Historically and Architecturally Significant Home is Celebrated and Saved in Highland Park
Preservation Success is achieved in Highland Park! Many consider this Highland Park home designed by Mark Lemmon to be the most historically significant home in Highland Park and maybe even in Dallas and North Texas. Highland Park, University Park, the State of Texas, and the National Register of Historic Places have recognized the historic and architectural significance of this Normandy style cottage located in Highland Park and designed by Mark Lemmon for his family in 1924. The Meadows Museum had an entire exhibition on Mark Lemmon. Architecture and art historians Willis Winters and Rick Brettell wrote a book on Mark Lemmon and his architectural contributions at SMU, at Fair Park, across Dallas and Texas. The profound impact Mark Lemmon had on architecture has been recognized and will continue to be celebrated in the future.
A Successful Preservation Strategy Starts with a Smart, Enlightened Homeowner
The preservation success of a home depends on the right moves by a smart, enlightened homeowner while living in the home and when the time comes to sell the architecturally significant home. Anthony McClure is certainly that homeowner. Anthony McClure is a historian, a passionate preservationist, a leader in historic preservation in Highland Park, the Park Cities, and Dallas. When Anthony and I first spoke about his Mark Lemmon-designed Highland Park home, its architectural and historical significance and its long-term relevance to the community, Anthony recognized my affection and appreciation for his landmark home and my interest in its preservation. He told me that he hoped to live in the home at 3211 Mockingbird Lane a long time, but when the time came, he would have me represent him in the sale of his home. Never once in the next 20-some years did we further discuss the possibility of a sale. However, when the time came to sell, he called me. I was incredibly honored and flattered when he asked me to represent him as the listing agent. I understood and valued the importance of this transition to a new owner and its impact on Highland Park, the Park Cities, and Dallas. The home has just sold and will be architecturally protected and preserved. It is my hope Preservation Dallas will be presenting Anthony McClure with the Keystone Award; Preservation Park Cities will honor him with an award; and the Highland Park township will be honoring him with an Anthony McClure Day during Preservation Month in May.
The Preservation of a Home Depends on an Enlightened Homebuyer
The seller can initiate a preservation plan, but ultimately it is the homebuyer who determines the preservation success and fate of a historic and architecturally significant home. The buyer of this significant home is a sophisticated buyer with a love of architecture and history who is an SMU graduate and a member of a family that has lived in Dallas for multiple generations.
Purchaser of 3211 Mockingbird Embraces the Preservation Importance of a Mark Lemmon Designed Home in Highland Park
The purchaser quickly recognized the importance of this home to Highland Park, University Park, and Dallas. He considers architecture and art an important component of history and of the community. Preserving this home was his primary motivation for purchasing it. He and his wife also own a historic home in Lakewood, doubling down on their commitment to preservation and to architecturally significant landmarks of Dallas.
Preservation Success for a Home is Also Influenced by the Architectural and Historical Importance of a Home
The architectural significance of this historic home designed by Mark Lemmon demands that this home should be preserved. The late Ted Pillsbury, former director of the Kimbell Art Museum and the Meadows Museum, wrote that Mark Lemmon was the most important historicist architect of the 20th century. Willis Winters and the late revered Rick Brettell, the founder of the Dallas Architecture Forum and former director of the Dallas Museum of Art, wrote a book on Lemmon with similar praise. You may not be familiar with architect Lemmon, but you are certainly familiar with his church, chapel and buildings on the SMU campus, his landmark architecture at Fair Park and the significant buildings he designed across Dallas.
Mark Lemmon Designed 3211 Mockingbird Lane for His Family
The home Mark Lemmon, FAIA, designed for himself and his family made an impact on SMU, Dallas, architecture and Dallas neighborhoods. The original handcrafted and forged detail, hardware and fixtures remain in the home.
The original hardwood floors, wood beams, heavy wood doors, and the gold foil embedded with leaves in the entrance hall are also found in this 1920s home. Here is an example of a small home that can have a large impact on the architecture of Dallas. We are lucky that it is on nearly a half-acre of land and two of its facades, including the side facade with the Normandy style bay window wall, are visible from Mockingbird.
Deed Restrictions Ensure Preservation Success
The preservation success of the 3211 Mockingbird Lane home is ensured with architectural deed restrictions on the front facade and other elements of the home. The preservation success has also been achieved by a seller selecting a buyer who will be a good steward of the home. And maybe the most important ingredient in a successful preservation recipe is a buyer who is excited about protecting the home. Deed restrictions are a vital tool to perpetuate architectural safeguards for potential future owners.
