The numbers are impressive.
Eleven homes will be open to the curious during this year’s Old Oak Cliff Conservation League Fall Home Tour. The oldest was built in 1911; the newest in 1951. The smallest amounts to 1,500 square feet; the largest boasts 6,000.
The tour marks the 35th in the conservation league’s history, as well as the 100th year anniversary of the Winnetka Heights neighborhood. That’s one of 29 neighborhoods belonging to the league, which encompasses more than 10,000 homes.
Because of the money raised by the tour, each of those neighborhoods has a chance to vie for beautification project grants awarded by the league, which has given away more than $100,000 in recent years to enrich Oak Cliff.
The numbers also make this home tour the largest in the city, not only by quantity of homes but also by the geographic footprint covered. But one of the tour’s most important roles can’t necessarily be measured.
“We are the ambassador to Oak Cliff,” says Vicki Fitzgerald, conservation league vice president of neighborhoods. “People see Oak Cliff in a way that many of them don’t realize they’re going to see when they come over here.”
In other words, the Fall Home Tour gives residents north of I-30 a good reason to cross the Trinity and find out what they’re missing.
Here’s a glance at four of the 11 homes on this year’s tour.
Kessler Park wasn’t the “it” neighborhood in 1957, when Dr. Wayne Gossard was searching for a house for his young family.
“Nobody wanted an old house in those days,” Gossard says. “Everybody was going to new construction.”
Many of the new homes were being built near the Oak Cliff Country Club, but Gossard was preparing to open a surgery practice at Methodist Hospital and move into a new office on Bishop. The house on the hill overlooking Stevens Park was ideally located — plus, Gossard’s wife, Betty, loved all of the windows.
The 1928 home went on the market for $31,500, but sat for months without selling until Gossard and his wife came along and offered $29,500. The price was right. The 3,100-square foot home on the almost one-acre lot was originally designed with the front door opening to Kessler Parkway, but with dozens of steps and nearly 40 feet of height separating the house from the road, “to approach the house from that end just became inconvenient,” Gossard says. So the side door began acting as the front door.
The lot’s layout is unusual, but Gossard says that’s what he loves most: “the terrain and the trees and the beauty of it.”
The couple raised three boys in the house; the youngest started first grade at Rosemont soon after the family moved in.
“I used to say my wife could be downtown, parked, and inside Neiman Marcus within 15 minutes — which is a mixed blessing,” Gossard jokes. “This is just a tremendous residential area, very convenient to downtown and really very convenient to all of North Dallas, if you’re in the mind to go that direction. I prefer not to.”
In honor of the late Betty Gossard, one of the couple’s presents from their 1947 wedding will be displayed on the dining table: a complete set of Minton bone china from England.
808 N. Hampton
Alex da Silva and Mark Wright had one objective when moving back to Dallas: Scale down to a modest house. They grin and groan as they tell the story, knowing full well that their ____-square foot mid-century modern on a 1.25-acre lot doesn’t even come close to “modest”.
It’s just that the house on North Hampton kept popping up in their search, and each time it did, the price had dropped. It turned out that the house was heading toward foreclosure, and right after the couple made their offer, it fell into the bank’s hands. Luckily, their real estate agent was able to snatch it back.
“My fear was that a developer would buy this property and tear this house down, because you could probably put four homes in this lot,” Wright says. “We thought, let’s save it, and restore it back to something more neutral and more timeless.”
The house had been remodeled in the ’80s with a “Miami Vice” feel, the men say, so their first objective was to gut it and give it a more contemporary feel. The original Terrazzo flooring from 1945 remains in the basement; the rest of the interior has been brought into the 21st century.
Two of their favorite modern contraptions are the kitchen’s steam oven and speakers that play simultaneously from the backyard pool to their downstairs offices. Another item of note is the one-ton sink in the powder bath. Made of Egyptian limestone, it had to be shipped to China to be cut before being sent to da Silva and Wright.
