Devotees of Dallas architect, aka ‘Dilbeck Nation,’ treated to home tours

A Charles Dilbeck home at 5106 Milam. (Courtesy of PreservationDallas.org)

Willis Winters first came to know the late architect Charles Dilbeck in 1997, when he was asked to help Preservation Dallas with a Dilbeck home tour.

“Dallas natives know Dilbeck’s houses just from driving around,” says Winters, the director of Dallas’ Park and Recreation Department and an architect himself. “They’re remarkable houses, and even if you don’t know they’re designed by a specific architect, they leave an impression.”

Winters, who has been working on a book about Dilbeck, will be a co-presenter at this Saturday’s Preservation Dallas symposium and home tour, once again featuring Charles Dilbeck-designed homes.

“The Dilbeck Nation is insatiable for tours and events,” Winters says.

For the initial tour 21 years ago, Winters spent a lot of time driving around trying to document Dilbeck’s houses. In that original tour book, Winters says he “probably overestimated” how many houses Dilbeck had designed, but has since researched the late architect’s work extensively, including helping his family “sort through the drawings in the attics and make sure they are in architectural files.”

Drawings and documentation don’t always exist, however, which leads to Winters receiving emails “all the time from people who say, ‘I think I live in a Dilbeck — can you help me?’ ” Using his years of research, Winters does his best to sleuth, as he did in our November magazine story on three similar estates along Lakewood Boulevard. All three are commonly known as Dilbeck homes, but Winters believes only one is, based on its exterior features.

What distinguishes Dilbeck’s work was his lack of formal architectural training, which made his style “more picturesque, more idiosyncratic,” Winters says. Those qualities will be evident during this Saturday’s event, 9 a.m.-2 p.m., which features five Dilbeck homes, including one at 5106 Milam off of Henderson Avenue. Dilbeck aficionados hungry for more can see at least one more of the late architect’s homes, according to Winters’ assessment, or perhaps three, according to late Tulsa architect John Brooks Walton, on the Nov. 10-11 Lakewood home tour.


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