Is this a Dilbeck? That is the question. So, I’ve been on quite the treasure hunt these past few days.
As you can imagine our feet are held to the fire if a reader believes we have gotten anything wrong. We are not just whistling Dixie around here and swilling champagne, well occasionally we are. We actually spend an incredible amount of time researching historic properties, talking to Preservation Dallas, delving into the Dallas Morning News archives, and asking our go-to architects for their professional opinions.
When this charming Texas ranch house came across my screen as a Dilbeck, I did my due diligence and researched it.
Charles S. Dilbeck, for you newbies to Dallas, was a prolific and eclectic architect in Dallas from 1935 to 1969. In a 1979 interview with urban planner Alan Mason, he said he was the first architect to develop a true Texas ranch house. While his peers O’Neil Ford and David Williams were besotted with the Hill Country style of limestone farmhouses with metal roofs, Dilbeck was inspired by the ranch houses of the Texas Panhandle. The problem in identifying so many of his creations is that he was also inspired by Irish cottages and styles ranging from French provincial to Colonial. Eclectic is the central word when it comes to Dilbeck.
But there are definitive characteristics of any Dilbeck. In his 1984 interview with Dilbeck, the Dallas Morning News architecture critic David Dillon wrote:
“The rambling ad hoc plans of the originals led to updated Dilbeck versions in which rooms were placed at odd angles to the rest of the house — mostly to catch the prevailing breezes, but sometimes just for effect. The windows are large, the fireplaces enormous, and there frequently are porches on both the first and second levels, the latter adaptations of the so-called lookout porches on ranch houses. The roofs are slightly pitched, with wide overhangs for protection against the sun.”David Dillon, Dallas Morning News architecture critic
Dilbeck favored rustic materials, like adobe, limestone, brick, and hand-hewn timber. His style was much more rugged than his peers Ford and Williams.
Finding out if a Dilbeck is an original when there is no documentation, is not quite as hard as you’d think. Architect Willis Winters, one of Dallas’s most noted preservationists who was the former director of the Parks and Recreation Department has done all the footwork.
In 1997 Preservation Dallas hosted a private tour of Dilbeck homes. In preparation for that tour Winters did a herculean amount of research and compiled a list of documented and suspected Dilbeck homes. He also compiled a list of features and created a point system so you can play the “Is your Dilbeck original?” game!
I diligently took the survey and surmise, mind you I’m not an architect, that this 1953-built cottage at 6802 Williamson Road scores a 45 on a scale of 70 which hits in the medium to the high probability that it’s original.
Winters calculated there are about 630 known or suspected Dilbeck homes in Dallas. This charmer certainly looks to be an original. The lesson here is to keep your house documentation safe. You may not appreciate your architect but fifty years from now your home may be a very hot property, like this one.
Most people don’t care about documentation. They simply fall in love with a house. As I’m writing this, Paragon listing agent Risa Jordan with the East Dallas Real Estate Group texted to let me know it went under contract at the first showing. All you can do now is hope it falls through and you have a shot at what is most probably an original Dilbeck!