Tearing Down the Past

The ongoing demolition of Preston Hollow’s great estates

THE TEAR-DOWN CRAZE THAT has swept Preston Hollow shows no signs of abating. In the past two years 30 to 40 older homes, some of great architectural or historical distinction, have been razed to make way for gigantic new houses. What’s wrong with the older homes?

“Dallas wants new,” says one real estate agent. “If it doesn’t have a built-in Jacuzzi and a walk-in closet, it’s gone.”

The real estate agents themselves are the first to lament the fad that is destroying some of the great old homes of Dallas. “This is the type of town where you come back to visit the family homestead, and it’s been demolished,” says one. Says another, “Some of these were great estates, houses that could have lasted another hundred years. The quality of construction, the detail, the interior moldings and craftsmanship will never be seen again,” (No agent would be quoted by name. Neighbors also asked their names not be used.)

Among the recent victims:

8801 JOURDAN WAY

Built by oilman Frederic Wagner in 1952 and occupied by the Wagners until they sold it this year, this 7,600-square-foot house resting on 2 acres has been called “the prime teardown of the decade.” “I couldn’t believe anyone would destroy such a wonderful place- what on earth could they have in mind?” asks one Wagner friend. The Wagners remodeled the house in 1985, adding 3,200 square feet. As a part of the purchase contract Wagner was able to remove the walls and wine bins of his wine room, “Everything else, the chandeliers, the marble wall in the library, the fireplace, were all left intact for the new owner, We didn’t know it would be torn down. They were very secretive,” says Mr. Wagner. New owner Robert Haas of Haas, Wheat & Partners also purchased and tore down the house next door. “Another beautiful house. In no way was it a teardown,” says an agent. Construction on the combined 3.8 acres is expected to take three years. “God knows what’s going up,” says a neighbor. “I chink he bought it for the pond.”



9707 MEADOWBROOK

Its 5 acres are described as “probably the finest piece of property in Preston Hollow.” The house was built by insurance executive O. Sam Cummings, who was also the first president of Kiwanis International, in 1936-37 and was featured in newspaper articles of the time as one of the largest houses built in Dallas since the stock market crash of 1929. Mr. Cummings died in 1964, and his widow occupied the house until her death this year, when it was bought from the estate by neighbor Steven L. Aaron. “The buyers thought about renovating, or at least they had an architect look at it, but it couldn’t be done,” says one person familiar with the transaction. “Horserot,” counters a neighbor. “It was a grand house in excellent condition. It’ll be replaced by another billion-dollar personal monument.”

5223 PARK LANE

John H. Rauscher, co-founder of the old-line Dallas brokerage firm Rauscher Pierce, commissioned well-known architect Charles Dilbeck to build this 3,600-square-foot house in the 1930s. “It was full of those special Dilbeck touches, with a wonderful ceiling and an almost walk-in fireplace,” says one visitor. “A fabulous house. No struc-tural problems at all; solid as a rock,” says another. A neighbor is more outspoken, “This was a landmark house that was willfully and unnecessarily destroyed.”

The house was purchased for $1.25 million by Sally Von-behren, who had already bought the house next door at 5205 Park for $1.19 million and demolished it. Now both lots are on the market again for a combined price of $4.3 million. Says one real estate agent, “She was going to build a house. She changed her mind.”



5121 PARK LANE

Henry Potter, owner of a wrought iron business, enlisted his good friend James Cheek, the architect best known for designing Highland Park Village, to construct this house in 1933 on 2.26acres. A Mediterranean style fieldstone house of some 4,000 square feet, it also was among the first houses built in Preston Hollow. “A historic house that deserved to be saved,” says a person close to the Potter family. Michael McCoy bought it last year and tore it down.



And then there is 10330 STRAIT LANE. Sitting on 6.63 acres, this Irish-Georgian country estate was designed by architects Robert Goodman and Herbert Tatum and built in 1934. “In Virginia or Connecticut, buyers would have fought to get this house,” says an agent. It was bought a year ago by George M. Perrin, 49, the founder of Paging Network, Inc., a $450 million pager company located in Piano. Perrin paid $3,547,500 for the property in March 1994. He promptly tore it down.

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