Oak Cliff home tour features mostly gay-owned houses

OOCCL returns funds raised at the weekend event to neighborhoods for safety and beautification projects

OOCCL

EIGHT AND A HALF MEN | OOCCL president Michael Amonett sits on the porch of a restored house in Bishop Arts that has been repurposed into a law office and is part of this weekend’s Old Oak Cliff Tour of Homes. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Of this weekend’s 14 houses on the annual Old Oak Cliff Conservation League’s Fall Home Tour, eight and a half of them have gay owners.

With 14 homes on the tour, this will be the largest home tour OOCCL has staged,  OOCCL President Michael Amonett said, and the largest and most profitable in the city.

“We started taking applications in the spring,” Amonett said, adding that deciding which houses to include was difficult because there were so many good choices.

A committee spent months deciding which homes to include.

“We made appointments and looked at people’s homes,” Amonett said. “We had a grade sheet and rated them for drive-up appeal, art work, historic interest.”

They also were looking for variety, spread across the area’s different neighborhoods. The committee met in June and selected the winners that were not announced until September.

“Two of the houses are in Oak Park Estates,” Amonett said. “We’ve never had any in that area. People will see a part of Oak Cliff they’ve never seen.”
Oak Park Estates, which lies south of Kiest Park between Hampton Road and Highway 67, is one of Oak Cliff’s southernmost neighborhoods.

“One of them is very Brady Bunch,” he said.

That house, with its two-story arched roof, was built in 1964 and is the newest of the homes.

The oldest, built as a convent in 1900 in the Elmwood neighborhood, has been a railroad storage depot, part of an amusement park and a gambling casino and speakeasy that was one of Bonnie and Clyde’s old haunts, according to legend.

The largest house has been expanded to 7,000 square feet and faces Stevens Park Golf Course.

One house was built for the 1936 Texas Centennial as a companion piece to the Magnolia Lounge. The Bauhaus-designed East Kessler Park home was dubbed “The Electric House” because of the four and a half miles of wire laid to power the then state-of-the-art General Electric kitchen and outdoor living areas around the pool.

At the time it was built, similar homes were selling in West Hollywood, Calif., for $4,000. This one had a price tag of $15,000.

Another sits adjacent to the Bishop Arts District that was renovated last year and is now a law office. Amonett wanted that house included to show that older houses can be renovated and repurposed rather than just torn down and replaced.

Good Space, the company that bought and renovated the Bishop Arts house and rented it to Remington Law, is now working on two other properties in the area.

Two bonus stops are included in the Oak Cliff tour — the newly renovated Stevens Park Golf Course and the new Twelve Hills Nature Center, a five-acre urban preserve in the 800 block of Mary Cliff Road.

“The home tour has been instrumental over the years in profiling what Oak Cliff has to offer,” Steve Habgood of Hewitt & Habgood Realty Group, a lead sponsor of the event, said.

He said that the tour includes everything from small boutique cottages to mid-sized homes to old estates.

“It’s a cross-section of what Oak Cliff is all about,” Habgood said. “The diversity that runs the gamut — that’s one reason this tour is as popular as it is.”

He said that the money raised funds a variety of projects throughout the 30 Oak Cliff homeowner associations. Last year $22,000 funded projects such as solar lighting for alleys in the Hampton Heights neighborhood and neighborhood patrols. Other grants funded websites and neighborhood signage.

OOCCL donated $5,000 to the Bishop Arts Theater Center for half the cost of a new marquis on the restored building. They also contributed to replacing the roof on Turner House, a landmark in Winnetka Heights that is home to the Oak Cliff Society of Fine Arts.

And the eight and a half gay owners? Amonett explained that he thought one house is owned by a “Will & Grace couple.”

Old Oak Cliff Tour of Homes, Oct. 8 and 9 from noon to 6 p.m. $25 for adults over 10, $15 for seniors available at any of the homes on the tour or under the service station canopy at 8th Street and Bishop Avenue in the Bishop Arts District. More information at OOCCL.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 7, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

DART gets New Year off on wrong track

Hampton Station

An angry busload of passengers got off at Hampton Station at 8:09 this morning. The bus was a minute or two late. The train was a minute early. As the bus was pulling in, the Red Line train pulled away.

A rider from the bus saw the press pass dangling from my backpack and said: “We can complain. You can write about it.”

So here it is.

The bus from the Red Bird Transit Station to Hampton Station runs up Hampton Road and unloads all passengers to take the Red Line to downtown and points north. Some students take the train just one stop to Tyler Station and then walk to school.

The point is that everyone on the 7:55 bus from Red Bird is connecting with the 8:12 train to Parker Road.

—  David Taffet

Dallas voters to decide alcohol sales propositions

Hunky’s in Bishop Arts would benefit from Proposition 2

Four propositions appear on Tuesday’s ballot in the city of Dallas.

Proposition 1 would lift restrictions on the sale of beer and wine in convenience and grocery stores throughout the city. Proposition 2 would allow restaurants throughout the city to sell beer and wine without becoming private clubs.

Currently, restaurants in dry areas that want to sell alcohol must become private clubs. The owner of Vera Cruz in Bishop Arts said his board, made up of a group of his neighbors, meets three times a week to vote members in and out. He rents a storage unit just to store all the paperwork.

Kathy Jack, owner of Jack’s Backyard, told Dallas Voice that since alcohol distributors aren’t allowed to deliver to dry areas, her employees regularly have to pick up their alcohol.

Outside an early voting location in Oak Cliff last week, opponents of both propositions were campaigning.

“They do nothing but bring down our community,” said Tyrone Rushing. “I don’t want that in my community.” He was specifically opposing Proposition 1.

“We are for a safer environment,” Rhaneesh Dixon added.

The “No” vote is being coordinated by liquor stores that line the streets on the borders between wet and dry areas. They do not want the competition. If Oak Cliff residents could buy beer and wine at Tom Thumb on Hampton Road or Kroger at Wynnewood Village, they wouldn’t cross the river to shop at the run-down liquor stores on Riverfront Boulevard.

If the propositions pass, opponents of beer and wine sales plan to seek an injunction. They claim the election that made Oak Cliff dry was a Justice of the Peace District 7 election. The current election is countywide. According to Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission code, JP district elections trump county elections and only a JP district election can repeal a JP district vote.

Propositions 3 and 4 are related to the sale of two parks by the city. For more on them, go here.

—  David Taffet