(Featured Photo: Polly McKeithen, 2020-2021 Co-President, PCHPS; Bob Clark, Architect; Jana W. Paul, 2020-2021 Co-President, PCHPS.)*
The Park Cities Historic and Preservation Society and Jan and Trevor Rees-Jones were presented with a Spirit of Preservation Award by Preservation Dallas for the saving of the Elbert Williams Residence at 3805 McFarlin Boulevard in University Park. The Spirit of Preservation Award is given to an individual or organization who brings forth the Spirit of Preservation to inspire and lead others in our community to preserve historic places.
This house built in 1932 for the University Park Mayor Elbert Williams is one of the most significant historic houses in Texas. It was designed by architect David R. Williams who is considered the father of the Texas Regionalism style with the Williams house considered the first and premiere example of the style. The home was Williams’ last residential project and contains all of his hallmarks including impressive hand carved interior woodwork by Lynn Ford (O’Neil Ford’s brother), a mural painted by Jerry Bywaters which was later removed, abundant lone star ornamentation, and passive cooling features such as one room deep rooms for better air flow, covered overhangs to reduce sun and more.
The 6,000 square foot house occupies 1.15 acres of prime property in University Park. Having only two owners in its lifetime, the house’s exterior and interiors are remarkably intact with original details and layout. The Williams Residence appears almost exactly as it did when built, rare for a historic house these days. The particular plat of land it sits on is exceptionally valuable because it runs along the Turtle Creek shoreline and abuts the Dallas County Club. When the previous owner of the house passed away the house went to family members who put the property up for sale. In 2016, Preservation Dallas added the housed to its Most Endangered Historic Places list due to the threat of it being sold to someone who would demolish the house as there is not a way to protect historic houses in University Park.
Noting the importance of the house to University Park and to Texas, the Park Cities Historic and Preservation Society worked diligently to save the house. PCHPS funded the publication of a book on the Williams House called A House for Texas in an effort to bring attention to the importance of this masterpiece of Texas Modern Regional architecture. The book was authored by local architect Larry Good with photographs by Charles Davis Smith. It fully documents the home and tells the story of its remarkable design. The book and subsequent lectures featuring the book and house helped to raise awareness about its importance.
Allie Beth Allman was brought in by the Locke family, who owned the house since 1955, to try and find a suitable buyer who would respect and cherish the house. In December of 2020 that happened with the sale of the Elbert Williams Residence to Jan and Trevor Rees-Jones. The Rees-Jones family had recently completed their new home on the property immediately south across Turtle Creek from the Locke house, and shared a passion for the preservation of the historic home and appreciated the beauty of the creek and views running between. The Rees-Jones’ have made a commitment to preserve the house keeping it safe from demolition and the Locke family has expressed how pleased and grateful they are for this wonderful act of stewardship.
From Preservation Dallas: “The Park Cities Historic and Preservation Society believes this may be the first time that an endangered historic residential landmark has been saved from the wrecking ball in the Park Cities. Their hard work and determination to save the house and Jan and Trevor Rees-Jones’ willingness to purchase the house to preserve it makes them both worthy of the Spirit of Preservation Award and Preservation Dallas applauds their efforts to save this pioneering and authentic Texas style house.”
Membership in the Park Cities Historic and Preservation Society is open to the public. Community support is vital to preserving community awareness regarding the importance of protecting and promoting visual history along with architectural and cultural legacies of the Park Cities.
PCHPS membership benefits and activities include:
Three educational meetings during the year, landmarking events honoring significant homes for architectural, historical or restoration merit, PCHPS Annual Spring Historic Home Tour, Distinguished Speaker Luncheon, Annual Classic & Antique Car Show, July 4th Parade and booth.
The fundraising events that allow PCHPS to give back to the community are the Distinguished Speaker Luncheon, Home Tour, and the Classic & Antique Car Show. Funds raised help preserve and maintain The Park Cities House at Dallas Heritage Village, support the new PCHPS archives at the University Park Library, fund the Society’s landmarking initiatives, award scholarships to Highland Park High School graduating seniors planning to study architecture or history and fund the Distinguished Chair for History at Highland Park High School.
Visit the website to join and for more information at www.pchps.org
*House photos by Charles Davis Smith.
(Sharon Adams, Adams Communications Public Relations, is honored to represent the Park Cities Historic and Preservation Society.)