In 1911, about 200 lots sold in the neighborhood described as “a new addition to Dallas, just north of St. Mary’s College.” Those lots, in Vickery Place, sold for a total of $150,000, and their owners began building immediately. The Vickery Place Neighborhood Association celebrates its 100th anniversary with a home tour Sunday, Oct. 16.

The house at 5354 Miller is one of the oldest in the neighborhood. (Photo by Madeline Stevens) Mildred Bennett Prince lived in the house at 5601 Miller from age 13 until she died at 91. Many homes in Vickery Place still have rings at the front curb for tying up horses. Photo courtesy of Peggy Swenson

Nowadays, Vickery Place is an urban neighborhood, adjacent to Central Expressway and the nightlife and shopping of North Henderson. But 100 years ago, this was North Dallas, about 4 miles, at horse-and-buggy pace, to Downtown.

In 1912 Vickery Place sewers were hooked up to the city system. And by 1913, a streetcar, which would turn out to be unprofitable, ran to Vickery Place. Around that time, the Vickery Place School, now Bonham Elementary School, was built. Neighbors were working to get electric streetlights in 1915, and also that year, L.E. Cole of Vickery Place was issued an automobile license.

Virginia Champion Belcher, pictured in the backseat of her mother's car, was 6 years old in 1919, when her family moved to 5330 Richard, then a dirt road with few trees. Belcher later became a proponent for Dallas parks, and the Ridgewood-Belcher Recreation Center was named in her honor. Photo courtesy of Virginia Chamption Belcher

A woman works in cotton fields adjacent to Vickery Place. The area consisted mostly of cotton fields in the early 1900s, and after development was considered north Dallas, with Goodwin being the city's northern border. Photo courtesy of Peggy Swenson

The neighbors of Vickery Place back then were progressing toward technology and industrialism. And over the past decades, Vickery Place has changed. Lots of old houses have been torn down, replaced with real estate that is more modern or profitable. More recently, the neighborhood became a conservation district in an effort toward preservation. The home tour includes one house that was built a few years ago but fits the architectural style of the neighborhood, for example.

Streetcar tickets

Brian Johnson’s house at 5354 Miller is on the Vickery Place Centennial Home Tour, and it’s one of the oldest in the neighborhood. Since moving into the house five years ago, he has worked to bring it back to a “farmhouse in the city,” he says. The house first appeared in the city directory in 1912 (Johnson is planning a 100th birthday party for it next year). Its original owner was Henry C. Clark, who owned Clark’s Furniture Store on Elm Street downtown. At Clark’s funeral in 1924, Vickery Place developer George Works served as a pallbearer.

A previous owner started restoration work on Johnson’s house in 1996, including bringing back the Queen Anne Victorian’s wrap-around porch, which had been enclosed. That owner also finished out the attic to create a master suite.

Johnson has used old photographs of his house and others from the area to reinstate some historical details. He added wide baseboards and crown molding, and he chose paint from the palette of popular early century colors.

Some things cannot be restored fully. The front door and some walls were in different places in the original floor plan, for example. And when it came time for a kitchen update, Johnson decided to go modern. But he did salvage the kitchen’s bead board ceilings and the original wood flooring throughout the ground floor.

The most costly updates are not the ones Johnson can show off for party guests, however. The major one was a complete foundation redo. Even afterward, though, the pier and beam foundation still shifts with changes in the weather.

“These old houses, you get cracks in them, and there’s nothing you can do,” he says. “You can’t be too worried about the cracks.”

Johnson also had all of the first-floor windows restored and weighted, so they work now and can be lifted with one finger. For about the same price, he could have replaced all the windows with energy efficient ones, and he’s still not sure he made the right decision. But he does like the original glass, old and wavy.

Over the past five years, he has replaced most of the home’s wiring and plumbing.

Nothing is perfect in a 100-year-old house. A beam that runs through the center of the home’s floor doesn’t meet perfectly with the rest of the flooring. The house is on a slight incline, and Johnson battles the side-yard fence, which is wont to lean.

There is always something to fix.

Before the Vickery Place house, Johnson had a 1920s duplex in Highland Park, much of which he renovated himself.

“I kind of knew what I was getting into, but not completely,” he says.

Vickery Place resident Chris Buck designed a rustic-looking fence for the front yard, where Johnson planted fruit trees soon after he bought the house. He got his first bounty this year: 40 peaches, plus a few pears and apples.

“My friends joke that I’m self sustaining now,” he says. “I’m off the grid.”

Maybe not, but Johnson has a hectic, travel-heavy job. And he says it’s nice to come home to his dogs, a bulldog and a poodle, in this unique old home amid friendly neighbors.

“I want to live here for the rest of my life,” he says.

The Vickery Place centennial Home tour

• Sunday, Oct. 16 from 11 a.m.-5 p.m.
• Tickets cost $12 in advance and $15 the day of the tour. Tickets to a VIP party and tour of a bonus house cost $25 and must be purchased in advance online at www.vickeryplace.com.
• These retailers also are selling home tour tickets: North Haven Gardens, Downing Hill, The Wooden House and Talulah Belle.
• Proceeds benefit Animal Rescue of Texas, James Bonham Elementary School and Vickery Place neighborhood improvements.

Map of tour stops


View larger map

 


WANT MORE?
Click to sign up for the Advocate's weekly news digest and be the first to know what’s happening in Lakewood/East Dallas.