You have heard of this home, it’s a landmark Dallas estate fresh from an architecturally sensitive, three-year long renovation. The address is 10 Nonesuch Road. There are 10,000 square feet, which now includes four living areas, three bedrooms, four full and two half baths, totally new kitchen, laundry room and bathroom updates, library, study, office, sauna and a catwalk to a new two-bedroom, two-bath guest home of 1,200 square feet that sits above the three-car garage. The home has just been listed with Nancy Johnson of Dave Perry-Miller. It includes the original pool and a creek that surrounds the estate.
I would say this about only a handful of homes: There is absolutely no other home in Dallas like 10 Nonesuch Road. Built in 1937, it has only been owned by two families, the Marcuses and the Lovvorns, who bought it from the retail genius in 1994. It is a home filled with history and stories of famous visitors, weddings, parties, those beyond-wild Neiman Marcus Fortnights, signifying the epitome of a retail era we no longer know. It is also a home that reflects the evolution of our city and sophistication, as Neiman Marcus clearly put Dallas ahead of any other Texas city in terms of glamor. And 10 Nonesuch represents Dallas’ aesthetic march towards Modern architecture, which our city is known for, but it also stands for the Neiman Marcus lore.
When he and his wife built it, Stanley Marcus believed that it was the very first fine contemporary home in Dallas. It has other “firsts” as well: the library, for example, has a leather floor that was made of the same imported leather once used for a display wall in the Neiman Marcus shoe department — the configuration entirely Stanley Marcus’ idea. The original projection booth is still in the home where he entertained the likes of Grace Kelly, James Dean, Eleanor Roosevelt, Christian Dior, Lyndon Johnson, Nelson Rockefeller, Estee Lauder and distinguished designers from all over the world. The same mahogany wood used in the expansive his and her master closet is there, custom built by Stanley Marcus to best preserve and house the fruits of his empire. There is the same large, winding driveway for a multitude of cars and valet because the Marcuses entertained, to put it mildly, frequently, abundantly. Once the Queen of Thailand came on a visit with Issey Miyake of Tokyo with an entourage of 30! Now there is a brand new kitchen, sleek new plumbing fixtures in all six bathrooms, a new laundry room more reflective of a self-help age and water conservation, a circle drive off that winding driveway, a second walk-in closet in the master and a private roof-top deck, and a catwalk to a 1200 square foot two bedroom, two bath guest house with kitchen.
Go down Abrams, head east on Westlake Drive to Lakehill Preparatory. There you find the land of the Nonesuches. I have always wondered about the name of the street, and of course it comes from the marketing genius of Marcus himself. Mark Lovvorn tells me Stanley Marcus named the street Nonesuch. During the days of constructing his house, it took the city so long to complete the connection of Llano Road to the Lakewood area and the Marcus property, that he himself decided to call the road “Nonesuch Road.” There are also other personal connections to the selection of this name. Along with his vast art collection, Stanley Marcus collected miniature books as a hobby and began publishing those in 1975. Corresponding to the address of the residence, he called this publishing activity “Somesuch Press.”
Like most young affluent couples, Stanley and Billie Marcus wanted to build a home in Dallas to raise their three children. Six and a half wooded Lakewood acres three blocks from the water were given to the young couple by Stanley’s father, Herbert, who lived nearby. (Stanley Marcus was born in The Cedars.) As he tells it in his autobiography, “Minding the Store”, they did what any building couple does — create a budget and find an architect. And here is where another famous name in architectural history puts his imprint upon this house. Frank Lloyd Wright selflessly offered to design the Marcus home — “why take an imitation?” he modestly proposed to the Marcuses.
“In 1936 my wife and I paid a visit to Frank Lloyd Wright at his home, Taliesen, in Spring Green, Wisconsin for the purpose of inquiring whom he would recommend to design a contemporary home for us is Dallas. When I asked whether he recommended Richard Neutra, the California architect, or Bill Lescaze, the Swiss architect resident in New York, Wright replied, “Why take a substitute when you can get the original?” writes Marcus.
It was the thick of the Depression. The Marcuses had budgeted $25,000 for construction, a huge amount back then and significantly more because of the land gift. In an insightful description of the architect, Stanley Marcus describes Wrights’ architectural plans based on the one day he visited Dallas in January, 1934, when it happened to be 70 degrees.
