A new look at Old Oak Cliff - annual home tour features II unique properties

The Dallas Morning News - Friday, October 16, 1998
Author: Lisa Martin, Special Contributor to The Dallas Morning News
The 11 properties on the Old Oak Cliff Conservation League 's Fall Home Tour reflect the rich diversity that characterizes the community.

There's the small brick house, owned by a young couple, that boasts an artsy interior. A pair of Baby Boomers have filled their 1940s Stevens Park abode with religious icons, including an authentic stone baptismal font. And an architect's home in the Winnetka Heights Historic District stands as a monument to the remodeling job.

"We try to get an eclectic mix of houses for the tour," says Julie Allen-Lindsey, the event's organizer. "We want to highlight different architecture and decorating styles as well as the different neighborhoods."

Tickets for the tour, which is Saturday and Sunday, cost $8 to $12 and may be purchased from local merchants (see related story on Page 7G). Last year's proceeds helped finance a 36-page brochure, which highlights the area's 23 neighborhoods; Discover Dallas' Hidden City: The Neighborhoods Old Oak Cliff.

An entire volume could be written on Oak Cliff First United Methodist Church, which is part of the tour. The church, built in 1915, is "one of the first steel-and-concrete structures in the area," says parishioner Don Griffith. "Also, we still use the original water-powered Pilcher pipe organ, which is 100 years old ..." The massive sanctuary is an architectural anomaly, with the front doors behind the chancel. This makes sneaking into a service almost impossible, as the pews face the entrance.

"Most of the stained glass is art nouveau," Mr. Griffith says. "All of the windows were given by families; at its heyday, this was one of the wealthiest congregations around."

The purples, grays and greens in most of the windows complement the pale mint interior, a soft shade that's both old and new.

"Last year, when we did our major renovation, we hired an architectural consultant, who scraped down through the layers of paint to find the original," Mr. Griffith says. "We tried to match it."

Paint helped transform the 73-year-old North Rosemont home of Kevin and Janelle Christensen. Mr. Christensen, a free-lance artist, spent the last year and a half transforming the once-weary home.

"Cosmetically, it's day and night from when we bought it," Mrs. Christensen says.

Her husband alternately stained and bleached the living room's oak floor to create a diamond-shaped pattern. In the adjacent dining room, he splattered paint inside a large plastic punch bowl to make an art deco chandelier.

That's not the only innovative lighting in the house. Mr. Christensen wired several musical instruments, including a trumpet, and hung them in the hallway, where they're used as overhead lights. A tuba hangs on one dining room wall.

Nearby, architect Diane Woodend devoted six months worth of weekends to redoing her 1935 home.

"We remodeled the entire house top to bottom," she says. "Everything from the plumbing, the central heat and air, the front porch, the crown molding and the hardwood floors was redone."

Some of the home's more traditional features still stand, such as a white porcelain pedestal sink in the master bathroom and a fireplace covered in multicolored carved tiles. But the attic fan had to go; Ms. Woodend tore it out to make room for a skylight in the second bathroom.

An upward glance in the kitchen reveals a vaulted ceiling, another of her additions. Tract lighting helps warm the lofty room. "The lights change the feel of the space in day and night," she says.

During the day, passersby often pause to admire the garden of Theresa McDonald and Susan Howard, who live in a 1941 home covered in Austin stone.

"We use hubcaps, bottles, all the stuff we find in our corner of the world," Ms. McDonald says. "When someone on our block remodels their home, they donate tile."

Indeed, piles of ceramic tiles are artfully strewn among the plants and other objects, like license plates, statuary and one big red pot. The house is no less interesting inside, where religious icons abound.

In the kitchen hang dozens of retablos, small devotional paintings dating from the early 1800s to the 1920s; one of the scenes depicts a solemn soul in purgatory.

In an all-white bedroom, their 13-year-old feline, Odessa, prefers to lounge below an ornate statue of Mary. The third bedroom departs from the religious theme, instead serving as a whimsical tribute to Texas, with a saddle-shaped coffee table, a baby cowboy boot collection and memorabilia from the state's centennial.

The ceiling is completely covered in 370 license plates from every state and province in Canada; they screwed them into plywood before hanging them overhead.

The six other homes on the tour range from traditional to elegant. One house backs up to a private lake; another sits atop a creek bed.

Lisa Martin is an Arlington free-lance writer.

Taking the tour

The Old Oak Cliff Conservation League 's Fall Home Tour is from noon to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Tickets are $10 in advance; $12 the weekend of the tour; and $8 for senior citizens older than 55. In addition to the brochure on the area's 23 neighborhoods, the ticket price includes a brochure with a map and information about the 11 homes on the tour.

Purchase tickets in advance at: The Urban Gardener, Bishop Street Market, City Harvest, Century 21 Judge Fite Realtors, Uptown Realtors, Oak Cliff Chamber of Commerce.

On the weekend of the tour, tickets may be purchased at the covered pavilion ticket headquarters at the Stevens Park Golf Course on Colorado Boulevard between Plymouth Road and Kessler Parkway.

For more information, call (972) 606-3693.