The Oak Cliff Society of Fine Arts is getting back to its roots in an effort to raise an estimated $300,000 needed to fix the roof of its clubhouse, which is known as the Turner House.
By the time the Oak Cliff Society of Fine Arts first organized in artist Frank Reaugh’s Lake Cliff studio in 1926, the mansion at 401 N. Rosemont had seen better days. The 1912 house, which was one of the first in Winnetka Heights, still had beauty. But its time as a grand estate that hosted lavish garden parties had passed. And by World War II, it had been converted to a boarding house.
As the old mansion sagged, the arts society flourished, growing to some 600 members by the 1940s.
“They were trying to raise the level of awareness of art in Oak Cliff,” says Jan Doherty, the society’s board secretary. “They sponsored art shows, and they held lectures, and they would hire artists to come give instruction.”
The society moved in 1938 to the Marsalis Avenue home of Mrs. E.P. Turner, who willed it to the group. The state of Texas bought that house in 1959 to build Interstate 35, and the society purchased the mansion on Rosemont.
By 2001, membership had dwindled to a few elderly women. The clubhouse was all but dilapidated, and the women of the Oak Cliff Society of Fine Arts decided to dissolve and sell the Turner House.
But before they voted, James Prothro organized a group of Oak Cliff residents who wanted to revive the society and preserve the old mansion. Since then, they’ve replaced the front porch, remodeled the kitchen and added new lighting and paint to the main ground-floor room.
Now they have to replace the roof. Water seeped into the rafters and attic, and the repairs are estimated to cost $300,000.
“It’s a historic building, so you have to hire the right person to do the work,” Doherty says.
The Turner House makes money from meetings and special events, but most of the proceeds are used to pay property taxes, keep the lights on and otherwise maintain the building. As a result, the society needs donations to complete the roof repairs, and they’ve turned to the group’s original mission to raise funds.
On Sept. 14, the society launches a monthly Salon Series. The idea is for artists and arts experts to enlighten society members, Oak Cliff residents and others about topics spanning the arts.
The Sept. 14 lecture is presented by Winnetka Heights resident Kevin Sloan, a visiting professor at the University of Texas at Arlington School of Architecture. His lecture is titled “A View from Modern Architecture.”
On Oct. 8, Chris Barker of Winnetka Heights will discuss “A Feast of Italian Opera,” wherein the operatic tenor performs hits by composers such as Verdi and Puccini and gives a narrative of the stories of the operas, singers and composers.
“We really want to open up the Turner House to the community,” says Kenda North, a society board member organizing the series.
For the past eight years, the society has focused on its clubhouse. But now the group is ready to shift toward more artistic endeavors, Daugherty says.
“We wanted to do something that would be reasonably priced and cover a variety of areas in the arts,” Daugherty says.
The group’s Thursday night meetings are from 7:30-9 p.m., and the cost is $10 for members and $15 for non-members, including drinks and snacks.
TURNER HOUSE SALON SERIES
When/ Thursday, Sept. 10, 7:30-9 p.m.
Where/ 401 N. Rosemont
What/ “A View from Modern Architecture” by Kevin Sloan, a Winnetka Heights resident and visiting professor at the UT Arlington School of Architecture
Why/ To raise money for repairs to the Turner House, including a new roof, estimated at $300,000
How much/ $10 for Oak Cliff Society of Fine Arts members and $15 for non-members