I’m excited to report that residents of Dallas and Highland Park have two new avenues for historic preservation of their homes. One is a proposed new initiative in Highland Park that should be in place by early 2010; the other is an effort to expand the presence of an existing national program to the entire Dallas area. Together, these important preservation tools will give property owners additional protections for the exterior of their homes, in ways that protect their home into the future.
With most preservation tools – such as local ordinances, preservation districts, etc. – restrictions or requirements are imposed on individual property owners by the neighborhood, community or government. However, the preservation tools coming to Dallas are different because homeowners can initiate restrictions on their own property.
By coincidence, I had two appointments fall on the same Monday – breakfast with Dan Reardon of the Trust for Architectural Easements, who was in Dallas for a two-day exploratory visit, and lunch with Marian Ann Montgomery of the Park Cities Historic and Preservation Society to discuss preservation in the Park Cities.
Marian Ann Montgomery and the Park Cities Historic and Preservation Society are working with the town of Highland Park on a historic preservation ordinance that would allow individual homeowners to submit their property for designation as a protected structure. The town of Highland Park will participate by managing and enforcing the ordinance of the properties accepted for protected status.
This approach is really quite brilliant because no districts or ordinances – historic, conservation or teardown – are crammed down the throats unwilling homeowners. This preservation ordinance will only apply to properties put into place at the request of the property owner. Architecturally significant Highland Park homes will be preserved, architectural prestige enhanced, and momentum generated for maintaining the architectural landscape of Highland Park. Highland Park township resources will be better employed on preserving significant structures rather than imposing unwanted restrictions on non-receptive property owners.
Don Reardon was in town as part of an exploratory visit for the Trust for Historical Easements, which is looking to make Dallas a major part of its efforts. This trust has been very successful this decade in receiving façade easements and protecting the future of these buildings, both residential and commercial. Here again, this preservation measure is deployed by the property owner, assisted by the Trust and acknowledged by the Department of the Interior, which grants a 3% – 17% tax deduction for the donated façade. Characteristically a property owner donates the façade easement to the Trust for Architectural Easements after the Trust helps the property owner place the property on the National Register of Historic Places. The Trust then owns and controls the façade and the property owner receives a tax deduction in the 3% – 17% of the building’s value, most often around 10% of the home’s value.
Members of the Trust for Historical Easements have identified Dallas as an area with great houses and great architecture, with people interested in preserving it. I think that’s exciting.
These preservation incentives will resonate with architectural patrons, philanthropists and those people who love the aesthetic landscape of Highland Park and the Dallas area. Donating a façade easement to protect the architecture in perpetuity is much the same as donating a piece of art to a museum – except the donor doesn’t have to worry about the architecturally significant home being put in storage. Architecture is our public art. Often, more people will see the front of an architecturally significant house than will see a painting or sculpture in a museum. Dallas is a city of patrons and philanthropists that astound the rest of the world with their giving. These preservation tools provide yet another avenue to improve our community through giving.
We know that there is an audience for these types of voluntary preservation tools because we are already seeing great citizens protect their homes. Whether these homeowners elect to participate in one of these programs or elect to take a tax deduction is irrelevant because measures are already in place to preserve the architecture.
Years ago, the Lovvorn family of Dallas initiated historic designation for their home, which was formerly owned by Stanley Marcus. They have accepted landmark status and are in the process of doing further renovation.
Owners of one of the great American modern homes of the 20th century, Jennifer and John Eagle, retained architect Russell Buchanan for a masterful renovation of this Edward Durell Stone designed home. They are making plans to preserve the home for future generations.
Few eclectic homes have a façade as distinctive as this home designed by John Allen Boyle, who was also the architect for The Mansion on Turtle Creek. Denny and Connie Carreker have been relentless about renovating and protecting this home, including putting the original parcels of land back together.
This Highland Park home, one of the most important homes designed by Scott Lyons (and one much loved by the community) will be given to an important foundation so that it may be preserved and used in much the same way it has been over the last 50 years.
Jack Knox has made one of the most dramatic revisions on a home on Armstrong Parkway people now love.
There have been many successful preservation efforts in Dallas. The nation’s most successful neighborhood revitalization occurred in what are now Dallas’ historic districts. The city possesses an abundance of conservation districts. We’ve had mixed success with a teardown ordinance – that may have created more acrimony than value. But most importantly, I’m seeing increasing interest in architecture and preservation. And I’m heartened by these two new preservation tools, with their potential to further protect architecturally significant homes and to assist homeowners in preserving great properties into the future.