preservation issues for dallas

In 2015, the gorgeous Bud Oglesby-designed home at 10300 Strait Ln. was razed, one of many architecturally significant structures demolished in Dallas in recent years.

If you’ve been paying attention, you’ve noticed the destruction of many Dallas historic buildings over the past several years. From the Bud Oglesby-designed home at 10300 Straight Ln. and the Trammell Crow Estate to the razing of an entire block of century-old buildings in downtown Dallas as part of the Joule’s expansion plans, it’s been brutal. And it’s nothing new — Dallas historic building have been biting the dust for decades in the name of new construction.

But perhaps the tides are changing. The last two decades have brought a huge shift in historic preservation across the country and in North Texas. People are more interest in the environment around them, both old and new, particularly in how buildings, landscapes, and places impact their lives.

Today, Dallas citizens are able to be increasingly involved in the decision-making processes that determines what their surroundings look like and how it will affect them. Preservation issues for Dallas are getting noticed by some leaders.

Though much progress has been made in the city, it’s got a long way to go. Updated and improved tools are needed to guide future development and preservation efforts.

A panel next week will examine how our city can make informed decisions to create a good foundation on which to build a better future.

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endangered places

Located in the city’s first residential historic district, the Aldredge House made the 2015 list for endangered places in Dallas. All photos: Preservation Dallas

We live in a city rich with historically significant homes and buildings. But all too often, they see the wrecking ball instead of preservation and protection.

With so many of our Dallas historic structures having uncertain futures, Preservation Dallas creates an annual Most Endangered Historic Paces List to call the public’s attention to sites that are too meaningful for us to lose.

“We stared the list in 2004 and ran it until 2010, skipping 2009—we then brought it back in 2015,” said David Preziosi, executive director at Preservation Dallas. “The purpose is to raise awareness about the threats many of our historic places are facing. The nominations are collected and a jury reviews them and selects the new list for 2016.”

Nominations are due soon for that 2016 list, which will likely feature some of the homes and buildings we know and love.

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mayrath house

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.

“This is such a unique and historical house — they are going to have a heck of a time tearing that down … because my dad made things to last forever,” Anne Christian, one of Martin Mayrath’s children, told CandysDirt.com writer Leah Shafer.” He spared no expense to add all the wonderful touches to the house. The steel piers going down into the bedrock would be the most interesting part—I would think it would make the ground unstable [for a future home built there] to have them torn out.”
The Mayrath family in the grand entryway, late 1950s. Martin Mayrath made his fortune by inventing the grain auger. Photo: Preservation Dallas

The Mayrath family in the grand entryway, late 1950s. Martin Mayrath made his fortune by inventing the grain auger. Photo: Preservation Dallas

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NeilEmmons

City Plan Commissioner Neil Emmons was found dead in his home this morning. Photo: Twitter

The political and real estate worlds of Dallas were rocked today with the news that tireless advocate of neighborhoods and preservation of Dallas’ architectural history Neil Emmons apparently passed away in his sleep overnight. He was 45.

Robert Wilonksy reported in the Dallas Morning News that Emmons, who has been serving as a City Plan Commissioner, was found dead by his mother this morning.  As city officials and others who have worked closely with Emmons in his 15-plus years serving the city learned the news, their reactions were overwhelmingly of shock.

“We did not always agree, but I always knew Neil was up for the fight. I learned a lot from you over the years, and I am sad that our hidden notes at the horseshoe will not continue. You will be missed greatly my friend,” said councilman Adam McGough on Facebook.

Dallas Planning Commissioner Neil Emmons was found dead in his home this morning. Photo: Rockwall Pets

Dallas Planning Commissioner Neil Emmons was found dead in his home this morning. Photo: Rockwall Pets

Councilman Philip Kingston also took to Facebook to eulogize Emmons, saying, “No single person in Dallas has done more to affect land use in recent history, and the changes he fought for were overwhelmingly positive. His philosophy was always to side with the neighbor and the neighborhood because doing so produced the best result for the city.

The result? Billions of dollars of economic development that may not have happened without his input and probably would have looked like crap if it did happen. It is not an exaggeration to say that Uptown, Turtle Creek, Oak Lawn, Lower Greenville, and Downtown owe much of their success to Neil Emmons.”

“I don’t think most of the city knows how sad a day this is for Dallas,” Kingston concluded.

In February, our Leah Shafer wrote about the historic Mayrath House and the formation of Dallas Endowment for Endangered Properties (DEEP) by Emmons and three other preservationists.Four preservationists, Virginia McAlester, Jim Rogers, Lisa Marie Gala, and Neil Emmons, together founded the Dallas Endowment for Endangered Properties (DEEP) fund last month. Joanna England wrote more in-depth about DEEP, which would be a fund to buy up endangered historic properties to save them from the wrecking ball.

Emmons served several terms on the City Plan Commission, starting in 2001 when he was appointed by then-councilwoman Veletta Lill. He served from 2001 until he left in 2009 due to term limits, and then was appointed again in 2014.

mayrath house

Original Geneva cabinets are just one of the Midcentury Modern wonders in the iconic Mayrath house, located at 10707 Lennox Ln. in Northwest Dallas near the Straight Lane estates.

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.

Photo: Michael Amonett

Photo: Michael Amonett

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.

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