In the Highland Park neighborhood of Dallas, the most beautiful, architecturally significant and historic landmark homes are being torn down by people who think colossal white boxes with all the charm of a prison are more important than preserving the soul of our city. I was physically ill when the local news recently reported that one of my favorite homes, 4908 Lakeside Drive, has been sentenced to execution by wrecking ball.
The owner of the home (who declined to go on camera) told NBC5 that they intend to demolish the home and sell the lot!!! And that “preservationists should not be able to tell people what they can do with their property.” Why not at least put the home up for sale and give it a chance?!
Last fall, the city watched in horror as new owners demolished 3800 Beverly Drive, a 9,000 square-foot mansion built in 1922 by one of Dallas’ most celebrated architects, Hal Thomson. It had been fully renovated in 2000.
“For decades, Highland Park homes have been torn down, however, this year this activity has accelerated. Perhaps new residents have had an impact,” Douglas Newby, a realtor who specializes in architecturally significant homes, wrote in his recent article “Why There Is an Acceleration of Highland Park Homes Being Torn Down”. In fact, the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex has attracted more out-of-state transplants than any other metro area in 2021 (source) and the real estate market here is completely out of control.
“The people who are razing these properties are sort of destroying the very thing that made them want to move here in the first place,” the incoming Park Cities Preservation president told NBC5.
Another architectural gem that was razed this year was 4400 Belfort Avenue, also built by Thomson & Fooshee. The real estate listing read, “One of the most significant sites in Highland Park, this stately home sits on a corner lot at .997 acres. This property features intimate Formals, family room, library, sunroom, gourmet kitchen, third floor complete with large off-season closet, family room, bedroom and bath. The grounds include an outdoor living area with grill and fireplace, pool, and guest house. This is a perfect opportunity to add your personal touch or build your own grand estate!”
Back in 2016 I featured my dream home which had gone on the market… Located on Beverly Drive, the 1930s home had been one of my favorites since ever since moving to Dallas for college. It was demolished, and here is a link to the listing of the oversized spec house that has taken its place. I purposefully go out of my way to not drive by this intersection because it makes me so upset.
Preservation Park Cities has compiled a list of Highland Park homes slated for demolition (sadly it is a long list), and they have also listed the historically significant architects of these homes. They are working tirelessly to get ordinances passed to prevent, or at least slow, this continued loss of architectural history, and they ask for help in spreading awareness.
Douglas Newby has also listed 5 steps we can take to save these homes. Per suggestion #3, I encourage like-minded architects and interior designers who want to help to create preliminary sketches illustrating how best to approach renovations as these architecturally significant homes come on the market…. The Glam Pad would be happy to promote and feature your work!
Mark your calendar for the 2022 Park Cities Preservation Historic Home Tour: May 7 & 8!
Tour four beautifully preserved homes from the comfort of your own home… from anywhere online! The Park Cities Home Tour can be viewed online only May 7 & 8th. Click here for additional information and for tickets which start at $25.
Please follow @preservationparkcities on Instagram for ongoing information and updates. Spread the word – let’s preserve!
Thanks for sharing. I am with you – I want to vomit seeing these new homes with no character or personality being built at lightning speed. But it’s even worse when beautiful, classic homes have to be torn down in order to make space for these new, gaudy monstrosities. ??
Its a disgrace to tear down those beautiful homes, and makes me sick as well. In my city, in the 60s they went on a rant destroying all the beautiful old homes in Heritage Hill, but thankfully enough people got together, and stopped it. Today its a beautiful historical neighborhood. I live in an old home, and many around here have gotten run down. Right now developers are buying them, and totally gutting them inside. The outsides they leave mostly as is, but the insides are all new with electric, plumbing, layout etc. I prefer the old homes with rooms with a purpose but not the open concept we see everywhere. Also all of the interiors are white on white which is boring! I suppose these rehabs are a better option to tearing them down, but they are doing that here as well in the upper crust area of East Grand Rapids. They are tearing down beautiful old estates to plop those horrible sterile boxes in their place. These old homes were built by craftsmen that cared, and they did work that is not replaceable today. These homes were built to last unlike these new cardboard boxes that a wind can blow down. We need to preserve our history, and the great talented people from past times.
Andrea, evidently the lack of respect or understanding for the historical importance of the architecture is a parallel not unlike the agism being experienced in our society. Too many take the experience of what came before for granted.
A fight for Zoning might be the only answer for the neighborhood you so love. EE
I don’t live in Dallas, and have never been to Highland Park, but I am now sick to my stomach too. If someone doesn’t like this historical and classical style of architecture, no problem. But tear down and build your ugly spec houses somewhere else!! I hope Preservation Park Cities can have an impact, and stop this horrible, on-going situation.
Oh Andrea! This is nauseating! Highland park is so beautiful (except for these replacement houses). I hope you can get your fellow Texans to do something – fast. Thank you for your honesty and for standing up for beauty and history and historic preservation! Jackie Kennedy would be so proud of your efforts and the rest of us thank you!! Xo Elizabeth
It is stunning that this is happening all over the country – Atlanta & Charlotte NC are good examples of this phenomena as well. Sadly even more to me is when these houses go, they also take out the beautiful and stately trees that have stood watch through out the decades.
