Why consider renovating an old house in Corsicana?
The small town off of Interstate 45 between Dallas and Waco is familiar to some Dallasites, if only for the stigma-defying fruitcake at its Collin Street Bakery. But recently, Corsicana has been enjoying quite a different sort of buzz — a downtown art center, 100 West, or 100W, as it is known, is calling attention to the community, and in a good way. An artist and writer’s residency program offers space and support for promising creatives. Gallery space is springing up. Shops and restaurants are being cultivated in the historic downtown.
Corsicana was a thriving metropolis in oil boom years of the early 1900s. Wealthy residents built lovely houses. Many still exist and are good prospects for renovation. It’s a chance to get in on the ground floor of the promising renaissance of a small town. See an example of a house which would make a lovely bed and breakfast, or second home under an hour away from Dallas-Fort Worth. Read more on SecondShelters.com now.
If you like the idea of having a home on the range but can’t imagine living in the middle of nowhere, you might take a look at Corsicana. The first oil boom town in Texas, it was founded in 1848 and by the early 1900s it was one of the top 10 cities in the nation with the most millionaires. It’s stuck to its small-town roots ever since.
We recently told you about the precarious situation of the historic Collinwood House. It is the oldest structure still standing in the city of Plano, and it faced demolition to make way for a recreational pavilion in a new park being built by the city.
But after a community-based campaign to save this historically significant house, Plano City Council says it will leave the decision up to voters in the May 2017 bond election.
At last week’s council meeting, they ditched an earlier ultimatum that gave friends of the Collinwood House until Aug. 5 to raise $1.5 million for restoration of the house, and to present a viable preservation plan.
The estimated $3.5 million it will take to restore the Collinwood House will be placed in the future bond election. Council also asked the Plano Heritage Commission to continue their research into the historic significance of the structure, and council agreed to secure the house by building a fence and installing an alarm.
“We were pleased to hear that the council decided to follow the direction recommended by the Heritage Commission, which entailed securing the house, putting the restoration costs on a bond election in 2017, and allowing research into the site and structure to continue,” said Candace Fountoulakis, a board member for Plano Conservancy for Historic Preservation. “Council members added to that with their statements about needing confirmation of the facts, staying focused on the Heritage Commission’s role, and refusing to agree to move the house if the bond election passed. We hope to inform Plano’s citizenry about the house so that they will know exactly how valuable the house truly is and what the costs of restoration will be, based on further research.”
Ahead of the demolition of iconic Mayrath house at 10707 Lennox Lane, midcentury modern lovers will be given the opportunity to pick over the bones of the Truett A. Bishop-designed home. Once lauded as one of the most innovative homes in the country, it will soon be razed to make room for a new build on the 2.29 acre lot.
I’m a little gobsmacked. This style is only growing in popularity, with more and more of these structures being updated and remodeled by caring and clever craftsmen. It’s truly a sad day for Dallas.
For all of its progress toward becoming a world-class city, Dallas still has a lot to learn about the value of historic architecture.
We are tear-down happy. The list of demolished Dallas buildings with significant historic and architectural value would go on for pages. But here are a few recent examples:
We might have another situation happening now. The Mayrath house at 10707 Lennox Ln. is a Midcentury Modern gem. It was designed by Dallas architect and homebuilder Truett A. Bishop in 1956, and is largely unchanged since then.
A Dallas Times Herald article from Sept. 23, 1957, titled Not a Splinter of Wood Used In Outstanding Home in Dallas, describes the Mayrath House like this:
Wood, the most frequently used material in homes, is completely shunned in the home of one Dallas family. There isn’t so much as a splinter of wood in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Martin Mayrath, 10707 Lennox Lane…Built on columns of steel, the two story house is constructed with aluminum, glass, concrete and Austin stone. It may look like a country club at first glance, but it is a luxury home—one that probably is not equaled in the vast Southwest.
In terms of architectural value, this Northwest Dallas home near Royal Lane and Inwood Road is priceless. But it was listed Jan. 18 by Sharon Quist with Dave Perry-Miller Real Estate for $2.5 million, which is just the lot value.
That means the iconic Mayrath house and all its Midcentury significance is likely to face the wrecking ball, probably replaced by another generic McMansion or faux château.
When discussing this possible fate for the Mayrath house, a friend commented, “That is so Dallas.” But it doesn’t have to be. This home is worth saving.
In what I expect was a piece of theater, last night, the Dallas City Council trucked over to Fair Park to meet with the people in an open-door session. The goal was for citizens to voice their opinions about the Fair Park task force’s plans. As one black community leader pointed out, a two-hour session with the neighborhood after a year of work by a largely secretive task force was “a slap in the face.”
Before I continue, I ended my last piece on Fair Park wondering how much rent the city was generating from the State Fair.
In 2013 (the most recent financial statements I could find), the State Fair generated $42,411,006 in revenues (up $4.5-million from 2012) and paid the city $1,784,185 in rent for its 3.5 month lease of Fair Park. That would place an annual rental value on Fair Park of $5,947,283 or just $1,789 per acre per month. Does that seem a terrifically low price for a National Register property?
Put in perspective, the nonprofit State Fair pays its top nine executives just over $3 million in salaries and perks, not quite double what they pay the entire city of Dallas. Also keep in mind, for $1,789 a month you could either rent a 917 square foot, 1-bedroom apartment in West Village or an ACRE at Fair Park with all its accompanying historical buildings. How’s that for perspective?
You probably never noticed the boarded-up tan brick building near Park and Young streets in downtown Dallas. It sat abandoned for two decades, its sidewalks littered with trash and walls vandalized with graffiti.
But behind the grime and neglect, there was a story of intersecting histories waiting to be told.
This Art Deco structure, called 508 Park, was once the hub of the local music scene. Mississippi Delta blues legend Robert Johnson recorded nearly half his songs, as well as his final work, in 1937. In fact, over 800 blues, jazz, western swing, and Mexican recordings occurred at 508 Park by Johnson and other legends such as Gene Autry, Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys, Light Crust Doughboys, and Lolo Cavasos.
The Stewpot of First Presbyterian Church across the street purchased 508 Park in 2011. Thanks to their efforts, as well as dedicated preservationists, historians, architects, and volunteers, this architecturally significant building is singing again.
The campus, known as Encore Park, is a multi-phased, multi-venue campus that aims to bring all cultures together to experience and appreciate history, art, music, and community gardening.
Pat Bywaters is executive director of Encore Park Dallas and grandson of influential Texas artist and “Dallas Nine” member Jerry Bywaters. He’s been spearheading the research into 508’s history, visiting archives in California, Louisiana, and New York.
“I love doing research, and I’ve always loved history. As soon as we looked into 508, the music history came flooding,” Bywaters said. “The Encore Park project preserves not only the architectural relic, but a special place and time in Dallas’ history.”