When R. L. Thornton Sr. first saw the stately “Chateau Des Greotteaux” featured in the 1929 State Fair of Texas souvenir program, he wasted no time purchasing the property, located at the corner of Gaston and Westshore.
Designed after a castle (chateau) in Normandy, France, and nestled among 1.5-acres of lush foliage, vibrant gardens, flagstone walkways, bridges, fish ponds and small caves (grottoes), the multi-level, turreted, stucco and stone house reflects the style and grace of 18th century European architecture.
Rosemary Brinegar, a daughter of the former Dallas mayor and freeway namesake, recently recalled the home and her family life there from the age of 3 until 1946, when she was married to Ralph Brinegar in the living room of the family home. The Thorntons sold the home in 1974.
“Dad bought the house before it was completed,” Brinegar says. “We had four bedrooms, two down and two up, three baths, a sitting room, living room, and formal dining room. There was, and still is, an elevator in the house.”
(The home, which is currently listed for sale at $849,000 by Jim Reinhardt of Ebby Halliday, has since been remodeled to include five bedrooms and four bathrooms in its 4,164-square-feet of living area in the main house, Reinhardt says.)
“We called White Rock Trail ‘The Old Dirt Road’ because that is what it was then,” Brinegar says. “A lot of dirt would come through the windows into the house, until the road was paved.”
Thornton commissioned Dallas’ only landscape architect, Paul F. Scheibe, to landscape the home. Trained in England, Scheibe cleared 75 trees to create a setting complementing the home’s elegant architecture.
“Since the house sits so low,” Brinegar says, “you would think there would have been drainage problems, but we never had any. The landscaping may have had something to do with that.
“My mother loved flowers. The gardens were terraced, and she had the entire first level full of tulips.
“There was a stable where we kept two horses. My mother and sister used to ride around White Rock Lake each morning. (Today) there’s a greenhouse where the stable used to be.”
(Editor’s Note: The two-horse stable remains on the property, but a greenhouse has been constructed where the paddock once was located.)
“There was also a pool on the property,” Brinegar says. “It was the second one in Dallas. It took two days to drain and two days to fill – all by water hoses.”
Two sets of gates were located on the grounds. During World War II, the Westshore gates reportedly were donated for scrap metal.
“At one time, my sister, Katherine Holt, and her family, and my two uncles, Judge W.L. Thornton and Tom P. Thornton and their families, all had homes behind us on Shook Street.”
During the interview, Brinegar recalled a lifestyle involving garden parties, annual Easter egg hunts and traditional Christmas Eves with family.
“It was a happy home, I’ll say that, and I hope it always will be.”
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