“When his first preliminary sketches arrived, we noticed that there were no bedrooms, just cubicles in which to sleep when the weather was inclement. Otherwise, ninety percent of the time we’d sleep outdoors on the deck. We protested that solution on the grounds that I was subject to colds and sinus trouble. He dismissed this objection in his typical manner, as though brushing a bit of lint from his jacket, by assuring us that I wouldn’t get colds if I slept outside. Finally, though, with great reluctance, he did enlarge the bedrooms.”
Wright had other headstrong ideas about the Marcus home. He provided little or no closet space, saying “closets were only useful for accumulating things you don’t need” — this to one of the nation’s great retail giants!
Wright dragged the plans on, occasionally even asking Marcus for a loan. Ultimately, a local Dallas architect named Roscoe DeWitt, who the Marcuses had hired to act as a sort of “local agent” for Wright, got the job. DeWitt had already designed one contemporary model home for the Texas Centennial celebration at Fair Park, the home moved to 6851 Gaston thereafter and remaining one of four or five Art Modern in the city, according to Douglas Newby. DeWitt, a Dartmouth and Harvard grad, also specialized in building courthouses and hospitals and ultimately designed two Neiman Marcus stores. It is interesting to note, and gives great insight into the brilliance of Stanley Marcus, that he and his wife were clearly firm with Wright about their preferences. For example, they noted the “sweating walls” while visiting Taliesin and told Wright they wanted under no circumstances sweaty walls in Dallas. They wanted good acoustics with high ceilings. Though they had raised the original building budget up to $30,000, Wright’s preliminary estimates came in at $90,000 to $150,000.
(Billie and Stanley Marcus in the doorway of their new home, 1938, courtesy of Allison Smith.)
The home was finally built in 1937. In his autobiography, Stanley Marcus says DeWitt wrote him later that all great architects have their “betes noir”. In Wright’s case, it was his roofs. For Mies van de Rohe, it was his posts. Apparently Dr. Farnsworth had to buy sheep to keep the weeds down around Farnsworth House in Illinois!
In 2008, the current owners, Mark and Patricia Lovvorn, asked the city of Dallas to “remove the Structure by demolition … in order to build a more energy efficient new home on the property and to occupy the new home as our permanent residence.” That didn’t happen. Robert Wilonsky, a reporter then at The Dallas Observer, spent two days in the DeGolyer Library at SMU, devouring papers and files related to the construction of the Nonesuch house. Somewhere in all that, I think he was smitten by 10 Nonesuch and didn’t want to see her go. Neither did Dallas or state preservationists. The Lovvorns quickly changed their minds and kept the house, vowing to restore it with every ounce of historic integrity. W2 Studio spent two years refurbishing the house, adding merely 400 square feet to the original 9,558. It is listed for $5.4 million dollars with Dave Perry-Miller’s Nancy Johnson, known as the “queen” of Lakewood real estate. It is on what is left of the land from Herbert: 2.99 acres tucked in a private shared gated acreage with three other graceful homes, none historic.
When Mark Lovvorn wrote an editorial in The Dallas Morning News in August of 2008 explaining why the couple wanted to raze the home, he pointed out that even Stanley Marcus, entrepreneur extraordinaire, had thought ahead to the profitability and future of the Nonesuch dirt:
“When Stanley Marcus began to market the property in 1993, it was zoned R7.5 (single family residential), but had yet to be platted. Recognizing the economic attraction that the property might have to a land developer, Mr. Marcus engaged an engineer to draw a preliminary sketch, which demonstrated how a prospective purchaser could easily yield 24 lots from the seven-acre estate.”
True to their word, the Lovvorns have nurtured the home and given her a new life. Now they care to downsize. As for the historical papers, sketches and drawings, including the original plans by Wright, those will remain with Mark and Patricia Lovvorn. Agent Nancy Johnson says the sellers plan to make copies of some and present to the buyer provided, of course, that the price is right. Here is what Nancy told Robert Wilonsky on Friday AFTER he saw my tweet:
“They spent a lot of time and energy trying to honor the house — and at an enormous expense,” she says. “Once they made the decision this was the way to go, they really embraced it. A lot of people will appreciate that.” The new owner, she says, will be a “discerning” one. A wealthy one too. She suggests the next owner of the Nonesuch house might want to add, say, a tennis court or other amenity somewhere on the surrounding three acres. They likely won’t need much more.”
The History of the Marcus House