The little stone house on Worth still stands, having survived the destruction of much of the surrounding Peak Suburban Addition. The dark rocks and deeply imbedded masses of petrified wood on the cottage walls have borne witness to the rise and fall and rise of one of the last historic areas in the inner city to be reclaimed for posterity.
The movers and shakers of the 19th century dropped names on street signs like a 20th century yuppie at a cocktail party. A major property owner to first mark his territory with the names of several of his children was Jefferson Peak: farmer, real estate owner and developer, devout Christian.
As benefactor of a huge parcel of Texas land, Peak’s connections and land holdings go back to the former president of the Lone Star State, Sam Houston, himself. He initially passed through a pristine and heavily wooded region on his way to fight in the Mexican War and never forgot East Dallas. Captain William Gaston responded to the government’s call to help settle Texas, and within a few years after his arrival in 1867, he owned vast tracts of land in South and East Dallas, had founded Dallas First Bank, and donated land for the county fair (where Baylor Hospital now stands).
Most importantly, however, Gaston negotiated the junction of the Houston and Texas Central and the Texas and Pacific railroads (1872 and 1873, respectively), to be located one and a half miles east of the courthouse. This was instrumental to the city’s growth away from the Trinity River and toward his land in East Dallas. Peak also benefited as he had settled in the Mill Creek area in 1854 when Dallas had a population of less than 200 residents.
The hilly marshes and bogs of East Dallas would eventually be filled in and leveled before the Peak Suburban Addition would be developed. In 1874, Peak platted his first subdivision along Ross Avenue, later known as “Dallas’ Fifth Avenue” with its magnificent mansions flanking the thoroughfare that led into town. Most of these mansions, and other grand homes of the era, have since been razed, but the city really didn’t want to knock down the “stone house” at 4313 Worth (corner of Peak).
But leaving it vacant was no longer an option, either.
Robert Granado, grandson of Margarita and Aladio Granado, stepped in to save the home during the early 80s. “I had just finished remodeling a home in the M-Street neighborhood when my dad said, ‘we either fix it up or lose it,'” he says. Granado didn’t want to “lose it.”
Granado’s grandmother had been the first one in the family to admire the house, well before it belonged to them. When she became ill, Granado’s grandfather walked up the front steps, knocked on the door and bought it from the owners as a gift for his ailing wife to enjoy during the last days of her life. He remained there well into old age, with the structure eventually falling into disrepair.
Granado now lives there with his wife, Vicki, and dogs, Bernie and Kelsie. The couple is interested in the area’s history as all of the Peak Subdivision is now classified a historic neighborhood.
The lot that the home sits on was part of the original Peak homestead, and when Peak made out his will in 1884, this part of the block, between Peak and Hall (originally named Ann Street, later becoming Haskell) was deeded to their eighth son, George Victor.
Indeed, if records are correct, George Victor, or a subsequent owner of the property, may have built the original frame home in 1898, but located in its backyard are two out buildings, a smokehouse and a shed/greenhouse, that could have been there long before. Granado points out a stone fence that leads from the back porch, past these structures, to a 12-foot, massive fountain.
Unique architectural details begin, however, at the front walk where marble is found next to ordinary flagstone. A cross has been inlaid into the walk, and on the porch floor, a large marble star welcomes guests. Incredible masonry workmanship is evidenced throughout the exterior walls, but it’s on the wrap-around porch where fossilized sea creatures and crystallized wood can be seen up close. The smartest of the Three Little Pigs couldn’t have done a better job.
The exact means of raising and hoisting these rocks, boulders, and chunks of petrified wood into place remain a mystery, as does the story of their geological history. But in the sunlight, the crystals that nature has fashioned throughout the centuries reflect the constancy of time.
Petrifaction occurs when chemical changes cause a mineral to grow, grain by grain, in place of the original tissue of the animal or plant. Growth rings, like those that can be seen in the wood of trees living today show clearly in those polished surfaces of petrified wood. They provide useful information about the seasonal growth of those trees, and the climate at the time those trees were living.
In the front rooms, Granado explains that a physician had his medical office in the home at one time, and points out the difference in the direction of the oak flooring. First, the wood goes in one direction in what was probably the doctor’s waiting room, and, then, it runs perpendicular, perhaps, when the patient entered the examining room or doctor’s office to the left. Beyond, were private living quarters. The 12-foot beamed ceilings in this section of the home carry the boldness of Chinese red paint well. The eight-foot casement windows are trimmed with white, and the full-length wooden, louvered shutters are reminders of days when breezes were always encouraged. And, again, the fireplace and its mantel of petrified rock and wood bring the wonders of natural history up front and personal.
But, back to practical matters. Vicki says, “At first, I wasn’t sure I would like living in an old house,” then adds, “but we love it.” She’s looking forward rather than back these days as the couple makes plans for a new kitchen. (Unlike the kitchen of one hundred years ago, it will have all modern conveniences, including a commercial oven and range.)
The view from the mud room, which overlooks the backyard, is much the same as it was long ago. A remnant from the past, the old smokehouse, will remain. The couple likes the view when they sit and relax with the Sunday paper and a cup of coffee in the room once meant for dirty boots.
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