Cliff dwellers

Posted on 11 Oct 2013 at 10:30am

Old Oak Cliff Conservation League Tour this weekend features 12 houses in the city’s oldest and gayest home tour

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HOME SWEET HOMO | This 1927 Spanish Ecclectic home in the Dells has a flat roof with a large agave plant on top and is one of a dozen homes on the Oak Cliff fall tour, which is the oldest and gayest home tour in Dallas. (Photo courtesy of Old Oak Cliff Conservation League)

 

DAVID TAFFET | Staff Writer

A Big Boy, a bomb shelter and paint-by-number Last Suppers are among the highlights of this year’s Old Oak Cliff Fall Home Tour.
Former Old Oak Cliff Conservation League president Michael Amonett said two of his favorites on the tour are a small 1,000-square-foot house on Ivandell Avenue and a mansion on Colorado Boulevard.

The Ivandell house, owned by Paul Osborn, was built by a contractor in 1927 who built similar, but much larger, versions of the Spanish Ecclectic home in the Dells.
Osborn said he’s hoping to see lots of people he hasn’t seen in a long time during the tour and is planning a two-day party in his home.

Preparing for the tour took quite a bit of work, he said.

“I redid the finishes in the kitchen, landscaping in the front yard and did lots and lots of cleaning,” he said.

He called his neighborhood transitional, so he printed up a flier for his neighbors explaining the extra cars expected on the street through the weekend.

In addition to the architectural features, including a flat roof with a large agave plant on it, the house was chosen for what Osborn calls his “strange collection of art and objects.”

That collection includes a variety of paint-by-number Last Suppers and lots of crosses.

Twelve homes are featured in this year’s tour sponsored by OOCCL. The tour dispels the myth that everything in Oak Cliff is old or that old means small, cramped or dilapidated. The homes chosen were built between 1917 to 2007. Most are in North Oak Cliff in the Kessler Park area but several highlight some of Oak Cliff’s other neighborhoods. One is in Kiestwood, a heavily gay neighborhood south of Kiest Park off Hampton Road.

A Big Boy statue stands at the door of one of the newer homes on the tour.

The house features an authentic 1950s fallout shelter with self-contained chemical toilet, hand-cranked ventilation system and folding cots for complete comfort.

Designed to house a family for up to seven days after a nuclear blast, the owners would emerge safe and sound a week after their neighbors — and everything else in the city —  was dust.

The owners call it a monument to paranoia.

Amonett said that house was added last minute.

“We had to have a bomb shelter on the tour,” he said.

What makes several of the homes so different than anything found elsewhere in Dallas is how they were built into the terrain. A house on Junior Street in Kessler

Park is cantilevered over the hillside of this steeply graded property. One on Cedar Hill Avenue in Kidd Springs built in 1987 is supported by 30-foot pillars installed into the sharp incline.

Also featured on the tour is a Georgian-style mansion on Colorado Boulevard designed by architect Hoke Smith in 1939 as his own home. After Smith died in 1943 at the age of 48, his widow sold the house. Former Dallas County Commissioner Chris Semos lived there from 1969 until 1983.

Smith was known for building more than 100 schools in 30 counties rather than for homes. Among his best-known landmarks was P.C. Cobb Stadium, which stood on Oak Lawn Avenue at Stemmons Freeway on the present Infomart site.

Amonett said after looking at several dozen houses, the committee narrowed down their selection to 12, keeping in mind diverse architectural styles, time periods, furnishings, art, landscaping and neighborhoods.

Parking and access to the houses were also issues since many houses are built into the cliff with limited access, steep stairs or not enough adequate places to park without steep climbs.

The tour is the city’s oldest, largest and gayest home tour with the majority of houses usually featured being owned by gay couples. But this year the majority are owned by straight couples. Amonett said he was surprised but complimented the straight couples on their style and contribution to Oak Cliff.

“They’re learning,” he said.

Money raised during the tour is given to Oak Cliff neighborhood associations and nonprofits. Last year, several of the 33 neighborhood groups received funds to purchase sign toppers. Sidewalk improvements, median landscaping, websites, membership directories and a mural are among the projects funded.

The group has also granted funds to Turner House, a historic home that hosts community events operated by the Oak Cliff Society of Fine Arts, and to other nonprofit organizations.

Tickets are available at any home on the tour or at Eighth and Bishop streets in the Bishop Arts District. Oct. 12–13 from noon–6 p.m. $25 adults. $15 seniors. For more information, visit OOCCL.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 11,, 2013.

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