Source: Google Map

Eagle Ford Elementary School.  Source: Google Maps

On Monday, preservationists launched the process of designating the Eagle Ford School building as a historic landmark. If you’ve driven down Chalk Hill Road just south of Interstate 30, you may have wondered about the rather small, oddly out-of-place concrete building, brightly colored with lavish details at the entry. Above the front entrance is inscribed “Eagle Ford District 49.”

The almost-forgotten Gothic revival building at 1601 Chalk Hill Road was at risk of being demolished. The road was recently closed due to construction, but neighborhood historic groups had been talking to the owner for years about plans for the building.

From 1916 through 1963, the school served the many immigrant families living in Cement City, Arcadia Park, and other nearby neighborhoods.

Bonnie Parker, of the infamous Bonnie and Clyde, is the most well-known attendant of the Eagle Ford elementary school — her report card was found in its basement.

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Katherine Seale

One of Dallas’ great advocates for historic preservation is slated to speak at the fifth annual Park Cities Historic and Preservation Society(PCHPS) Distinguished Speaker Luncheon on Thursday, May 19. Katherine Seale, an architectural historian and preservationist in Dallas who was executive director of Preservation Dallas from 2007 until 2011, currently serves as Mayor Mike Rawlings’ appointee and chair of the Dallas Landmarks Commission.

Katherine Seale

Katherine Seale

Seale will host a talk on Historic Preservation in the Context of Change on Thursday, May 19. Registration is at 11:15 a.m. and the luncheon is from noon to 1:30 p.m. at the Dallas Country Club, 4155 Mockingbird Ln. Seats are still available, and you can purchase them online here.

The Distinguished Speaker Luncheon is one of two fundraisers each year for PCHPS. The proceeds are allocated for scholarships and to help further their mission to promote, protect and preserve the historic, architectural, cultural, and aesthetic legacy of the Park Cities.

Dallas is experiencing phenomenal inner city growth. Neighborhoods like Oak Cliff, the Trinity River Corridor, Deep Ellum, Ross Avenue, and the Design District are seeing urban infill like never before, showing up in all scales and types.

inner city growth

Robert Meckfessel, FAIA

These changes are remaking the city and opening up new opportunities for residents and businesses alike. But when we look at housing, retail, restaurants, office, and streetscapes, what are the traits that make for good infill and connectivity for these areas?

These are the questions posed for the next Dallas Architecture Forum event, a panel presented in collaboration with Preservation Dallas called Remaking the City.

The event will be moderated by Robert McFessel, FAIA, President of DSGN Associates and past president of leading organizations involved with the quality of the built environment, including the Dallas Architecture Forum, Preservation Dallas, LaReunion TX, and AIA Dallas.

McFessel currently serves on the boards of LaReunion TX, The Trinity Trust, Trinity Commons Foundation, DoCoMoMo U.S., Greater Dallas Planning Council, and the Advisory Board of the Dallas Architecture Forum.

Panelists include:

  • Edwin Cabannis: Owner of the Kessler Theater
  • Katherine Seale: Chair of the City of Dallas Landmark Commission and Past Director of Preservation Dallas
  • Evan Sheets: Senior Urban Designer at Dallas City Design Studio
  • Dan Shipley, FAIA: Founder and Principal at Shipley Architects

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Lakewood Theater Dumpster

The city of Dallas Landmark Commission voted unanimously to start the designation process for the Lakewood Theater Sept. 8. (Photo: Save The Lakewood Theater)

It was a packed house today at Dallas City Hall as the Landmark Commission opened the floor to discuss designating the Lakewood Theater as a historic landmark.

Just months ago, Lakewood Theater owners Craig Kinney and Bill Willingham courted Alamo Drafthouse as a tenant for the property, but when problems over parking kept the pair from sealing the deal, Kinney and Willingham proposed dividing up the interior into restaurant and retail space. They tried to assure Lakewood residents that the exterior of the theater would remain unchanged, but all bets were off after blue and red balcony seats started filling up a dumpster outside the building. To some, this was a shot over the bow.

In most cases, the city of Dallas Landmark Commission doesn’t start work to certify a building unless the property owner requests it. However, thousands signed petitions and rallied supporters to preserve the hand-painted murals and Art Deco interiors of the theater and the truly iconic neon spire and marquee.

The commission heard from all manner of Lakewood Theater supporters, as well as the property owner, at the 1 p.m. hearing. Even Blazing Saddles star Burton Gilliam came to 1500 Marilla to speak for the theater. When the final vote was tallied, the landmark commission unanimously agreed to start the process of designating the beloved theater as an official City of Dallas landmark. This means that work on the theater is effectively shut down, and nothing inside or outside can be changed without the approval of the commission.

To say that supporters of the Lakewood Theater were overjoyed would be accurate. They came out in droves, clad in their “Save the Lakewood Theater!” T-shirts, clapping and cheering when the commission’s vote came down.

