The Dallas Morning News - Saturday, September 8, 1984
Author: Norma A. Wade

If the old house at 401 N. Rosemont Ave. could talk, neighbors in Oak Cliff's Winnetka Heights would get an earful of history.

That's the message 88-year-old Livia Gaston gave while reminiscing about the grand mansion that is now the E.P. Turner Clubhouse -- headquarters of the 57-year-old Oak Cliff Society of Fine Arts.

The society sponsors art exhibits, Oak Cliff beautification projects and an annual Azalea Arts Festival at Lake Cliff Park.

Jean Barton, Mrs. Gaston's daughter and president of the society, recalled facts her mother told her about the Turner clubhouse, named in honor of Oak Cliff philanthropist Mrs. E.P. Turner, the society's founding president.

Mrs. Gaston grew up with the children of prominent Oak Cliff businessman J.P. Blake, who built the 6,000-square-foot, two-story residence in 1911.

"It was way out like in the country at the time,' Mrs. Gaston recalled. "Anything beyond Tyler Street then was in the country.'

Mrs. Gaston recalled lavish parties she attended at the mansion.

"We danced to orchestras that played from the porch,' Mrs. Gaston recalled. "We thought it was wonderful.'

Parties at the Blake house were social highlights, she said.

"I remember my first party there in 1912,' Mrs. Gaston said. "We wore the best clothes we had. Mrs. Blake served lemonade on the porch. She was a very gracious lady.'

She also recalled playing with the Blake children on the wide, curving porches and sun deck.

The Blakes installed one of the first indoor showers and a steam heat system when the house was built, Mrs. Gaston said.

The property displayed more than 600 rose bushes and the horse that pulled the lawn mower wore special leather shoes that protected the grass, she said.

The 75-year-old house changed ownership several times after the Blakes moved to St. Louis and before it was acquired by the Oak Cliff Society of Fine Arts.

The house needs much repair now and Winnetka Heights neighbors and several Oak Cliff civic organizations have joined forces to restore the dwelling that is one of oldest homes built on Rosemont, Mrs. Barton said.

The front lawn of the mansion in Dallas' largest neighborhood historic district will be full of activity beginning at 5:30 p.m. Saturday.

The public is invited to bring lawn chairs, blankets and picnic baskets for a free open-air concert. There will be clowns, free ice cream and balloons.

The lawn party is a fund-raiser to restore the tile roof and begin other repairs on the home, said Diane Sherman, president of the Winnetka Heights Neighborhood Association, which is sponsoring the event. Co-sponsors are the fine arts society, the Old Oak Cliff Conservation League Inc. and the Oak Cliff Chamber of Commerce.