Announcing Fresh Preservation Victory is Refreshing Hope for More Architecturally Significant Homes to be Saved
Most of the time historic homes only receive attention when they are in the process of being razed or about to be torn down. Often historic design is derided by critics, while modern design of the moment is celebrated. Architecturally significant homes may be quietly admired out of the corner of our eye, but seldom aesthetically savored. This is one of the reasons it is fun to announce the preservation success of this architecturally significant home designed by architect Mark Lemmon, because it will give us all a chance to take a closer look at its architecture and how it relates to Dallas. The more knowledge we have of our architectural heritage, the more homes will be preserved like this one at 3211 Mockingbird Lane in Highland Park across from SMU.
Historic Preservation Needs to be Proactive
Many seem to approach historic preservation as a battle cry when buildings are being torn down. My approach to historic preservation always has been to lay a foundation for ongoing preservation and create an environment conducive for historic preservation.
My Real Estate Career was Motivated by a Desire to Revitalize a Historic Neighborhood
After graduating from SMU, my real estate career was motivated by a desire to revitalize Munger Place and the surrounding neighborhoods of dilapidated historic and architecturally significant homes. After founding the Historic Dallas Fund with Virginia Talkington and Lee McAlester for the Historic Preservation League (now Preservation Dallas), Lee and Virginia asked me if I would obtain my real estate license. The three of us set up the structure for a Revolving Fund in Munger Place to buy dilapidated houses that had been divided into four apartments and resell them with deed restrictions to homebuyers who would return them to single-family homes. However, there was not a real estate agent suited to negotiate the staggered options needed to purchase these rent houses over a two-year period. Lee and Virginia then suggested that I obtain my real estate license so that I could negotiate the acquisition of these properties. I agreed and proceeded to obtain my real estate license. My first transaction as a real estate agent was simultaneously negotiating purchase options on 22 properties with the closings staggered over two years. The staggered closings allowed the Revolving Fund to buy and sell a historic house with deed restrictions, preserving the home before they were required to close on the purchase of the next home that had an option on it. This approach of options also allowed the Revolving Fund to simultaneously purchase a divided up rent house and resell the same house to a homebuyer who was required to fix it up and return it to an architecturally deed-restricted single-family home.
Initiated the First Single-Family Historic District in Dallas, a Preservation Success
In a further effort to preserve the historic homes in Munger Place that were vulnerable to being torn down because of their extensive deterioration, or to continue to be used as divided-up rent houses, I initiated the first single-family historic district in Dallas. Even 80% of the apartment owners mailed in an official legal request to have every property in a 100-block area rezoned from multifamily to single-family, including the apartment houses they owned. These same property owners also petitioned for Munger Place to become a historic district. The deed restrictions placed on homes purchased and resold by the Revolving Fund of Preservation Dallas protected 22 homes. This single-family rezoning protected 2,000 homes. The Munger Place Historic District protected the architecture of 200 homes in Munger Place. Eventually, the subsequent historic districts of Junius Heights and Peak Suburban further protected the architecture of all 2,000 houses in the single-family rezoned area.
Architectural Deed Restrictions Have Continued to Bring Preservation Success to Other Neighborhoods
Over the subsequent years I have continued to work with homeowners and eventual sellers to protect architecturally and historically significant homes in Lakewood, University Park, Preston Hollow and Highland Park. Homes that are architecturally protected and saved seldom get any notice, but there are sellers who care deeply about their homes and their historic and architectural contribution to Dallas. Some of these homeowners sell their historic and architecturally significant homes with architectural deed restrictions protecting them in the future. There are other owners who carefully select a buyer who will renovate their home rather than tear it down.
Roadmap for Historic Preservation Success
The roadmap for a successful historic preservation strategy is to start the journey early. Now, we hear passionate outcries for preservation that come with venomous accusations that the buyers of historic homes and their agents are heathens, selfish and aesthetic degenerates who do not care about the community. These outcries come with bulldozers revving their engines to take down a home. At that point it is too late to do anything.
Preservation Outcries When it is Too Late is Well Intended but Ineffective for Preservation Success
The outrage towards those who tear down important homes is encouraging because it shows a passion for historic and period architecture. However, these last-minute distraught cries of alarm show how little ongoing interest there is for preservation.
There Have Been Architecturally Significant Homes That Should Never Have Been Torn Down
There have been some architecturally significant homes that had enough economic and aesthetic value that they should never have been torn down. Some have been wantonly torn down because the listing agent thought a vacant lot would sell better than the architecturally significant home on that block. There have been instances in Highland Park where an architecturally significant home was torn down and then the vacant lot took months or years to sell.
