This year’s Old Oak Cliff Conservation League Home Tour is Oct. 8-9. For the first time, tickets to the tour are available at Tom Thumb on Hampton. They cost $20 for anyone over 10 years old and $12 for seniors, but adult tickets go up to $25 on the days of the tour. The tour often presents magnificent or unusual homes, and this year is no exception. There are 14 houses on the tour this year, from Winnetka Heights to Oak Park Estates, from 100-year-old homes to mid-century modern split-levels.
The two in this story, very different from each other, represent a little of what the home tour will showcase this year.
• More information is available at ooccl.org.
The 111-year-old Spanish mission
Someone recently gave Candice White a 1973 Dallas Times Herald article about her Spanish mission-style house at 1934 Lansford. It was the paper’s “House of the Week.”
“The style was very ’70s, with flocked black, red and gold wallpaper and shag carpeting everywhere,” she says.
That’s pretty much how it was in 2000 when White moved into the home she calls Villa Blanca.
“We pretty much gutted it,” she says.
The one-story house was built in 1900 and renovated in the ’70s, when two bedrooms were added. Originally, the home faced the creek that runs behind the house. But over the years, the back of the home became the front, facing Lansford.
There is a lot of lore surrounding the house.
A previous owner says it was built as a convent, although that’s never been confirmed. Another story tells that the house was a speakeasy during prohibition. Several people have said there is some sort of tunnel that runs from a cupola, which was built as a cistern for collecting water, to the creek. But no one has ever been able to find any tunnel.
About that cupola: Previous owners had used it as a dressing room, as it’s off the master bedroom. They had installed mirrors, wallpaper and shag carpeting.
When White was renovating, she asked her work crew to take all that out, along with a low ceiling that had been installed. She wasn’t sure what she would find under there. But it turned out to be a high brick silo with windows, which she could see from the outside, untouched since the ceiling was installed.
Now the cupola serves as a reading and meditation space, an interesting feature, if less than functional.
The home’s walls are at least a foot thick, and the home was designed to stay cool before air conditioning. In the winter, White burns wood in two fireplaces to keep it warm. A Bacchus relief over the main fireplace is original to the home, a fact that casts doubt on the convent story but confidence in the speakeasy theory.
White also added arches to the entryways, updated the kitchen and bathroom, and installed shiplap pine she bought from an old sugar mill in south Texas. She bought pink marble tiles from a garage sale at a mansion in Kessler Park for about $100, soon after moving. She used that for flooring in the atrium and kitchen.
As unusual and interesting as the inside of the house is, the outside is a gem, too. White tore down some shacks that were on the 3/4-acre property and installed a shaded winding path and a garden with all Texas native plants. The home’s exterior features architectural details, such as two blue fleurs-de-lis flanking the original entrance, which make it unique.
The 1960s Brady Bunch house
Tony Maniche moved to Dallas 16 years ago from Cleveland, and he was lucky enough to find Oak Cliff right away.
His first house was nice, but it had a very small yard. Maniche wanted something a little more suburban, so he moved to a big house in Oak Park Estates, just south of Kiest Park.
He saw the house on Hanging Cliff Circle the day it went on the market, and he closed the following weekend. He loved that it was on a cul-de-sac in a quiet neighborhood.
“I wanted a little more land because I like to garden,” he says.
Maniche planted Texas native plants out front, and those come back every year. Since he has a lot of experience with container gardening from living in smaller places, he still employs potted plants in the backyard. He plants tropical and other sensitive plants in big pots. Once a year, he loads them all onto a big cart and stores them in his garage for the winter. When the weather turns warm, he arranges them outside again. That way, he’s not buying new plants every year.
Maniche’s house didn’t need much work when he moved in. Most of what he’s done is cosmetic: painting, reconfiguring a powder room, and replacing tile, carpet and wood flooring.
He opened up a dark entryway, adding narrow windows to the original front door and taking out a wall to add light throughout the entire first floor.
And last year, he completely renovated the kitchen, extending it with new windows and bench seating at the rear of the house.
After that, he redid the back patio.
“The kitchen was so nice, and I was just looking out here at a concrete slab, and it did absolutely nothing for the space,” he says.
Now it is a welcoming outdoor living space that leads to a gazebo and garden.
Maniche also has replaced some things that are not as fun. He bought two new air conditioners last year, added energy efficient windows and had radiant barriers installed in the attic. Maybe that’s not stuff you can show off to party guests, but it reduced the summertime electric bill in the 2,400-square-foot home to about $187 a month, down from $350-$400 last summer.
Maniche works in Arlington and is the third owner of his 1964 home. He says he loves the neighborhood.
“It’s quiet. It’s a cul-de-sac off a cul-de-sac,” he says. “And you have access to the freeways that you don’t have farther north in Oak Cliff.”