If there were ever a case for preservation, this 1932 University Park historic Texas ranch at 3805 McFarlin Boulevard is it.
Legendary architect David R. Williams designed the home, which sits on 1.15 acres overlooking Turtle Creek, for then University Park mayor Elbert Williams. It’s been referred to as the Williams house for decades. You can decide which Williams it’s named after.
Williams, the architect, is known as the father of Texas Regionalism, and this historic Texas ranch is the most notable example of this style. Texas Regionalism came about because Williams was observant, and recognized the beauty of simplicity.
The late Dallas Morning News architecture critic David Dillon put it well in a piece he wrote on Williams in 1985:
They (the homes designed by Williams and O’Neil Ford) were not nostalgic copies of older houses but abstracted blends of the indigenous forms and materials that showed what the vernacular house might have become had it developed uninterrupted from pioneer days.
At the time Williams and his architectural partner Ford were considered pretty darned eccentric. Remember, this was an era when wealthy folks chose architectural styles from France, England, Italy, and Spain. More was, well, more.
So along come Williams and Ford as the architectural disruptors of their time. With a standard of simplicity in style and working with native materials, architecture was transformed. The beauty of any ranch home and particularly this historic Texas ranch is in the sheer intelligence and logic of the design. Blending lifestyle with climate, what a concept!
The Texas Ranch House
Williams was invited to the White House when Roosevelt was president and that put a spotlight on this 6,012-square-foot home that has never ceased to shine. Better Homes & Gardens wrote an article after that visit and referred to the home as a Texas Ranch House. We all know the power of the press, and that one article started a decades-long trend for the style.
Williams always sited his homes to take advantage of the sun and shade. He created deep overhangs, wide verandas, and shady balconies. He also had trees planted strategically. These are all the things we do today to create more efficient homes. Williams was far ahead of his time.
Dallas architect Wilson Fuqua toured this historic Texas ranch recently and offered his wonderful insights.
David William’s goal was to create an architecture for Texas. This is his highest achievement. This house is more important to Dallas than the Gambrel, Greene and Greene House is to Pasadena and the Frank Lloyd Wright Houses in Oak Park. There are only a handful of houses in Dallas, none of this stature. The Earle Hart Miller house on Park Lane is restrained beauty but simple by comparison. This house is in an almost original state with original finishes, decorated with the most beautiful elegant neoclassical, empire furnishings, beautiful paint colors, and charming wallpapers. It is the most ingenious, imaginative house I have ever seen. It ranks with Monticello and Mount Vernon. There are few architectural masterpieces of this stature anywhere.
Most of the finishes in the house are either old-growth pine painted or natural finish or brick. The house is substantial with load-bearing masonry walls. The exterior brick and porches have a deeper colored variegated brick with shading, and with hints of residual liming, while the interior brick is a solid light pink Ferris.
It looks as if the house is perfectly maintained but never repainted. This is possible with old growth wood and superior oil-based paints, employing beautiful paint techniques: strie, and paint glazes. The wood is used in the most inventive interpretative ways, in architectural details at fireplace walls and door openings. All the ceilings are wood laid in a radiating diagonal patterned v groove. Downstairs the ceilings are structural carpenter finished beams with un-sanded rough wood plank ceilings.
The front stair is an exposed structural beam/finish carpentry, masterpiece, like no other I have ever seen. The wood joints on the stair are tight and built with unmatched precision. Each edge has a 1/2” bead. There are a variety of doors most interior doors are built up planks. The more substantial doors are built up with an alternating internal orientation.
The back stairs and quarters is a masterpiece in its own right. The formal floors are 6-8” oak with true dovetail and dowel head joints. Other rooms are 10-12 wide plank pine. The proportions of the room are perfect. Most of the rooms have light on both or two sides. The 9’ tall double-hung look as if they operate like the day they were installed. The Texas star is cut into the doors of the cabinetry and in ironwork and downspouts.
The Importance of Historic Homes
I often wonder why Dallas does not place more value on its historic homes. I like to think it’s down to a lack of education as opposed to pure greed. So, I’m going to extend a hefty dose of the benefit of the doubt here.
We are trying to bring more education into the picture for our readers, and our buyers, by offering a weekly column on historic preservation. These homes are sound investments, but it’s not about the money when you are dealing with a multimillion-dollar landmark house. Those that can afford a home like this and choose to tear it down show a complete lack of understanding the real value of a historic property. For inspiration, you need to look no farther than the outstanding job Mark and Kelly Bunting did with their home at 3601 Beverly Drive.
Dallas is full of resourceful, smart people that value homes like this historic Texas ranch. We hope one of them ends up with this regionalist masterpiece.
Fuqua has a few great ideas about potential buyers for this landmark historic Texas ranch.
“It should be bought by the City of Dallas, SMU, Harlan Crow, The Dallas Historical Society, Highland Park, the DMA, the Arboretum, or Presbyterian Church and used for institutions or the community. This would be a great place to bring guests from out of town to appreciate our history or community.
To see this historic Texas ranch contact, Allie Beth Allman. At only $13.5 million, it’s truly a steal.
Karen Eubank is the owner of Eubank Staging and Design. She has been an award-winning professional home stager and writer for over 25 years. Karen teaches the popular Staging to Sell class to area Realtors and is the creator of the online course, The Beginners Guide to Buying Wholesale. Her love of dogs, international travel, history, champagne, and historic homes knows no bounds. Her father was a spy, so she keeps secrets very well! Find Karen at www.eubankstaging.com