Story by Keri Mitchell
Photography by Jenifer McNeil Baker
The “Lakewood Three” sit side by side on the 6700 block of Lakewood Boulevard, all fine examples of French Norman architecture, and all built within a few years of each other in the 1930s, when Albert Dines and Lee Kraft developed the Country Club Estates neighborhood.
Some refer to these three houses as the “Dilbeck triplets,” named for the famed architect who made his mark on Dallas with dozens of residences as well as apartment buildings, restaurants and motor lodges. The Lakewood Early Childhood PTA is featuring these “Dilbeck triplets” during their festival and home tour, Nov. 9-11.
But only one of the three is, in all likelihood, a Dilbeck house, says Willis Winters, who has been working on a book about Dilbeck for the past 12 years.
Winters is a fellow of the American Institute of Architects, the current City of Dallas Parks and Recreation director, and a former Lakewood resident. He grew familiar with Dilbeck in 1997, seven years after the architect’s death, when Preservation Dallas hosted a Dilbeck home tour and asked Winters for help.
That was more than 20 years ago, and Winters believes in his attempts to drive around town and document Dilbeck’s work, he ascribed more residences to the architect than Dilbeck designed. But what exactly is and isn’t a “Dilbeck” in Dallas is still somewhat of a mystery, even to Winters. Many of Dines and Kraft’s documents were lost from their offices, and the collection that exists at the library suffered extensive water damage. More recently, Winters partnered with Dilbeck’s family to organize the remnants into an architectural library. He receives emails all the time from people asking, “I think I live in a Dilbeck home — can you help me?”
Sometimes, “a good amount of sleuthing” is the best Winters says he can offer since the documentation is lacking.
In the case of the so-called Dilbeck triplets, Winters has seen the architectural drawings of only one home, 6748 Lakewood Blvd., and they bear architect George Marble’s name, not Dilbeck’s. However, “I do see Dilbeck all over this house, as opposed to the other two houses,” Winters says.
He knows that Dines and Kraft often commissioned Marble as they developed Country Club Estates, Westlake Park and Gastonwood, much of which is now considered Lakewood. Winters also knows that Dilbeck moved to Dallas in 1933 and worked with Marble for about six months before branching off on his own. Because the exterior features of 6748 are so distinctively Dilbeck, Winters believes that house, the last of the Lakewood Three to be constructed, is likely a Dilbeck design under Marble’s name.
The other two, however, are what Winters describes as “academic eclecticism,” designed by an architect who likely had strong training and ample resources as he drew front elevations. Dilbeck, dissimilarly, lacked formal architectural training which made his work “more picturesque, more idiosyncratic,” Winters says. The symmetry and straight lines of the French Norman structures at 6726 and 6738 Lakewood are “playing by the rules, so to speak, and Dilbeck did not play by the rules,” he says.
Winters believes that 6726 and 6738 Lakewood Blvd. were designed by the same architect, likely George Marble based on his work with Dines and Kraft. The fact that they probably aren’t Dilbecks “doesn’t diminish them at all,” he says.
“These houses are all of the quality that only five or six of the architects in Dallas in the ’20s and ’30s could have designed,” Winters says. “Whoever the architect was, he was just as important as Dilbeck. It’s just a different style.”
RENOVATING THE INTERIORS
Marcus Taylor of English Custom Homes has renovated both 6726 and 6738 Lakewood Blvd. — not once, but twice. He’s a frequent presence in Lakewood as he has been renovating homes there since the ’90s, usually handling one or two projects at a time.
Taylor’s first job at 6726 was a dozen years ago, and the new owners hired him again when they moved in recently. “I’ve been in and out of that house a lot. I know every square inch of it,” he says. “It’s a part of my life.”
His initial renovation, when it was “pretty much in original condition,” Taylor says, substantially remodeled the house and doubled its size. Then more recently, the new owners hired him to change the interior — new bathrooms, new tiles, new cabinets and so on. “I was basically tearing out work that I did 12 years prior,” Taylor says. “It’s an odd dynamic doing that, but obviously people’s tastes change.”
“Both of those owners have done a really good job in updating the home to the 21st century whilst being cognizant of the history of the house,” Taylor says of 6726 and 6738 Lakewood. “That’s a tricky thing to do, and I think they’ve both achieved that.”
6738 Lakewood Blvd.
Next door, 6738 is smaller, Taylor says, but “it’s a perfect scale for that lot.” Both of his renovations “kept the original feel of the house” and its traditional layout, with the prior owners opening up the small kitchen and small breakfast room next to it, and the current owners adding onto that space to increase the size of the kitchen and living room, and add a wine room.
Renovating a historical home requires “looking at a lot of photographs and trying to match something or do something sympathetic, and making it comfortable for the current owners whilst doing something in the spirit of the original house,” Taylor says.
