Dallas Heritage Village Closes Blum House Due to Ongoing Decay

Blum

Photos courtesy Dallas Heritage Village

  • The Blum House has suffered ongoing deferred maintenance, Dallas Heritage Village says
  • It will cost around $650,000 to repair and restore it, according to estimates

Preservationists and history buffs awoke Saturday to alarming news — The Blum House, which sits at the Dallas Heritage Village in Old City Park — was being closed to the public indefinitely due to deferred maintenance.

Although DHV executive director Melissa Prycer posted the news Friday on the organization’s blog, most didn’t actually find out until Saturday morning, when the blog post and pictures of the decaying structure were shared on Facebook.

In the blog post, Prycer said that the staff has been concerned about the deterioration of the rapidly aging Victorian.

“We’ve had many conversations as a staff, and we realized that Blum needed to close indefinitely, primarily out of concern for visitor safety,” she wrote. “As this is a major operational decision, the Executive Board needed to be involved with the final decision. Upon our recommendation, the executive board voted last week to close Blum to the public indefinitely.”

The Blum House, Prycer said, was suffering from issues like rotting wood, mold, and a flea infestation. In subsequent comments on Facebook, the organization also said the roof was in need of repair.

“In the coming weeks, we will be stabilizing the building, treating the fleas within, and removing some artifacts. It will remain closed until we can fully restore it,” she wrote.

The organization said that Blum has been a “fundraising priority” for several years. In February 2016, the organization said on Facebook that the building was “‘next in line’ for major restoration work.”

Prycer said they estimate that repairs will cost in the $650,000 range, “or about 65 percent of our annual operating budget.”

On the group’s Facebook announcement, one contractor took issue with the $650,000 price tag, saying the work could be done for much less. 

Historic preservation work can be surprisingly expensive,” the group responded. “For example, due to the very unique nature of the metal shingles on the roof, that alone will be well over six figures — and there are few contractors with the skills to fix the leaking roof.”

When the contractor persisted, Prycer offered to sit down with him to walk him through the information her team had gathered.

While the Blum House isn’t in as bad condition as the “Blue House” that moved from Griffin, and the new lot at Beaumont and Browder in the Cedars last year, the preservationist and developer who took on its trek and restoration, Mark Martinek, did expound on what it can take to restore a historic structure.

“Martinek said that in restoration and homebuilding, there are often three things desired — speed, economy, and quality,” our story said.

“Most of the time, you only get to choose two of those,” Martinek told us at the time. “And we’re going to choose quality, and we’re going to choose economy, over speed.”

But even with that, Martinek said that the sourcing of period-specific and appropriate materials was a formidable undertaking.

“The exterior, he said, will be pretty much identical to the original home, and any newer materials that may have been used over the home’s 130 years will be replaced — like the Hardy board that will be swapped out for solid pine.

‘I’ve got a pretty good stash of old materials from other houses,’ Martinek said. ‘I will probably use old-growth southern yellow pine and cypress.’

They saved all the brick that came from underneath the building. ‘We’ll reuse all of that,’ he said.”

Blum House History

Before it was the Blum House, the home was known as the George Home, and it originally sat in Plano, according to Hadassah Magazine.

In 2002, DHV opted to interpret the George House as a Jewish residence to reflect the history of the Cedars neighborhood, where the park sits.

Hadassah explains further:

“On July 1, 1872, 11 Jewish men, including Alexander Sanger, founded the Hebrew Benevolent Association to care for the sick and needy; shortly after, they established a cemetery, and that fall they held High Holy Day services in Masonic Hall on Commerce Street. From this institution grew Temple Emanu-El, founded in 1875 and affiliated with the Reform movement. Its first building (1876) was downtown at Commerce and Field Streets; its next (1899-1916) was in south Dallas in a neighborhood of red-brick Victorians known as the Cedars. Little of this fashionable area, where Jewish families lived, remains. The old City Park, however, has been remade into the living history Dallas Heritage Village, which portrays life in north Texas from 1840-1910. The village contains Blum Bros. General Store (relocated from Wolf Street, it was the store of German Jewish immigrant Albert Mueller but named now for the fictional Jewish Blum family) and the separate 1901 Blum house (a relocated Plano, Texas, house).”

The Blum House isn’t the only structure that was moved to the village site over time — structures have also come from the Cedars, Carrollton, and the DFW airport land.

“The only buildings here that are on their original sites are the Rockhouse bathrooms (near the Farmstead), the two administration buildings across the street from the Donkey Paddock, and the Curatorial offices, next to the Visitor Parking lot,” the FAQ page of the organization’s website explained.

Who Is Responsible for Maintenance?

The organization’s FAQ section also addresses this, explaining that the City of Dallas owns the parkland and the buildings. The Dallas County Heritage Society is responsible for running the DHV itself, as part of a long-term agreement with the city, the Office of Cultural Affairs, and Parks and Recreation.

Since 1969, when Dallas Heritage Village opened Millermore, its first building, the arrangement between the City and the museum has been this: Dallas Heritage Village has been responsible for finding, moving, restoring, and furnishing the buildings in the Village at private expense,” the organization said. “The City is then officially responsible for the repair and upkeep of the buildings (italics and bolding ours), while the museum is responsible for running the museum’s tours, education programs, and events.”

DHV also categorized the funding from the city as “extremely limited,” adding that the museum has been paying for the lion’s share of the restoration, programming, presentation of the buildings and artifacts, and the museum operating budget.

“The Office of Cultural Affairs pays for utilities and approximately 14 percent of the operating funds, the amount of which must be negotiated each year,” the organization said. “All other revenues must be raised by the Board and by museum programs. The Park and Recreation Department pays for general maintenance (mowing, tree trimming, etc.) of the grounds and for repairs to drinking fountains and irrigation lines.”

History Worth Preserving

In 2017, we wrote about “Neighborhoods We Called Home,” a collaborative look at the historic neighborhoods that supported the African American, Hispanic, and Jewish communities in Dallas, hosted by DHV.

The Jewish Historical Society took part in the exhibit, utilizing the Blum House to tell the story of how Jewish Dallasites helped mold the city from nearly the very beginning.

“This collaboration not only gives us a chance to showcase where we each fit into the history of Dallas, but it also helps us find more ways the three communities were and are connected,” Debra Polsky, the executive director of the Dallas Jewish Historical Society, said at the time. “Mexican-Americans succeeded Eastern European Jews in Goose Valley, black Dallasites owned much of the land on which the Orthodox Jewish community now resides, and all three ethnic groups suffered the effects of bigotry and flourished alongside the City of Dallas through its growth.”

In the organization’s blog post, Prycer pointed out that deferred maintenance was an issue that touched many city-owned facilities, but that she hoped the fate of the Blum House would highlight how far it reached.

“We hope that closing Blum will bring awareness to the deferred maintenance issues that plague not just our institution, but all city-owned facilities,” she said. “There is a growing momentum to address these city-wide deferred maintenance issues, and we hope that that this very visible reminder will help with those larger efforts.”

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