The only city that had the forethought to put in place the covenants that stymies such woeful destruction is Charleston SC
Every time I drive through Buckhead in ATL I wonder who is perpetrating the ugliness and why. Is it just that they have more money than they know what to do with? Most of these people know or care nothing about the communities they’re moving to and they simply don’t care about the past.
Unfortunately, money won’t buy a conscience or taste.
I have no ties to Texas but have enjoyed my visits to beautiful Highland Park whenever I’ve been in Dallas. As a designer and history-lover, the willingness of some to tear down these gems makes me sick.
Frankly I’m shocked there are not more local codes that would prevent this destruction. I hope HP/Dallas can get some policies put into place quickly. Even here in my hometown in FL, the local preservation organization of our historic districts require extensive permitting to so much as sneeze in the area ?
Very sad, happening in my neighborhood too. People are attracted to the atmosphere, architecture and history of a place and then disregard all these elements to build incongruous monstrosities.
It’s so heartbreaking to watch this trend. Thank you for your article. I just can’t believe what they’re doing.
How very sad to read all those grand homes are taken down. It does change the ambiance of a neighborhood.
Re the house at the top of the post….Maybe because of your post and other publicity….there might be a buyer who IS interested in the lot + current home.
Keep fingers crossed.
How come those houses are not listed as historical, so they are protected? Would that be the ‘American Freedom’, to do what you please with your property?
Me? In Europe, loving American vernacular architecture. Renovating my property in the Netherlands to be the most American house in the country…☺( I already have the vintage cars to match)
Ron van Empel
More money than sense, these out of state people. And most of what they build are monstrosities. It is very sad that old, important, beautiful homes are not appreciated by many younger people. You, of course, are an exception. My children do not want any of my antiques and things do not have any sentimental value to them. Old stuff is just that to most younger people.
I grew up in university park and the new houses are horrible! These people have more money than sense. It is very upsetting to drive through the area and see all the changes. The older houses had so much beauty and personality! These new houses are disgusting!
These houses are stunning! I cannot imagine purchasing such beauty and not seeing it!! So sad.
That literally makes me sick to my stomach. So tragic.
It’s sickening and tragic that these homes are not treasured and protected. I think a lot of these box houses going up are the result of certain so-called celebrity designers who made white, bland homes trendy. There’s no uniqueness or true architectural craftsmanship to any of them. The trend to paint everything white and gray can’t end soon enough for me. One of the reasons why your blog is my favorite is because of the traditional and historical homes and designs you feature. When we built our house in the 80’s we had our architect design a “new, old house” to mimic the old stone houses in our area. Our house has never gone out of style and was built to last. It would make me ill to think someone would want to tear it down in the future.
The very same thing is happening in Boulder, Colorado. The homes being demolished are not grand plantation-looking homes such as these, but, still, large old Victorian homes with lovely architectural details from the mining heydays and others built with a great deal of locale-appropriate stone here in the foothills of the Rockies. And, yes, they are being replaced by these truly ugly modern structures that are all horizontal lines and hard metals and glass. It seems we don’t have a preservation society here in Boulder and the City Council and local architects have gone crazy.
I think people enter an older home and unfortunately have no vision. They don’t realize the beauty of the moldings, staircases, and architecture that would cost a fortune to recreate today. They want one large great room not realizing that the wonderful nooks and crannies of an older home allow everyone in the family to have their own special place. It is so heartbreaking that beautiful homes are being replaced by white boxes with steel windows.
Thank you for featuring the destruction of these beautiful homes. I really can’t believe what they are building in their place. Just heartbreaking.
altering the unique and exquisitely beautiful highland park neighborhood is absolutely obscene ! ! !
It doesn’t take that long to create a historic district. We have had to do that here in Hudson, New York. We have bi-weekly meetings here, of the committee. Architectural drawings have to be presented to the historic committee before changes can be made. The idea of “I own it, so I can do anything to it” is a flawed and selfish one. I used to live in Turtle Creek, so I was in Highland Park every day, driving through. Highland Park is very historic, going back to its original concept by the same city planners who created Beverly Hills. The only way to save these neighbourhoods is to make them official historic districts with strict guidelines. The arrogance of the nouveau riche doesn’t hesitate to destroy. They must be stopped. Let them build their own ugly neighbourhoods; not ravage existing ones. All it takes to create a historic area is for the city council to agree to it. Then a committee is set up to police any potential changes, so that it doesn’t lose its character. New Orleans is probably one of the best examples of this. Talk to people there and see how it’s done.
Totally agree Cynthia. Charleston is another great example of creating a historical district.
Dallas has a long, long history of razing historical buildings, whether it be Swiss Avenue, downtown, HP, etc. The taste levels leaves A LOT to be desired. Our city is becoming more and more soulless architecturally and it makes me physically ill as well. Shameful!
