Gays’ homes featured prominently in Old Oak Cliff Conservation League’s 36th event
DAVID TAFFET | Staff Writer firstname.lastname@example.org
This weekend the Old Oak Cliff Conservation League holds its 36th annual Home Tour, and “almost all the houses are gay this year, which will make it the best friggin’ tour ever,” said OOCCL President Michael Amonett.
The Oak Cliff Tour of Homes is one of the oldest home tours in Dallas and one of the largest. Members of the LGBT community is actively involved in the conservation group and in the tour.
Home Tour Chair Michele Cox said that actually five of the 11 homes on this year’s tour are gay-owned and noted that D Magazine readers voted this the city’s best home tour.
In addition to OOCCL’s president, gay residents head most of the 29 neighborhood associations and many of the tour sponsors are LGBT-owned businesses.
Amonett said that the tour has contributed to much of Oak Cliff’s renovation efforts.
“This tour is an ambassador for Oak Cliff and has been for 36 years, long before we were trendy,” Amonett said. “People came across [the river] and got a different perspective of Oak Cliff than the preconceived ones they had before.”
“What stands out for me is that Oak Cliff has become hot and fashionable,” said gay Realtor Steve Habgood, one of the sponsors of the tour.
He said that much of that has to do with Bishop Arts District and some of the city’s hottest new restaurants like Bolsa.
“This allows people to come and experience what it’s like to live in Oak Cliff,” Habgood said.
Amonett said that the tour highlights various neighborhoods where homes have been renovated and updated.
That encourages others to buy on the block “and pretty soon you’re Winnetka Heights,” he said.
He said that Oak Cliff homes are better built and more stable than homes elsewhere in the area.
“We’re built on rock,” he said. “Our homes don’t slide around like they do up north.”
The 11 homes on the tour are all from North Oak Cliff neighborhoods.
“I begged both the Oak Park Estates rep and the Kiestwood rep all year to find me a house in their neighborhoods and it didn’t work out,” said Amonett. “Kiestwood has a promising house next year — a very cool mid-century that sits diagonally on their lot. The guy was just not ready right now.”
Kiestwood and Oak Park Estates, the two southernmost Oak Cliff neighborhoods, are both south of Kiest Park but inside Loop 12.
Amonett described the variety of houses included on this year’s tour.
“We have a new house built to look old, a new house built to look new, a house that is really two houses — one old and one new,” he said.
Angus Wynne Sr. built his own house in Wynnewood North on the highest point in the area. Wynne developed the neighborhood and its namesake shopping center that originally included department stores, offices and a hotel.
Chris Medsger is the current owner of the Wynne house. He said he has been updating the house since he purchased it four years ago when he moved back to Dallas.
He said that when he previously lived in Dallas, he lived on Turtle Creek Blvd.
“I thought Oak Cliff was down-market,” he said. But now he said he wouldn’t live anywhere else.
Tour organizers approached him about opening his house for the tour. The renovations were done, but he said he put in a new garden for the tour that covers half of his backyard.
Organizers told him to expect about 1,500 people to come through his house each day.
Amonett described the variety of homes included on the tour.
“Two of our homes are award winners,” Amonett said. “And one of our homeowners is in the middle of an election campaign.”
The Lake Cliff Historic District tour home won the Preservation Dallas 2010 award for “Best New Construction in a Historic District.”
“The home on North Oak Cliff Blvd. was named one of the 12 WOW houses in Dallas in this month’s D Home,” said Cox.
In addition to the 11 homes, Cliff Temple Baptist Church on Sunset Avenue, across the street from the main office of AIDS Arms, is also on the tour.
Cliff Temple, founded in 1898 is on the National Register of Historic Places and has a state historical marker. Amonett described the church as a liberal congregation with a number of LGBT members.
Last year the tour returned more than $20,000 to its member neighborhoods, Cox said, for a variety of projects. Some areas used the money for cleanup and crime prevention. Others used the money for projects such as updating a park.
“Family memberships come with purchase of two tickets and it’s not illegal to be a same-sex family at OOCCL,” said Amonett.
Old Oak Cliff Conservation League Fall Home Tour. Oct. 9–10, noon–6 p.m. Tickets are $20, $15 for seniors over 60, children under 12 free. Available at Hunky’s in Oak Lawn or Oak Cliff and at Daniel Padilla Gallery, 838 W. Davis St. More information is at OOCCL.org.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 08, 2010.