An Architecturally Significant Home Should Never Be Torn Down Until Someone Is Ready to Take Out a Permit to Build a New Home
A good rule of thumb is that a historic and architecturally significant home should never be torn down until the owner of the property has a permit and is ready to build a new home. Too often I have seen owners of important homes tear them down, thinking they were going to build a new house but then changed their minds. Their change of plans might be because the economic climate changed or their personal circumstances changed or the projected cost of a new home became too high for their economic comfort; however, this historic home they have torn down cannot be replaced.
O’Neil Ford Home on Armstrong Avenue in Highland Park Torn Down
A few years ago, a large architecturally significant O’Neil Ford home on Armstrong Avenue is an example of a fabulous home being torn down before there was a buyer for the lot.
Fooshee & Cheek Designed Home Torn Down on Beverly Drive
This architecturally significant home designed by Fooshee & Cheek was one of my favorites in Highland Park. It is a perfect example of why a historic home should not be torn down before someone is ready to build a new home. This beautiful home was razed and the vacant lot sat empty and on the market for another five or six years. In that time period, I talked with several homebuyers who lamented that this home did not still exist, as they thought it would have been perfect for their needs.
E.G. Hamilton Designed Home Torn Down on Crescent Avenue
This midcentury modern home designed by E.G. Hamilton and located on Crescent Avenue in Highland Park was saved when the owners recognized its importance. After millions of dollars were spent renovating the home using top Dallas architects, it was still torn down several years later.
Scott Lyons-Designed Home on Lexington Avenue Torn Down
Some architecturally significant homes are fabulous homes that buyers would love to purchase, but the buyers would need time to evaluate the home and plan how to renovate it. This home is a good example of a home that went on the market and sold the first day as a lot. Buyers of a lot only need to know the dimensions of the lot and can move more quickly than a homebuyer, who needs to actually see the house.
Historic Preservation Success Comes from Recognizing Historically Significant Homes Well in Advance
When historically significant homes are recognized, a preservation strategy should begin before they are in danger. A formula for preservation can be drawn to celebrate the home and community.
Future Article on Historic Preservation Strategies
In the future, I will write an article describing the steps that can be taken in which architects, interior designers, and contractors can evaluate and help make plans and determine costs to transform an architecturally significant home into one that is aesthetically and economically viable today. These preliminary plans would give potential buyers for the home a more equal footing with lot buyers.
Architectural Deed Restrictions Do Not Have to Diminish Sales Price
Often home sellers of architecturally significant homes are concerned that if a real estate agent were to market their home with a preservation strategy it would diminish the eventual sales price. It has been my experience that many architecturally significant homes add value to a vacant lot if that value is articulated and understood by the homebuyer. Historic preservation strategies often save the home and often bring a higher sales price to the seller. Architectural deed restrictions don’t necessarily diminish the sales price, but they do weed out lot buyers.
Criticism of Historic Design Contributes to Historic Homes Being Torn Down
Modern design of the moment is popular with critics. Transitional modern design is popular with homebuyers right now. Every time a critic derides historic design, it diminishes the appeal of historic homes. My feeling is that there is a place for both new homes that have a modern design and new homes that have a historic design. Good design is good design regardless of the architectural style.
Mark Lemmon Designed Home is Historic Preservation Success and Triumph
This Mark Lemmon-designed architecturally significant home is particularly a preservation triumph. It is a small home on two large lots equaling more than .4 acres, making the property especially vulnerable for lot purchases. The one-time owner decided years ago he would protect the home with architectural deed restrictions and additional deed restrictions that prevented the lots from being sold separately.
Architectural Deed Restrictions and Land Restrictions Part of Preservation Success
The architectural deed restrictions and land restrictions placed on the property can provide comfort to all those who enjoy this home’s contribution to the architectural landscape of Highland Park.
Perfect Buyer Propels Preservation Triumph
Ultimately, the fate of an architecturally and historically significant home is determined by the homebuyer. The homebuyer of this Mark Lemmon-designed home will landscape the lots and further renovate the home, accentuating its architecture and significance. This home at 3211 Mockingbird Lane is an inspiration and gives hope to all the other architecturally significant homes that will be available in the future. You can see more architecturally significant homes on the Architecturally Significant section of DougNewby.com and on the Architect section of DougNewby.com as we celebrate this preservation success in Highland Park at 321l Mockingbird Lane.