Prairie Foursquare

Preservation is not just about saving a wonderful old home like this beautiful Prairie Foursquare. It’s also about preserving the stories of those that have called these houses home. That story may be about who built it or who owned it in the 1900s. Each of those stories lends a rich layer to a home’s history.

Digging through The Dallas Morning News archives is like taking a trip down memory lane. You can find anything. When I started searching for information on this Prairie Foursquare, I was delighted to find several stories on the gentleman that lived there most of his life, W.J. Newcom, known as the fiddling cowboy. One that gave me a chuckle referred to him as, “An old cowhand from the Rio Grande.” After his years as a trail driver on the Old Chisolm Trail, he settled down in this Prairie Foursquare with his wife, raised six daughters here, and celebrated his 100th birthday in this Old East Dallas house.

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Aldredge-House

Nightmare on Swiss Ave: Neighbors of the Aldredge House say that vendors have turned what was once a tolerable social venue into a nightmare.

Nick McCune has lived in the Swiss Avenue Historic District for more than 16 years at 5514 Swiss Ave., a sublime two-story Craftsman home that is right next door to the Aldredge House. His home, like the Aldredge House, was built in 1917 and is pristine, with a large front porch and an expanse of lush St. Augustine in front. Homes like McCune’s are the reason why the neighborhood is one of the most adored and sought-after in Dallas. Having a Swiss Avenue address is something of a status symbol, though many of the people who live on this storied street in Munger Heights would blush at the thought.

But it’s not all roses and Mother’s Day tea, as there has been a war brewing between one of the most recognizable homes in the neighborhood and the households that surround it.

In what has quickly become a he-said-she-said shouting match between neighbors of the Aldredge House and the Dallas County Medical Society Alliance that owns the property, McCune has been consistent and level-headed, open to a dialogue between those who want to see the Aldredge House return to a single-family residence, and those who say that such an action would effectively ruin the immaculately preserved home.

Nick and Rhonda McCune's gorgeous two-story Craftsman home is next door to the Aldredge House.

Nick and Rhonda McCune’s gorgeous two-story Craftsman home is next door to the Aldredge House.

The problem of loud weddings and large tents didn’t develop overnight, McCune said, but it has steadily become the norm over the past few years. Despite several attempts to rein in the size and volume of the events, McCune says it’s a Sisyphean task.

From his accounts, McCune’s weekends are full of noisy trucks idling, crews shouting as they set up tents, a busy street as valets usher cars past his driveway, all capped with receptions that feature loud emcees, long toasts, and send-offs that test the limits of polite society. Sometimes they get to enjoy it all twice in a day.

“It has spiraled completely out of control in the last several years,” said attorney Chris Hamilton, who is representing six households near the Aldredge House. Together they have filed an application with the City of Dallas Board of Adjustment to revoke the Aldredge House’s ‘legal non-conforming use’ allowing it to host private events.

“In 2009, there were 20-something private events at the Aldredge House,” said Hamilton, who has lived at 5521 Swiss Ave. since 2011. “In 2014 there were 64 private events.”

Hamilton echoes McCune, saying that the neighbors have been trying to work with the Aldredge House for years, and yet no permanent resolution has been found. After going back and forth with the city over a period of months and years, neighbors felt that their only recourse was to take their complaint to the Board of Adjustment.

“[Wedding vendors] would say, ‘I’ll talk to the bride about this,’ or ‘I will ask the bride about that,’ when the neighbors had concerns about music,” Hamilton said. “But nothing was ever done.”

It all came to a head when Hamilton, McCune, and other neighbors found out that a vendor had been allegedly forging their signatures in order to get tent permits from City Hall.

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Alamo Drafthouse is a likely tenant for the Lakewood Theater, but parking issues and rent price are sticking points. Photo: Mike Merrill

Alamo Drafthouse is a possible tenant for the historic Lakewood Theater in East Dallas, but parking issues and Alamo’s offered rent are proving problematic in negotiations. Photo: Mike Merrill

As we reported in January, the now-empty Lakewood Theater has an interested suitor, the Alamo Drafthouse, and negotiations are quite a ways along now.

Property co-owners Craig Kinney and Bill Willingham of Willingham-Rutledge talked to multiple restaurants and businesses that could fill the historic space in various incarnations, located at 1825 Abrams Pkwy. in East Dallas. It has stood empty since the last tenant’s lease ended at the end of January.

