Gay Oak Cliff preservationist appointed to Dallas Landmark Commission

Recently appointed Landmark Commissioner Michael Amonett is shown sitting in the rubble of an Oak Cliff church he tried to preserve as president of the Old Oak Cliff Conservation League.

Dallas City Councilman Scott Griggs appointed former Old Oak Cliff Conservation League President Michael Amonett to the Dallas Landmark Commission. While Amonett’s appointment, approved Aug. 1, may be viewed by some as some as controversial, Griggs doesn’t see it that way.

“He’s a strong advocate for preservation and conservation,” Griggs said. “I can’t think of anyone better for Oak Cliff and for Dallas.”

Amonett said he’s just learning what the job entails and knows he can’t just declare buildings historic against a property owner’s will.

“But I’m passionate about old buildings,” he said.

As president of OOCCL, Amonett fought with Oak Cliff developers and the city about tearing down historic landmarks.

One of his biggest battles concerned tearing down an Oak Cliff church to build the new Adamson High School. The building was architecturally significant and the property played into the history of the JFK assassination. In addition, Adamson alumni wanted their school renovated, not destroyed.

DISD agreed to give Amonett six months to find a buyer for the church property. OOCCL was unable to find a buyer and the building has been torn down to build tennis courts for the replacement high school.

As a member of the Landmark Commission, Amonett would have been able to recommend landmark status for the church. Other members of the commission generally abide by the recommendation of the commissioner for that district.

Griggs said the first big case for Amonett will come before the commission in September and relates to preservation of the oldest building in North Texas thats still in its original location. The site includes a cabin built at about the same time as the John Neely Bryan cabin in downtown Dallas, as well as a barn, cistern and other structures. The building stands on city park property in far southwest Dallas near Mountain Creek Lake.

Griggs said the chimney was built with interlocking stone and no mortar and still stands. He said he’s confident about preservation of the site with the case in Amonett’s hands.

—  David Taffet