only small scraps could be salvaged without crumbling), revealing the sturdy shiplap beneath; this has been left exposed in the breakfast nook and stairwell. Likewise, interior brickwork appears here and there within the house. Where they had been covered with a thin oak laminate, some of the original pine floors were salvageable.
The home had been a multi-family dwelling at times, so there was a surplus of front doors. These have been put to inventive use elsewhere within, and a former pocket door now hangs, barn door-style, in the family room. Two repurposed screen doors in the kitchen reveal a pantry and a laundry room. The kitchen also features a period-appropriate O’Keefe and Merritt stove, soapstone counters, and a pine-topped island. To accommodate a large family, the floorplan has been reconfigured, with the former back porches both enclosed to create a modern master bath downstairs and an airy general-purpose room upstairs. In fact, from windows to doors and wall to floors, nearly every aspect of this classic Craftsman has been laboriously rehabilitated, breathing new life into what has been home to many over more than a century.
History of 4921 (and, sometimes, 4923) Victor Street: The house was built in 1910-1911 for William F. Miller, a collector for John Hancock and Co. In 1919, the Joseph J. Holliday family lived in the house briefly. Mr. Holliday and his son, both realtors, were likely the house flippers of their day; they bought, lived in, and/or sold several homes in the neighborhood around this time. Later that year, Ettie and Oscar Hill True bought the home for $11,500 and lived there with their two children until at least 1930. Oscar was Secretary Treasurer for Dallas Service Stations and Treasurer for Parkmoor, which dealt in “automobile garage storage, washing, tires, oils, gasoline, batteries, etc.”
By the mid-1930s, the home had been partitioned (this block of Victor has always included multi-family dwellings). From 1943 until 1950, Bennie Wyatt – with Wyatt Metal and Boiler Works – owned and lived in part of the home, renting out the other side of what was then a duplex. By 1956, the home had been divided into three apartments. The house had been vacant for at least a decade when the current residents acquired it in the summer of 2016.
4909 Reiger Avenue – Dawn McMullan and Clyde Thompson
One of only three Victorian-era homes in the Munger Place Historic District, this charming house and its immediate neighbor are eye-catching for their distinctive colors and almost whimsical style. Both houses were moved here, although at different times, and this house reportedly was once on the Lawther Farm on White Rock Lake. Where straight lines and right angles typify the Prairie-style and Arts-and-Crafts homes in the neighborhood, circles, ovals, and rounded arches contribute to this house’s unique character. The interior is embellished with similar geometric elements in the stained glass, the ornamental transoms, windows, and elsewhere. Few changes have been made to the two front rooms in the house, although the fireplace frame and mantle are likely from a slightly newer age. The heart-pine floors are presumed to be original, including the restored flooring in the very (very) recently, fully remodeled kitchen. The downstairs layout has changed little: a doorway to the stairs and what is now the master was widened and the master suite was reconfigured to waste less space on an outsized bathroom and to accommodate those novel, post-Victorian features called closets. Upstairs, however, was a single, open living space until 2006. After sharing these capacious quarters as the family bedroom for eight years, the current owners walled off separate spaces for bedrooms, a sitting room, and an office. A deep and comfortable back porch looks out on a spacious yard with an inviting stone-and-crushed-rock patio that appears well suited to large outdoor gatherings.
The 4900 block of Reiger Avenue predates the formal founding of Munger Place by a few years; seven now-demolished houses were built on this block in 1903. At the time Munger Place was established as an historic district, this block had only six other historic structures, some of which have not survived. The home, presumably built in the 1880s, was moved onto this block from White Rock Lake, probably from the Lawther Farm. Although the neighboring house, 4903 Reiger, shares many architectural features, it came from a different site (in 1977). One ordinance indicates that a third Victorian house was to be moved to the lot between the two, but that never came to pass. Little other historical information on this house has been found.
5000 Worth – Munger Place Wine Walk Work in Progress
Many owners of historic homes bemoan (or boast of) their status as perpetual projects. There are times, however, when someone’s dreams are simply greater than their drive. Sitting modestly on the corner of Collett and Worth, this house was the site of a decades-long labor of love by a couple with great ambitions. They collected the materials and embellishments they thought suitable and slowly laid bare the canvas on which they would create. As time wore on, though, they ran out of steam or moxie or whatever it is that fuels these endeavors. That’s when a skilled local craftsman and his investment partner acquired the house and sharply accelerated the pace of renovation. Within the last year, nearly every aspect of this structure between earth and sky has been straightened out, gussied up, refinished, refurbished, or otherwise brought back to life.
At 4,000 square feet, this is among the larger homes in Munger Place. Originally a 1909 Sears and Roebuck kit house (“deluxe edition”), the classic four-square was apparently expanded upon almost immediately by the first owners. A century later, with the help of some clever engineering, this has allowed for a spacious new open floorplan downstairs. Two floors above, the dimensions of the vast former attic practically forced its conversion into a configurable third-floor living space. And the actual configuration may be up to the next owners of this handsome home, because this is our Work in Progress. No hardhats are needed, but visitors to this house will see the final stages of renovation and may meet some of the vendors who contributed to its revitalization.