Andrea, I agree with everyone above. This is a clear tragedy across America including here in Palm Beach. Internally restructuring to smaller units and maintaining the exteriors would be an intelligent alternative! Strengthening one’s Preservation Boards seems to be the only way to go. Thank you for bringing this to our attention.
Thank you for sharing this heartbreaking news. Sadly, if the property cannot be saved, you at least started an incredibly valuable conversation and spread the need for greater awareness for architectural preservation. Praying that the community of Highland Park can rally and stop this destructive and needless trend.
Sadly, the very same is happening in certain areas of Tampa, FL specifically Davis Islands – long known for its Mediterranean style homes (Davis Islands was developed in the 1920’s).. Now, perfectly lovely homes which by the way actually fit the lot size are being razed for gargantuan fake Mediterranean and of course other style abominations.
This is why so many of us fall in love with Europe and England when we visit, where they have cared for buildings and architecture that is hundreds and hundreds of years old. They are all about preserving while we are here tearing down our monuments and replacing real architecture with monstrosities.
Devastating, in every sense. I am a New Englander living in one of the most historically significant communities of the region, so I am a stalwart empathizer with historic preservation efforts, every time. So important for the past to be rightly valued as a dynamic and vital part of present, not merely something to be replaced by the present ! I will be wishing Dallas a better— and more beautifully preserved!— era ahead.
I agree with Margo! Europe and England have more knowledge to know you can’t replace old architecture!! Homes being built today if they want to call it a home is SO UGLY!! Absolutely no architecture in new houses and won’t last like old structures. You can’t buy quality wood today because wood is being cut too soon to keep the demand of building. Also builders are using alot of faux stone today not quarried stone. But builders love building cheap houses for expensive prices!!! Thanks for letting people aware of this tragedy!!
There is such a conceit to the people who tear down beautiful, charming, fabulously detailed, old houses. These mostly younger people fancy that they can do a better job of “giving birth” to a superior house…….as if spa bathrooms and outrageously expensive kitchens were the bench marks of great architecture. Notice, too that they really cut short on landscaping around their newly constructed monuments to self after most of the established gardens have been bulldozed under. So many of these self important people occupy their creations for actually a limited time and then move on without ever looking back on the damage they have caused to long established neighborhoods. In New England people who tear down old houses are looked upon with contempt and rightly so !!!
I have not been to this area of the country. Why the posting caught my eye is that my mother grew up in the Highland Park area of Dallas and the home that she and her family lived in was on Beverly Drive. I am aware of the fact that the home has since been torn down.
It seems that this is happening all over the country.
I feel your pain….it is positively soul sucking, Melissa Delano Rio Arriba New Mexico
It is heartbreaking when “old money” could build lovely homes to be inherited by younger family members. Unfortunately, the inheritors can’t afford the maintenance, upkeep and taxes and must sell to the highest bidder. The only way to save some of these is to put your name on the deed.
Truly! The American Dream is a farce and so many of us have to be house poor to afford one. The soul is being sucked out of everyone! I doubt the cookie cutter house will be anymore affordable.
This makes me so sad. We use to live in Fort Worth and it was always such a treat to drive through Highland Park and look at the stunningly beautiful homes…especially at Christmas time. We have since moved to Kansas City and even though you may see an old home being razed every now and then it is rare. People here want old homes and will spend the money to renovate rather than destroy.
We are doing that to a 1927 Tudor that we purchased.
The people responsible for this travesty do not even know the meaning of “HOME”. The build and decorate in a very throwaway fashion…sad!
This is very sad and upsetting. Just because you have money doesn’t mean you have sense, taste, or class. What a shame.
Makes me sick. Those grand old homes are so lovely! And to be replaced by ugly boxes with no character!
Oh no, I am heartbroken! That was my favorite little girl fantasy house because it was pink. And gorgeous!
Too much new money in Dallas and lack of taste with no sense of historical preservation makes for a bad outcome.
Hurry and pass some covenants that make it hard to do such a thing!
It’s terrible to see these beautiful homes being torn down. People don’t realize the charm and attraction to these places are rooted in these historical gems. It’s what makes a place special and different.
I haven’t been to Highland Park since I was 15 but even then I was awestruck by the beautiful homes! This is sadly also happening all over my city (Nashville, TN) where either great, white boxes or tall skinnies, as we like to call them, are popping up everywhere. I can’t stand it.
Can the neighborhood band together to try to obtain National Historic Preservation status? Similar to the way things have been done in Savannah and Charleston. The Old Northeast neighborhood in St. Petersburg, FL, where I live, has this designation. This is very sad.
The white House/black roof/ black window trend is so overdone. It has spread throughout my city like Covid- no neighborhood is immune. Unoriginal and boring! Its worse than that dumb barn door in the pantry trend. I’m horrified to think that beautiful, historical properties are being razed so people can perpetuate a passing fad. Just sickening.
Appalling to substitute these soulless white boxes for houses with elegance, charm, and style. Heartbreaking.