The house is also a perfect showcase for the couple’s art collection, which contains works by the likes of Picasso and Dali. Their short distance from the downtown arts district was also a selling point.
“Where else can you live in a house like this on an acre and a quarter 10 minutes from downtown?” Wright asks.
1920 W. Colorado
David R. Williams’ aim was to build homes in what he termed “Texas colonial style”, says Paul vonHeeder, adding that when the architect moved to Dallas, “he was appalled to see a French townhouse, a Swiss chalet and an Italian villa standing side by side on the same street.” Williams studied old German and Czech homes in the Hill Country and designed his structures to capture the Texas wind and shield from its powerful sun.
William Lynch, then president of Texas Power & Light, commissioned Williams to build his family’s home in 1931. It was the first on Colorado in Stevens Park, vonHeeder says, and Williams took great care with the details, even hand-planing the ceiling beams and woodwork on site. It was designed as two parallel houses, with the Lynch family living upstairs and Lynch’s mother-in-law living downstairs. When the Lynches moved out in the ’40s, the Rick family — of Rick’s Furniture on Jefferson — moved in.
The home was in foreclosure and disrepair when vonHeeder and Bill Nelson first laid eyes on it; their real estate agent tracked them down and begged them to take a look before bids closed the next day. In less than 24 hours, they were the owners of a “new” house, at least compared to the 1921 Dutch colonial they had lived in for 19 years.
The couple painstakingly restored the house to its original condition, such as adding two fireplaces based on designs from Williams’ other houses and finding wallpaper for the downstairs powder bath created from an artist’s original, circa 1920s silkscreens. VonHeeder even added a medallion to the den floor based on Williams’ architecture, despite knowing that a rug would hide it.
“You’ll never see it because I’ll never pull up this rug, but it’s there … because I felt it should be there.”
Glancing around the “new” home, vonHeeder says: “Hopefully, we saved it for another 75 years.”
101 N. Montclair
Paul and Cindy Maute grew up in the suburbs. That’s how they knew they wanted to live in the city.
The couple made Winnetka Heights their home more than 20 years ago, and in that time restored three homes in the historic district — two were their primary residences, and one stood across the street. Paul is an architect and Cindy an artist, so in a sense, “this is what we do for fun,” Paul says. But their underlying reasons reach deeper.
nistrative requirements placed on us here in a historic district, some people feel to be really restrictive in the man’s-house-is-his-castle sort of way,” Paul says. “We don’t feel that way. We know there’s a long-term benefit, and our responsibility is to deal with it.”
Because of this viewpoint, Paul has held many roles both in the neighborhood and city dealing with the ins and outs of historic districts. So when the foursquare house on the corner of Montclair and Jefferson went on the market, the real estate agent called him asking for assistance in explaining the rules to potential buyers.
“I said, ‘The house we’ve been driving by for 20 years and it looks like people are living there, but it doesn’t look like anything is happening?’” Paul recalls. “I told her right then and there that she had changed my life. I said, ‘Cindy has had her eye on that house for many years, and if I tell Cindy, I’ll spend the rest of my natural life working on that house, or I can keep it from her, and she’ll find out anyway, and I’ll have a very unhappy partner for the rest of my life.”
He decided to go with option one. The original owner of the house was T.S. Miller, one of the four developers of Winnetka Heights who each built a home for himself in the neighborhood. Only this house and the Turner House remain. The Mautes found their project No. 4.
“The way Cindy saw it, it needed to be saved — so we saved it,” Paul says.
Old Oak Cliff Conservation League Fall Home Tour
When/ Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 11-12, noon-6 p.m.
Cost/ $20; $15 for senior citizens
Buy tickets/ Tour Day: Stevens Park Picnic Pavilion on Colorado; Presale: Alchemy Salon, Beckley Brew House, Bishop Market, Hunky’s, Crossroads Market
For more information/ 214.989.3916 or ooccl.org