Neighbors Patty Simon and Kyle Collins love everything historical. Collins is a lifelong antiques collector. Simon grew up in upstate New York, where she felt at home with old houses and fell in love with power tools. Now they gravitate to the historical homes in East Dallas and are passionate about preserving their past.
The couple discovered their mutual passion early. In 2006, just a few months into their relationship, Collins suggested they find an old house to restore. Living in a Deep Ellum condo at the time, Simon had often cut through East Dallas neighborhoods on her way to her orthodontics practice on Skillman Street. She suggested they check out Reiger Avenue. They found a historic fourplex and discovered their unique strengths.
“I can visualize the plans in three dimensions and have an eye for design,” Simon says. “My training makes me think backward from what the finish looks like to where we are now and all the steps in between.”
After the fourplex on Reiger was completed, Collins proposed on the balcony. House hunting soon commenced. Though they scoured Lakewood, Munger Place and Junius Heights, nothing felt quite right. They made the decision to find a house in disrepair and restore it.
Collins stumbled upon a deal in Peak’s Suburban Addition. They bought the Prairie-style house from a Realtor who had purchased it on the courthouse steps a few weeks before. Simon and Collins knew the house already. Their contractor for the fourplex had used it to store architectural salvage.
When they went to the house one day in search of a newel post, they looked beyond the dust and cracks. The couple saw what was left of a grand staircase and were smitten. They wanted the house.
Built in 1906, the house had known many lives, first as the home of a young couple and elderly father, then a boarding house in the 1940s. It was later divided into nine apartments but had sat vacant since the late 1970s.
“It was a complete wreck,” Simon says. But the couple were undaunted. “We could do what we wanted and make it our vision,” she says.
The two worked on the restoration every spare minute over the next three and a half years. The biggest challenge was educating contractors on historic restoration, but working with their designer and architect was a joy.
“It was like we were on an archeological dig,” Simon says.
As apartments, the ceilings had been lowered to 8 feet, so the couple found they actually had 12-foot ceilings. They also discovered old fireplace boxes and a full basement that had been filled with chunks of concrete.
Although they were a tad crumbly, the two loved the plaster medallions in each of the rooms, as well as the details on the hallway ceiling. Simon had the original medallions impressed and repoured in plaster.
Their hard work and attention to detail paid off. Not only did they create a home they love, they were honored by Preservation Dallas with a Preservation Achievement Award.
The couple then turned their attention to a nearby bungalow. It had been the childhood home of Alexandre Hogue, a well-known Dust Bowl artist who has dozens of works on display in the permanent collection at the Dallas Museum of Art.
One day, as they worked to meet a deadline for the Landmark Commission’s review, a visitor appeared.
“I thought it was someone trying to meddle in our plans and was rather annoyed,” Simon says. “It ended up being the daughter of Alexandre Hogue, who had just finished lecturing at the DMA about her dad’s work.”
Hogue told them, “Whenever I’m in Dallas, I drive by daddy’s old house to see if it’s still standing. I’m so happy you’re restoring it.”
After the woman shared old photos of the house, Simon and Collins redrew the front porch to make it as accurate as possible. The house sold, and they immediately began working on a Victorian they had purchased. Painstakingly restored down to the baseboards, it’s now on the market.
Are there more restorations in the future? The couple hesitates, then Collins says, “Never say never. We might find something that needs to be saved. The reward is that we’ve saved a piece of Dallas that otherwise would have been forgotten.”
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