Our series on the Preservation Dallas 2020 Preservation Achievement Awards continues this week with a 1910 American Four-Square home at 635 N. Zang Boulevard in Oak Cliff. It has been dubbed The Mayor’s House, and sometime this summer will open as a restaurant.
The name of the home stems from the fact that Dallas Mayor George Sergeant lived here in the 1930s. As Mayor, Sergeant opened the 1936 Texas Centennial Exposition that put Fair Park on the map. He was a well-respected civic leader, who traveled widely, practiced law, and wrote books, some quite controversial!
Sergeant shared this home with his wife, Mary. You can just imagine the dignitaries that crossed the threshold. To give you an idea, we know that during the Centennial celebrations, President Franklin D. Roosevelt and First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt had lemonade with the Mayor and his wife on the front porch.
The house passed on to the Mayor’s son, then to a caretaker. It fell into a sad state of disrepair and was put up for sale. Fortunately, for all of us, the right person stumbled upon that sale sign. If there was ever a house meant to be owned by Jim Lake, this is it.
“It was covered up with bushes and trees,” Lake said. “When I saw the sign I immediately called on it. I did some research and let the seller know I’d pay their price if I could have everything that remained inside. It was in awful shape, but when I discovered Sergeant’s records and writings were in the house, I knew it all had to be preserved.”
Lake is particularly suited to such a task. He is without parallel when it comes to adaptive urban redevelopment. Dallas would look very different if it were not for Jim Lake and his father, Jim Lake Sr.
“My dad had a vision for Bishop Arts,” Lake said. “He liked to fix up old buildings. I watched and learned from him.”
Lake carries on his father’s legacy with projects like Trinity Lofts, the first residential and mixed-use project in the Design District, and Jefferson Tower, as well as projects in The Cedars, Waxahachie, and Cedar Hill.
Little did he know, however, that he’d find a family connection to The Mayor’s House.
“There was a picture that was in my father’s office for years,” Lake said. “It’s a photo of President Roosevelt and Eleanor in a car in downtown Dallas. She is holding a bouquet of flowers. I came across an almost identical picture in The Mayor’s House archives. In the picture, the President and Eleanor had come to the house and Sergeant had given Eleanor some flowers. She is holding those flowers in the back seat of the car. I have the letter to George Sergeant from Eleanor thanking him for the flowers. The minute I saw that I knew this was a house I had to preserve. Its history has not been told yet and we must provide an environment for those archives. I thought it would be interesting to turn the house into a destination restaurant.”
So much of Bishop Arts has been and continues to be scraped for new construction. With that the history is not only lost, so is the charm that drives attraction to the neighborhood. Dallas is lucky to have companies like Lake’s that see the beauty and the sensibility of adaptive urban redevelopment.
“We want to impact the community postitively,” Lake said. “We can’t do it all, but we can do a significant redevelopment that impacts the city.”
We think Mayor Sergeant would be pleased.