Things seemed most promising with Alamo Drafthouse, according to the Lakewood/East Dallas Advocate, but two issues are creating problems. And those issues could mean Lakewood Theater’s chances of staying a theater, and not getting broken up into multiple spaces, are at risk.

Built in 1938, Lakewood Theater is not protected by any official historic designation, and while the co-owners have verbalized their commitment to keeping the marquee intact, the interior is another story. If the Alamo Drafthouse doesn’t work out, “We have other options that may involve carving up the space. We just don’t know yet,” Kinney said back in November.  

But let’s get back to the current issues at hand.

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Photo courtesy A. Vandalay via Creative Commons

Photo courtesy A. Vandalay via Creative Commons

The lease for the current tenants of Lakewood Theater is over at the end of January, and it’s anybody’s guess what will happen to the beloved East Dallas landmark, but there are confirmed rumors of interest by Alamo Drafthouse.

As we reported last November with our story Lakewood Theater Makeover Concerns Preservationists, Neighbors, property co-owners Craig Kinney and Bill Willingham of Willingham-Rutledge have been talking to restaurants and businesses that could fill the space, located at 1825 Abrams Pkwy.

Two theater groups have expressed interest, and one of them is the Alamo Drafthouse, confirmed Kinney, who also co-owns surrounding properties in the southwest strip.

“We’ve talked to everybody,” Kinney told Dallas Morning News reporter Robert Wilonsky.  The situation remains, though, “Nobody’s committed. So I can’t tell you whether they’re interested or not.”

Wilonsky also talked to Alamo Drafthouse COO Bill DiGaetano, who wouldn’t confirm any plans on the record, but emphasized his company’s interest preserving in historic theaters.

“Alamo has a policy not to comment on real estate negotiations, whether real or fictional,” he told Wilonsky. “But we have a long history of preserving 35mm film and, as shown by our Ritz Theater in downtown Austin and the current restoration of the New Mission Theater in downtown San Francisco, we have a huge passion for preserving great classic movie houses. I personally love the Lakewood Theater and would love to see it stay a theater.”

DiGaetano also made a point of addressing what seems to be the biggest concern of neighbors and preservationists: the colorful tower. “If anything came to fruition, we wouldn’t touch the marquee or the tower.” Jump to read more!

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Feel festive this week at the seventh annual Dallas Woman’s Forum Holiday Home Tour at the historic C. H. Alexander Mansion, just blocks from the Dallas Arts District. The tour is part of a month of fun at the mansion, called “One Enchanted Christmas,” which will continue later in the month with a European Tea Room.

Photo courtesy C. H. Alexander Mansion

Photo courtesy C. H. Alexander Mansion

The Holiday Home Tour, Dec. 4-7, will take visitors through the spectacular rooms of the first floor of the mansion, cheerfully decorated for Christmas. Upstairs, guests can shop among 20 merchants in a gift boutique, offering antiques, jewelry, handcrafted home decor, candles, chocolates, teas, jellies, stationery, and vintage clothing. There are also tasty treats to buy at the Bake Shoppe, and tickets are available in advance for lunch at a Holiday Bistro.

“One Enchanted Christmas” will continue with a European Tea Room in the mansion Dec. 11-14 and 17-20 at noon each day. A traditional three-course tea will begin with passed champagne and will include the Alexander Mansion private blend tea, Caramel Almond Bliss. Reservations are required. (more…)

Photo by Jerry McClure/Dallas Morning News

Photo by Jerry McClure/Dallas Morning News

The Lakewood Theater has stood as a colorful and beloved East Dallas landmark in Lakewood Shopping Center since its 1938 opening. So recent news reported by Nancy Nichols at D Magazine that the theater, located at 1825 Abrams Parkway, will be getting new tenants and a new look next year has preservationists and neighbors concerned. This is because the theater has historic designation (in other words, protection from demolition) on neither a national nor local level.

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434 W. 12 Front

Today’s Thursday Three Hundred is unlike any home we’ve featured before. It’s in a great location: the historic Dallas Land & Loan neighborhood that is south of Jefferson Ave. and West of Bishop Ave., and it is an incredible investment. This home is so close to the Bishop Arts District, and it is in an area that is poised for some serious growth.

And you can make it completely yours because this baby comes with absolutely nothing but drywall.

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