This is a unique situation in business-friendly Dallas, one where the voice of the neighborhood stymies the plans of a property owner. What are your thoughts on the vote?

5314 Swiss Front

A reader writes:

“The homes are so beautiful on Swiss Avenue but seems like the homes for sale have been on market for a long time. Why do these homes take so long to sell and why does it seem like people are trying to move out?”

5314 Swiss Parlor

Let’s start by answering the second half of that question: Why does it seem like people are trying to move out? Of course, there are the same reasons most people move — changing jobs, capitalizing on a profitable market, closing an estate, downsizing — but considering this area, we wanted to find out if there wasn’t another reason. To answer this, we asked Cameron Kinvig, president of the Swiss Avenue Historic District Neighborhood Association, and owner of 4949 Swiss Avenue, the home that was featured in the Mary Ellen’s Will: The Battle for 4949 Swiss series by Lee Hancock.

I can’t tell you much about the homes for sale within the Swiss Avenue Historic District, or what motivates people to move out of the district (although I suspect it’s the same as everywhere else — as you mentioned, relocating for jobs, profitable market, estate issues, downsizing, etc.). I can tell you that the district is a great place to live and raise a family.  We have a great mix of long-time residents and families with young children. The district really shares a sense of community like a small town, and we socialize extensively within the district.  The homes all have character, and the owners all understand the joys and challenges that owning/renovating a historic home can bring.  Renovations are celebrated, and neighbors are always excited to see improvements being made. New neighbors quickly get to know others in the district, and are quickly adopted into the community.  The district really espouses a special sense of “place” within East Dallas, and I can’t recommend highly enough living there, as opposed to elsewhere in Dallas.  The first few months I owned my house I had a steady stream of neighbors from several blocks up Swiss, and on Bryan Parkway and LaVista stopping by to introduce themselves and wish me well.  I think you’d be hard-pressed to find that sense of community elsewhere in Dallas.

5314 Swiss Foyer

So, from Cameron’s perspective, Swiss Avenue is a unique place, but it doesn’t present many more challenges than other historic areas of Dallas, such as Hollywood Heights, Junius Heights, Munger Place, Winnetka Heights — all of which require homeowners to meet specific historic standards when renovating these homes.

5314 Swiss Living

Now, the first part of the question asks why these homes have been on the market for a long time. There are four Swiss Avenue properties listed right now, with the most recent listing having been on the market for just 50 days, and the oldest being on MLS for 291 days. Two of them are listed with Elizabeth Mast and Robby Sturgeon of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage of Lakewood/Northeast Dallas. Here’s what these two Realtors had to say about listing on Swiss Avenue (emphasis added).

We have experienced a large uptick in the real estate market in general, and East Dallas in particular has increased in popularity because of its close proximity to Downtown.  Our recent sales show that homeowners on Swiss Avenue, for many different reasons, are downsizing and are now taking advantage of this robust market.

It may seem that many of these homes are on the market longer than others in the area, but the truth is that these homes appeal to very special buyers; buyers who value the diversification and uniqueness of a historic district, and the architectural detail that cannot not be replicated today.   It’s also important to mention that many of these homes are greatly sought after, and are sold as private sales.

While many of the homes are nearly a century old and require ongoing maintenance, they are always a labor of love for their owners.  It is that very shared interest and passion that brings the Swiss Avenue Historic District together as a neighborhood.  The advantage to marketing an historic district like Swiss Avenue is the opportunity to share with others the history and stories that make each home unlike any other. The incredible sense of community and true neighborhood feel make Swiss Avenue stand apart.

Well, there you have it! I hope we answered your question, reader, and if you’re interested in this incredible home that we’ve shown in this post, it’s 5314 Swiss — a three-bedroom, three-and-a-half-bath beauty marketed by Mast and Sturgeon for a $1.15 million. That’s an absolute steal for a home of this magnitude and in this area.

5314 Swiss Dining 5314 Swiss Master 5314 Swiss Office 5314 Swiss Master Bath 5314 Swiss Garden

BurtonKnightLawn

 

Photo: City of Dallas via Unfair Park

Burton Knight is a smart fellow — he has a horticulture degree from my alma mater, Texas A&M University — but all the wits in the world might not be enough to win a fight against Dallas City Hall.

If you’ll recall, Knight xeriscaped his Junius Heights front yard with Texas native plants and gravel, which earned him admiration from his neighbors and a citation from the city, who says his lack of lawn makes his home historically inappropriate. That’s  a big no-no in Junius Heights, a designated conservation district.

Still, he’s presented two alternative plans that help maintain most of his landscape as is to the city’s Landmark Commission. Read the report from Eric Nicholson on Unfair Park.

This story was the impetus for a question we asked Dallas City Council candidates running in the May 7 election. Early voting ends today, so go out and make your choice. If you haven’t already checked our our collection of questionnaires, you can take a gander on how they view the issues right here.