There homes that define America. The Colonial, the Ranch, and the American Foursquare come to mind immediately. The American Foursquare was popular from the 1890s to the 1930s and is arguably the most iconic of American styles. And do we have a beauty for you today!
… a square house of dependable proportions and solid, honest construction in a country where a square deal was offered by then- President Theodore Roosevelt. From it’s very beginning, it was perceived as an American type and style.
The American Foursquare is like the perfect vanilla cake. The batter is rich, always flavorful, and turns out a dependable base for decoration. It was one of the most popular homes in the early 20th century because it was so simple. American Foursquares were also energy efficient and economical to build.
They became a sort of starter template for so many other styles, such as Prairie and Craftsman. American Foursquare is not technically an architectural style, and that’s part of the intrigue. It’s essentially a subtype of the Prairie Style, but easily adaptable and changeable. It’s been called the melting pot of American architectural style.
They are found throughout America, and deserve attention, especially when you find one as beautifully restored as 931 W. 8th Street in Winnetka Heights. The 1923 home has had only two owners.
Think about that. A well-respected Dallas Realtor told me once that when a home seldom changes hands, that’s all you need to know about its quality and livability. But it takes a lot more than quality and livability to save an iconic American home. It takes a visionary with a deep respect for history who also understand the economics of restoring a historic home.
Restoring an Icon
Dustin Mayers is the man behind this American Foursquare. Mayers is not a contractor or architect. His background is in finance, but it was not a huge leap from finance to renovation. The seeds for renovation were planted during his years as a missionary, traveling the world.
“On those mission trips, I saw a lot of different architecture,” Mayers said. “I would often do volunteer construction work, and that hands-on experience is what really sparked my interest in real estate and renovation.”
After his missionary work, Mayers bought an older home to renovate and sell. He started his company, Crossway Capital, in 2015 with a rudimentary knowledge of construction, but Mayers was willing to get his hands dirty. He quickly began to figure out the best way to do things, and that he might not necessarily be the person to do all of them. With a great team in place, he’s never looked back. Mayers has renovated homes built as late as 1989 but prefers those built in the 1920s. It’s not just a simple admiration for older homes. Renovating and restoring them is more work, and generally more expensive, but it is exciting, and obviously makes financial sense. Remember, Mayers is a finance guy.
“The materials are in most cases, better, stronger, and more durable than many we use today,” Mayers said. This American Foursquare, for example, is built with two-by-fours from mature trees. It’s strong, solid wood not easily penetrable like the wood we see today. On top of that, wood is shiplap that is one inch by eight inches, and that is strong as well. If you were to try and build a house this way today, it would be extremely expensive to buy that much wood. The fact they have shiplap throughout is just a real enhancement to the strength of the structure of the house.”
While Mayers prefers these restoration projects, he understands what scares people off.
“The average person looking to buy a house knows restoring and renovating an older home is a big project,” Mayers said. “And developers are enticed by the greater margin they can make by tearing down.”
So, not only must you have the heart for restoration, but you must also have the right location, the right team, and you must get the house for the right price.
A Team And a Vision
Mayers wife, Miria, handles the design choices and color schemes, and Mayers handles the finances and the management of each project. However, he also is the one with a distinct vision for every home.
“I record a video of my initial walkthrough every time and come up with the vision,” he said. “When I go back and look at it after we are finished, it’s always 100 percent for what I envisioned. I know what will and won’t work.”
Getting to the heart of a renovation is always all about owners and history. “The people I purchased this home from said, please don’t tear the house down, “Mayers said. “They wanted to sell it to someone that would save it “This house has a lot of history. We found an old Dallas Morning Newspaper from the 1930s when we opened a wall. Bringing a house back to life, to what it was in its heyday, is exciting.”
It’s also worthwhile. If we don’t continue to restore, renovate, and preserve these historic homes, we lose the look and the heart of what makes Dallas a wonderful place to live.
This American Foursquare at 931 W. 8th Street in Winnetka Heights is ready for its third family. Listed for $534,900, it has 2,333 square feet, four bedrooms, two full bathrooms, and a powder bath — plenty of room for a growing family.
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 and is the creator of the online course, The Beginners Guide to Buying Wholesale. Her love of all dogs, international travel, good chocolate, great champagne, and historic homes knows no bounds. Her father was a spy, so she keeps secrets very well! Find Karen at www.eubankstaging.com