Photography by Danny Fulgencio

The two-story white house on Zang Boulevard is dripping with Dallas history.

Built in 1910, the house was the residence of Dallas Mayor George Sergeant, who was known as the “Centennial Mayor” because he served in 1935 and 1936, the year Dallas was in the national spotlight as celebration central for the 100th anniversary of Texas statehood.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt are said to have sipped lemonade on the front porch when they visited the centennial as Sergeant’s guests.

Sergeant lived in the house until he died in 1971, and it was vacant for years before Bishop Arts developer Jim Lake Cos. bought it in 2011.

The house was a big ol’ mansion in its day, and now it’s in the shadow of hulking adjacent apartment buildings, a shining piece of old Oak Cliff, smack dab in the heart of the new. Jim Lake Jr., whose family company began redeveloping Bishop Arts in the 1980s, calls it “the crown jewel of Bishop Arts.”

Now the house is getting a dramatic new act as a restaurant and bar, The Mayor’s House.

Experienced restaurateurs, husband-and-wife partners A.J. Gilbert and Martha Madison, are expected to open The Mayor’s House as soon as this month.

“Finding something with this kind of historical value is really rare and really special,” Madison says.

Sitting near the second-story windows, there is a view of the Downtown skyline. The Oak Cliff streetcar whirrs by and dings as it pulls into Bishop Arts Station.

“I fell in love with this site,” Gilbert says.

Gilbert and Madison met while working in the restaurant business together in Los Angeles. They owned and operated six Luna Park restaurants in San Francisco, L.A. and New York.

They’re front-of-the-house stock: Gilbert started in the business as a busboy, and Madison started as a cocktail waitress.

Madison, an actress who is originally from Houston, started in the restaurant business while trying to make it on Broadway. After several years of trying, she realized she just didn’t have the singing chops, and she headed to the opposite coast, where she was cast as a series regular on “Days of Our Lives.”

That’s right, Martha Madison is Belle Black, the daughter of Marlena (Deidre Hall) and John Black. Her character was one half of a soap super couple with Shawn Brady, the son of ’80s soap power couple Bo and Hope. She wound up marrying Victor Kiriakis’ son, Phillip, because of so many misunderstandings. Then she had a baby that she assumed was Phillip’s but was really Shawn’s, conceived while they both were in a hypothermic coma. 

Anyway, Madison took over the role in 2004 and is the reigning Belle Black. The TV show was put on indefinite hiatus in November, but when we interviewed her at the Mayor’s House, Madison had just ret