“Even though it’s painted white and has a bit of modern life, it still has a lot of transitional details in it,” Taylor says of 6738 Lakewood Blvd.
Taylor’s favorite feature of 6738 Lakewood Blvd. is “the attitude — the way the house sits on the property. The angle and shape of the house is very pleasing to the eye. It has a story and a half detail with an overhanging roof, which gives it that kind of cottage feel. While it still has two stories, it keeps it from looking too massive.”
The ‘Dilbeck triplets’ or the ‘Lakewood three’?
The houses at 6726 and 6738 Lakewood Blvd. have different proportions and dimensions but are constructed with similar patterns, Winters says. “They’re probably designed by the same architect, and it’s probably George Marble,” he says, who designed a number of spec houses for Dines and Kraft. “No one knows Marble’s work very well, but it’s extraordinary,” Winters says, “and it’s on the same quality level as Dilbeck.” It’s Marble’s name on the drawings for 6748 Lakewood Blvd., but the exterior features lead Winters to think “there’s a good chance that that’s a Dilbeck,” or at least he had “a strong hand in the design.”
6726 Lakewood Boulevard
The stone around the front door and on the left side of the house is cut stone, put through a saw blade, as opposed to rough, uncut “field stone,” Winters points out. “Dilbeck, in general, did not use cut stone. It was too ‘finished’ for him.”
The way the massive chimney faces the street, and steps down and toward the street in tiers — “I know this sounds ridiculous, Winters says, “but this is not a Dilbeck chimney.”
The straight gable across the house contrasts with the “infinitely more complex and complicated roof” at 6748 Lakewood Blvd. Dilbeck tended not to use simple gable roofs that ran parallel to the street.
6738 Lakewood Blvd.
Like 6826 Lakewood Blvd., the window dormers don’t vary from one to the other, Winters points out. “There are 20 ways to do dormer windows,” he says. “These are so uniform, and Dilbeck never would have done [dormers] the same way. That’s part of the picturesque effect Dilbeck was trying to achieve.”
Here again, a very simple gable roof runs across the main volume of the house, while at 6748 Lakewood Blvd, “the roof profile, or silhouette, is much more complicated,” Winters says.
The patterning of the wood against the stucco and the half-timbering area, “that’s not the way Dilbeck did his wood patterning,” Winters says. “This just comes from me looking at and studying hundreds of houses over the years.”
6748 Lakewood Boulevard
The large round chimney flue off to the left is “a Dilbeck signature element,” Winters says. “I’ve never seen a round chimney flue on a George Marble house, but I can show you 20 on other Dilbeck houses.
“The way the roof swoops down and fans out right above the front porch is a Dilbeck hallmark,” Winters says, and “the way the dormer windows interrupt the roofline, it’s different than the way other architects did it.”
Dilbeck liked to trim windows in a contrasting brick color, “in this case, the orange brick,” Winters says. The half-timbering of wood and brick on the second floor also appears to him like a Dilbeck design.
We asked Kate Holliday, professor at University of Texas at Arlington and director of the David Dillon Center for Texas Architecture, to explain more about why Charles Dilbeck’s work is celebrated in Dallas and in Lakewood.
Why is Dilbeck so significant as an architect?
Charles Dilbeck was a prolific architect who designed hundreds of homes in Dallas during its first oil boom in the 1930s. While much of the nation was in the midst of the Great Depression, Dilbeck churned out romantic, charming homes with eclectic echoes of English cottages, Spanish haciendas and modern Texas ranch houses. His careful attention to craft is evident in every detail of his designs, from the clean lines of the Belmont Hotel to the carefully crafted brickwork of Cochran Heights cottages.
Why is Dilbeck so significant for the Lakewood community?
Dilbeck designed smaller single-family homes as well as country clubs and grand estates. As more of Dilbeck’s work is demolished and altered beyond recognition, the Lakewood work gives us one of the few remaining windows into the world of 1930s Dallas.
What are the hallmarks of a Dilbeck home? What should people on tour look for?
Dilbeck homes are intentionally quirky. They have changes in materials, changes in scale, and odd little details that make his approach distinct. Something might look out of proportion or like it was added later — but those are all parts of Dilbeck’s approach. He always seemed to be having fun rather than following the rules.
Lakewood Home Tour
Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 10-11,
11 a.m.-5 p.m., $20
Candlelight Home Tour
Saturday, Nov. 10, 7-9 p.m., $30
7581 Benedict Drive
6939 Pasadena Ave.
6927 Pasadena Ave.
6933 Delrose Drive
And the “Lakewood three”:
6726, 6738 & 6748 Lakewood Blvd.
Tickets and Details
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