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Hot Property: A Well-Loved, Historic Mid-Century Modern in Oak Cliff’s East Kessler 

Built in 1958 as a divorcée’s entertaining house, the Junior Drive home has been lovingly preserved over the years.
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You can tell the mid-century modern at 1535 Junior Dr. has cool ’50s lines and nice privacy, but you have walk inside to truly appreciate it, listing agent David Griffin says. Shoot2Sell
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Hot Property: A Well-Loved, Historic Mid-Century Modern in Oak Cliff’s East Kessler 

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Like much of North Oak Cliff, East Kessler feels more Hill Country than Dallas prairie. “There’s not a neighborhood—certainly that I’m aware of—that has the hills and dales and serpentine streets, and all the things that that people love about Kessler,” realtor David Griffin says. People fall in love with the wooded topography here.

Unlike Kessler Park proper, which is nearly a century old, this neighborhood just east of Sylvan Avenue is still in its 80s. East Kessler was officially established by the Stemmons family and developer Roy Eastus in 1937. For years, the neighborhood was nicknamed “Pill Hill,” Griffin says, “because so many doctors built houses over here.” 

Many of the houses here were constructed post-World War II. The neighborhood has a mix of Austin stone cottages, ranches, mid-century moderns, and newer moderns, many built into the side of hills and cliffs. The area around Junior Drive (named for Kessler sales agent Hugh January’s son, who died in 1933) tend to be more like estates, with large lots, he says. More often than not, these are architect-designed homes and “not just spec houses,” Griffin says. 

This brings us to 1535 Junior Dr. In the late 1950s, divorcée Elsie Kerr hired architect Ashley Koenig to build a sprawling home for her and her son, Lynn. “She took her ex-husband’s money and built as fine a house as she could build,” Griffin says. Preservation Dallas featured the home on its 2015 tour. The nonprofit’s research found that Kerr paid around $96,000 for the lot and construction. It looks like no compromises were made when building it, from the foundation work to the detailing, Griffin says. “She must have been quite independent, because the house has got a lot of sex appeal.” 

The property has a massive living room, terraced patios, vaulted ceilings, and stunning sightlines. Unusual for its time, the living room, dining room, and entry wrap around a semi-open kitchen. “We think of open kitchens as being a much more recent home design,” Griffin says. It also has a fountain in the entryway, which is original, according to Koenig’s blueprints, which the current owner still has. 

You can tell the house was built for entertaining, Griffin says. And that’s exactly what Kerr did. Not long after the house was completed in 1958, she apparently threw an open house for 450 guests. 

The home stayed in the family until the current owner bought it in 2007. He fell in love with the region’s terrain and how well the home had been preserved. “Everything was pretty much untouched from the way it was originally,” Griffin says. 

About a decade ago, the owner hired architect Jesse Rodriguez of JRAF Studio to renovate the home. They kept as much as they could, like the original kitchen cabinets, primary bathroom, and light fixtures. “Every effort was made to leave the original design intact as much as possible,” Griffin says, while updating it with the comforts of modern living. The kitchen appliances were swapped out. All the systems, including the plumbing and HVAC, were updated. They installed new windows and a new roof. The owner also traded out all the old doors in the house for new floor-to-ceiling walnut ones. And they transformed two secondary bedrooms into a new primary suite.

Walking through the house, you can tell how loved it’s been by its two owners, Griffin says. Houses like these don’t change hands often. For the owners, he says, “they’re irreplaceable.” 

Scroll through the gallery to learn more. 

Author

Catherine Wendlandt

Catherine Wendlandt

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Catherine Wendlandt is the online associate editor for D Magazine’s Living and Home and Garden blogs, where she covers all…

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