Chateau Des Grotteaux at 6941 Gaston Avenue has a very colorful history.

By Donovan Westover
Special Contributor

For years, I have observed my friend restore the castle exterior and grounds at Chateau Des Grotteaux with such precision, that when I heard he was selling his super iconic Lakewood home, I did a spit take with my morning commute bourbon. Most drivers-by are familiar with the French Normandy style home’s turret and slate roof poking above the stone wall, while ducking below the tree canopy along Gaston Avenue.  The 1928 house, being constructed by builder Edwin Cox, was intended as a speculative residence for the Pasadena neighborhood which boasted “Pasadena Perfect Homes.”  However, the house was purchased prior to completion by R.L.Thornton after seeing it advertised in a State Fair of Texas brochure.  Thornton brought in Dallas’ only landscape architect at the time to lay the footing for the grounds.  There is lots of history associated with the “House of the Cave” including the cave itself, which went to White Rock Lake, and as folklore has it, was used to transport liquor during prohibition.

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Proposed East Dallas-Oak Lawn Delayed Demolition Overlay (abuts downtown DDO to the south)

Last (stormy) night I attended the only community meeting to discuss the planned Delayed Demolition Overlay that is essentially bordered by the Tollway, Highland Park, Haskell, and Matilda.  The East Dallas-Oak Lawn DDO would be Dallas’ third.

This third proposed DDO covers some 15,000 parcels of land. Between this and the downtown DDO, much of the Oak Lawn Committee area of PD-193 would be covered (for what it’s worth).

What’s a Delayed Demolition Overlay (DDO)?

Delayed Demolition Overlays are areas of the city that contain at least some historic properties worth preserving. The first is essentially downtown including parts of Uptown. It was created via city ordinance in 2015 after the Joule Hotel developer demolished historic structures without warning. The preservationists went bonkers and Dallas City Council created the legislation needed to create a DDO.  The second DDO is in the Bishop Arts area with enlargement planned.

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HTC

The tax reform proposal by the House Ways and Means Committee would eliminate the Historic Tax Credit. The Statler was a local project that benefited from the credit (Photo courtesy Hilton Hotels)

A plan to eliminate the Historic Tax Credit by the House Ways and Means Committee as part of its proposed tax reform bill will likely stymie efforts to continue preservation projects large and small, advocates said this week.

The committee’s vote to eliminate the HTC is part of an effort to simplify the tax code and pay for other tax cuts, ranking committee members said.

“While not unexpected, this policy proposal deals a significant blow to historic preservation,” the National Trust for Historic Preservation said.

The credit was passed in 1976 and had a fan in a Ronald Reagan. It was designed to encourage private investment in historical buildings. The National Trust says that more than 42,000 projects have been completed thanks to the HTC. (more…)

1923 N Edgefield

The Flanders House, above, is at 1923 N. Edgefield in West Dallas. At 125 years old, it is one of the oldest buildings in Dallas. It was built as the home of James Edward Flanders, who is widely known as Dallas’ first architect. (Except that’s not entirely accurate.) The home has not been lived in since the 1960’s, never updated or remodeled. In fact, it looks exactly as it did when it was built in the 1890’s. It is, like most historical homes, a beautiful reminder of the different life lived in these parts prior to 1900.

James Edward Flanders James Edward FlandersNow the land is being redeveloped by a developer, who is trying to save the house rather than demolish it.

But time is running out.

Looking at the structure, you can see the architectural history:

Flanders House CU (more…)

BianchiHouse-1

(Photo courtesy of Michael Cagle)

