Grandmother Creates Fairyland in the City

In a home on an acre-and-a-third of Dallas ground there lives a hobbit-loving lady.

Not an old historic home steeped in Big D lore, nor yet a typical modern mansion like those going up in the Park Cities: It is a feather-wearing eccentric collector’s home, and that means bottles mortared in between uneven stones and real Montana trees in the great room.

The Shire of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings lies along the Great East Road in Middle Earth, far from the threats of Mordor.

The Shire of Preston Hollow sits along Meadowood Road, west of Ursuline Academy of Dallas and south of Walnut Hill Lane, but don’t expect to visit.

“The house wasn’t really built for show,” explained Niki Yarborough, of Southern Botanical, the company that installed the garden. “It was built for the enjoyment of her grandchildren.”

Creating a fairy forest and home comes at a precious price: The Dallas Appraisal District valued the property at nearly $4 million – $2.1 million for the land and $1.8 million for the improvements.

Time to go? Skip the stairs, take the slide.(Courtesy The Mamones Photography)

The owner prefers to remain as incognito as Bilbo Baggins wearing his invisibility ring, but has occasionally opened up her home for a charitable cause.

A recent three-day open house with a fashion and jewelry sale benefited Equest, a nonprofit provider of therapeutic horseback riding.

A sign warning, “Beyond This Place There Be Dragons,” greeted more than 300 visitors as they crossed the drawbridge. Inside, volunteers described how reading a Tolkien biography in 2000 or so inspired the owner to build an elaborate cottage reminiscent of Elrond’s “last homely house” in Rivendell.

The house, though relatively new, was made to look old, echoing Irish design with old furniture from France, England, and Scotland. A secret door in the library leads to extra rooms. A huge clock serves as a table in the kitchen. Twinkling lights in the great room ceiling mimic the look of a starry sky.

Outside there is a thick garden intersected by a creek that leads to the partially buried hobbit guest house.

Southern Botanical maintenance crews follow strict rules as they tend the grounds so as to preserve the mysteriously wild look, Yarborough said. For example, the natural canopy over pathways shouldn’t be cleared much higher than the 4-feet needed for a hobbit.

A circular door invites entry to the guest house, where most of the furniture is child-, make-that hobbit-sized, except for a dragon bed for adults in Smaug’s lair on the top floor.

Longtime Equest volunteer Gail Pace noted the owner prefers visitors to use the slide, instead of the stairs, on their descents. “Everything is done in keeping with the spirit of Middle Earth, which is great fun.”

Adult visitors sleep in Smaug’s lair.
(Courtesy The Mamones Photography)
Trees, lights, and limbs create that starry night in the woods look.
(Courtesy The Mamones Photography)
The library is not as old as it looks.
(Courtesy The Mamones Photography)

William Taylor

William Taylor, editor of Park Cities People and Preston Hollow People, shares a name and a birthday with his dad and a love for community journalism with his colleagues at People Newspapers. He joined the staff in 2016 after more than 25 years working for daily newspapers in such places as Alexandria, Louisiana; Baton Rouge; McKinney; San Angelo; and Sherman, though not in anywhere near that order. A city manager once told him that “city government is the best government” because of its potential to improve the lives of its residents. William still enjoys covering municipal government and many other topics. Follow him on Twitter @Seminarydropout. He apologizes in advance to the Joneses for any angry Tweets that might slip out about the Dallas Cowboys during the NFL season. You also can reach him at [email protected]. For the latest news, click here to sign up for our newsletter.

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