Lakewood Conservation District expansion critical to historic preservation
Karen Eubank: We have one of the largest collections of homes designed by Charles Dilbeck and Clifford Hutsell in America and yet we are still fighting to protect them. Why? I think many don’t understand that the intrinsic value of these homes is the fact that their exteriors are intact. Paint one, and I guarantee it will lose its value. I am therefore delighted that the process of expanding the Lakewood Conservation District is progressing. Summer Loveland gave me an update last week.
“We are waiting for signature verification and should get it by the end of July,” she said. “We paid the $2,400 application fee on Monday. Our neighbors helped fundraise for about half of these costs. The next step is that the city will schedule ten meetings, starting in late August. »
I bet you thought all those beautiful eclectic homes designed by Charles Dilbeck and Clifford Hutsell were protected. They are not.
A district rich in architectural heritage
In the 1920s, developers Albert Dines and Lee R. Kraft bought 184 acres around what is now Lakewood Country Club from Dr. WF Pearson and began building one of Dallas’ finest neighborhoods.
Architects such as O’Neil Ford, Arch Swank, and David O. Williams designed homes that still exist today. You’ll find everything from Colonial classics to Prairie-Four Squares and eclectic Spanish styles, but the most coveted homes are the historic Dilbecks and Hutsells.
A gold mine from Dilbeck Designs
You can easily spot a Hutsell design. Clay tile roofs, ornate iron and tiles, and fancy heaps are immediate freebies. On the other hand, Dilbeck did not favor any particular style. In fact, this is one of the reasons why it is difficult to identify some of his houses.
Our former Dallas Parks and Recreation Director, Willis Winters, has spent years researching and verifying these homes and is currently writing the definitive book on Dilbeck that we can’t wait to read. I spoke to him recently to get his perspective on the lack of existing protection.
“Lakewood, unlike other residential areas in Dallas and the Park Cities, is relatively untouched,” Winters said. “It is still possible to preserve its history and safeguard its unique architectural heritage. As a former Lakewood resident whose home was subsequently demolished, I fully support expanding the boundaries of the Conservation District, which will encompass many important residences that need to be preserved.
Saving an intact neighborhood
I like to remind our readers never to sit down and wring your hands because, in reality, it only takes one person to start a movement. Lakewood resident Summer Loveland decided to do something about the lack of protection of these historic homes.
“A Hutsell down the street had a sign for sale last May,” Loveland said. “It was on a corner lot, and I was concerned that someone would buy it and tear it down, so I called the city to see how we could extend the conservation process to Lakewood.
Loveland had been active in the successful formation of the Belmont Conservation District years ago, so she was well aware of the challenges.
“Lakewood was the second conservation district, formed in Dallas in 1988, and it only protects Abrams’ homes in Brendenwood,” Loveland said. “There is not a single Hutsell in the protected area. There are nearly 50, and none are protected. The proposed expansion area covers all Hutsells. When I started talking to my neighbours, I found there was a lot of interest and support.
It is then that he begins to take over a village to save historic properties. Loveland contacted Winters to ensure there would be a comprehensive list of these historic properties and set to work to gain support. The town needs a committee of 10 to move forward, and Loveland found neighbors committed to the mission, and the process moved surprisingly quickly.
The formal application has been submitted to determine eligibility and the city has reviewed the documents. Loveland awaits eligibility approval in April. Once that happens, the city has two weeks to provide petitions to the neighborhood committee. They must obtain the agreement of 58% of the neighbors and sign the petitions. After that, the city holds a public meeting.
We’re taking one step forward and two steps back in our ongoing efforts to preserve Dallas’ historic homes and buildings. The concept of preservation, curation and adaptive reuse is not usually part of a developer’s vocabulary. Profit is the only driving force. Understanding the value which is not financially based is a difficult task for them. The owners are, unfortunately, generally uneducated or uninformed.
At present, Highland Park is mostly a construction area, and there will be little to no history left in a few years. Fifty of the original homes featured in Great American Suburbs: Park City Homes, Dallas were demolished. Let me remind you that these are homes like Carey Estate and Old Alice, homes owned by the visionaries who built our city. Once they are gone, their story fades and history is lost.
With growing awareness of our dwindling inventory of historic properties daily in Dallas, Lakewood is a neighborhood that seems to understand the value of preservation.
For more information on the proposed expansion and a list of conservation district facts, click on the pdf.