The Bianchi house at the corner of Carroll and Reiger in East Dallas is safe, at least for the moment. The 104-year-old Otto Lang & Frank Witchell (Lang & Witchell) “House of the Future” displayed at the Texas Centennial Exposition made it through the Dallas Landmark Hearing Monday afternoon. Whew! Hopefully, the move was step one for preservation and restoration of this beautiful property.
Robert Wilonsky has called it an “Airbnb for the homeless,” , and I see his point.  Monday afternoon DEEP founder Lisa Marie Gala and I walked up on the porch and were spooked by a homeless man, nice enough, just camping out on the porch.
An attic fire has all but destroyed the roof. The windows are boarded up, and weeds run as wild as a bunch of teenagers whose parents are out of town. But the owner, Rick Leggio, a former Dallas Plan Commissioner, has been impossible to reach to determine repairs or interest in selling the property.
The home is sorely in need of care. Preservationists want the home restored and preserved, not razed, as the city is apt to do to a place with an endless list of code violations and a tarp on the roof.
Since September (2015), the house has been on Preservation Dallas’s most-endangered list. Its roof is decorated with tattered strips of blue tarp after an attic fire almost three years ago. A giant concrete hunk of the house has fallen into the weeds.
Leggio has, or someone has, however, paid the property taxes.

As the process moves forward to secure the fate of the Bianchi House, DEEP – the Dallas Endowment for Endangered Properties, Inc., has committed to following the journey and fundraising toward the effort of receiving or purchasing the home for restoration, deed restriction, and re-sale.

Bianchi House plaque (more…)

The old soul Victorian at 4317 Worth St. is Kristen

The old soul Victorian at 4317 Worth St. is Kristen Martin’s third “flip” all of her own in Dallas.

When some people look at an old house in disrepair, all they see are its problems. But for one Dallas Realtor, old Dallas homes are all about possibility, instead.

Kristen Martin

Realtor Kristen Martin in front of the Victorian she renovated in Old East Dallas.

Kristen Martin says she’s a kindred soul with old houses, getting to know them, even naming them as she restores, repairs, and renovates them to a state even better than what they were originally.

She’s a Realtor with The Michael Group, and she’s passionate about real estate. But the properties that truly inspire her are the ones she’s buying and flipping.

A few weeks ago, we featured her old soul Victorian flip at 4317 Worth St. in our CandysDirt.com Dallas open house roundup. It is sensational! We had to know more about this woman who can make old houses sing again.

“I go in the houses and just feel them out—[the house on Worth Street] was a mess but I got it flowing well because I talked to the house and it talked back to me,” Martin said. “I have renovated three in the last year and before that, I had done three with other people.”

She wears rose-colored glasses, because all of her flips have been messes when she found them. The Worth Street house, which she purchased in April, was built in 1903 and was a little more than “rough around the edges.” The foundation, plumbing, electric, carpet, and parquet were all bad and needed replacement. The kitchen was a gut. It needed an HVAC. Cosmetically, it wasn’t much to look at, either, with an 80’s vibe going strong.

But Martin saw past all that.

“I had a feeling when I walked into it—the fireplaces and windows and wraparound porch—my jaw dropped,” she said. “I’m ahead of my time in that neighborhood because the area hasn’t made a whole revival. It’s coming back around but throughout the years, everybody has just looked at Swiss Avenue and Junius Heights [nearby].”

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Hibernia 1 extThere is huge hope for historic homes in Dallas!

First of all, it is seldom if ever that one of these historic State-Thomas Victorians comes on the market. For five of them IN A ROW to be available is highly unusual! They are owned by various very bright owners who hung on during thick and thin. And now buyers cannot seem to get them fast enough!

2701 Hibernia ext

They are original Victorian two story cottages circa 1890-1930, used as commercial office spaces (hence the photos of the not-so-pretty, real-live-workspaces) but can easily be converted back to real comfy homes, as you can see from the one gussied up here at 2711 Hibernia. The land is just about .16 of an acre, enough for a yard and even a koi pond in one, and the interior square footage ranges from 1300 to 2300 square feet.

“These homes are a joint marketing alliance with our good friend Jack Gosnell, the top retail/commercial broker in Uptown,” says Kyle Crews, who is marketing the properties along with his team, Robin Brock and Mary Alice Garrison. “Jack was instrumental in early days of establishing Uptown as a live-work neighborhood. And he now reps Crescent with the retail leasing of McKinney &Olive.”

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