Preserving Park Cities Structural History

Charles Dilbeck is a household name; it is a name associated with a number of houses in the Park Cities, Preston Hollow, and Dallas. Dilbeck designed more than 600 homes in Dallas, but that number has shrunk, since houses in Dallas don’t tend to survive too many owners.

One Preston Hollow resident is looking to make her Dilbeck-designed home stick around for the long haul, and has filed a request with the Dallas City Hall Landmark Commission for consideration of a historic overlay district. The commission voted to consider homeowner Nancy Shutt’s case in August. Shutt declined to comment on the request.

In its consideration of Shutt’s house, the commission will determine if the building meets the necessary criteria for historic overlay and work with her to establish why the structure should become a landmark.

The house, which was built in the late ‘30s, carries many of the eclectic characteristics often found in a Dilbeck home, such as a balcony with latticework.

“This house is one of Charles Dilbeck’s more significant and larger houses,” executive director of Preservation Dallas David Preziosi said.
“…Dilbeck’s work was prolific, and he did a lot of building all the way from small houses to hotels. He did a wide range of types and sizes.”

According to Preziosi, while Dilbeck was known for his wide range of designs, from Tudor to Spanish to French farmhouses, he was also known for pioneering the Texas ranch style. He designed these buildings, such as El Ranchito on Jefferson Boulevard in Oak Cliff, based off of California ranches with “a Texas twist.”

“He used a lot of wood, stone, and brick,” Preziosi explained. Dilbeck was also known for using “drunken brick,” which doesn’t line up to a grid and can look sporadically placed.

Dilbeck, who was prolific from 1932 to 1970, started designing houses in Tulsa when he was 20 years old. He later ventured to Dallas during the great depression and opened his business in Highland Park Village.

According to Preservation Dallas, the Loma Linda area of the Park Cities contains many Dilbeck houses. In 1997, the organization hosted a tour dedicated to a handful of his houses.

“I think with the designation of the [Park Lane] house it really shows the importance of Charles Dilbeck as an architect and a designer,” Preziosi said. “He’s really popular with people; they will call [Preservation Dallas] and ask. ‘Is our house a Dilbeck?’”

The house on Park Lane is just one of the many houses in which Preservation Dallas has a vested interest. The organization placed three Highland Park ISD elementary schools — Bradfield, Hyer, and University Park ­— on its 2015 Most Endangered Historic Places list. This year, the Penson House in Highland Park, which recently sold at auction for $4.5 million in September, and the Williams House in University Park also made the list.

“Obviously we’d love to see more historic houses protected in the city, especially in the Preston Hollow, North Dallas area,” Preziosi said, “because there really aren’t any historic districts … that can protect these houses from being demolished as development pressure increases, lot value increases, and house value decreases.”

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