Our continuing series on the 2020 Preservation Achievement Awards presented by Preservation Dallas highlights The Gaston today. The story of The Gaston is inspirational because it is a house that has indeed come full circle.
The two-story historic home at 4802 Gaston Avenue began life in 1906 as a single-family residence. In 1925 a young man named William Lewis Sterrett and his bride began their married lives here.
Lew started working at the county clerk’s office and went on to become a well-respected judge. If the name seems familiar, it’s because our correctional facility, the Lew Sterrett Justice Center, is named in his honor.
That’s one of the many wonderful things about these homes — you never know who might have lived in them until you start digging.
It was common practice from the 1920s until well into the 1950s for people to take in boarders to defray expenses, much like our Airbnb concept today. At one point in the early 1950s, the home was divided into 12 rooms for rent. It was known as Robertson’s and described as a large rooming and boarding house.
The Dallas Morning News has numerous advertisements for rooms to let at Roberston’s. I especially like this one:
Yes. The last word in boardinghouses has been said, “Beat the high cost of living.” Fine meals served generously—family style. Choice vegetables. Meats, such as steak, fried chicken, roast beef, roast turkey For breakfast— bacon and eggs, ham and eggs, toast, hotcakes, etc. “inches packed. Maid service: twin beds. Innerspring mattresses. Near all conveniences. Excellent bus service. Parking space. Friendly atmosphere. Working men. Very good neighborhood, very congenial management. Life here and safe the difference.
I can imagine they very seldom had a vacancy with that menu!
Let’s fast forward.
Mike Gibson grew up in Cleveland in an older home. Upon moving to Dallas, he was naturally drawn to the Peak’s Suburban Addition neighborhood He purchased a house and launched his company New View Roofing. It wasn’t long before he persuaded his sister Liz to move to Dallas and help him run the company. Brother Patrick followed not long after. They settled in and met the neighbors, one approached with a novel idea.
“She was a Realtor, and she knew the owners of the house next to us,” Liz said. “She knew they wanted to sell and approached us with the idea of creating a bed and breakfast. We had never considered it, but when she pitched it to us, we thought it would be a great way to lure our mom to Dallas to manage it.”
Saying this family works well together is an understatement. They are dynamos. It took about a year and a half to turn this neglected historic home into The Gaston, a unique bed and breakfast and event space. Yes, mom moved to Dallas to run it!
Liz was the design brain behind the project. Not only is she genuinely talented, but she can also make what’s in her imagination come to life. She researched and resourced for historically appropriate lighting, found the right craftsmen, and scoured salvage yards to ensure the Gaston was not only period-perfect but also picture perfect. “I wanted to do an edgy hospitality-concept without running away from the historical elements,” Liz said.
Along the way, Liz found a perfect partner in her mission. Hannah Hargrove owns Orr-Reed Wrecking, which is the go-to salvage company in this part of the country.
Don’t let the word salvage fool you. This is where historic homeowners, architects, and interior designers go to find that elusive piece of vintage hardware, antique doors and lumber, clawfoot tubs, and salvaged hardwood flooring. Orr-Reed milled wood to match the grain of the floors in the Gaston and not even Hannah can tell where old meets new!
“I’ve worked in this business my entire life,” Hannah said. “Liz is the only person I’ve met that can out-think me. She is a true visionary and knows how to meld the old and the new in a unique away, and never gives up. For instance, she saw a brass foot rail in a bar in Chicago and started hunting for one. When nothing turned up, she had one manufactured. It looks like it’s been in place for decades. Liz also had Jennifer Connors create an unusual book art installation.”
The Gibsons have been bitten by that historic preservation bug. They won an award for the Nance house next door and are currently at work on the historic Bianchi House on Reiger Avenue.
The teamwork of the Gibson family is extraordinary. The result of this project is what we all hope for in historic preservation. A beautiful old home has a renewed life, a new purpose, and will stand as an example of why preservation matters and how these old homes inspire new generations.