“This house was on the front page of the Dallas Morning News on in June 1914 as ‘an example of civic attractiveness,’” says Dan Patterson of the Swiss Avenue home he shares with his wife, Gail, and two children. Like many houses on that beautiful street — which has fought its way back over the past 20 years — the Patterson’s went through some hard times before it was rescued and brought back to architectural distinction.
The home’s previous owner had undone some of the interior damage inflicted during the days when the building was converted to multi-family use. The Patterson’s turn for significant renovations came in 1985.
Certain original features of the 76-year-old structure had been hidden or replaced, and the Paterson re-traced the house’s “bones” to make amends. The sidewalk had been redirected to the driveway and heavily planted so that the front elevation was almost completely obscured. Brick balustrades had been replaced with jarring metal ones. The overall effect was gloomy and unwelcoming.
“It was pretty otrocious,” Patterson admits.
After ripping out the bush screen, straightening out the sidewalk and planting large trees (of which there were, strangely, none in the front yard), the couple matched the brick as closely as possible, replaced the balustrades and re-bricked the original two-story carriage house, which had donned makeshift siding although the original stalls remained.
The overall structure too had changed somewhat from the outset. On one side there had been a cantilevered upstairs sleeping porch that “fell off or somehow disappeared” (for want of a better explanation) years earlier. On the other side of the home there had been an open upstairs porch on top of the porta cache, which has since been enclosed. Dan and Gail left the latter intact, but still monkey with plans to replace the sleeping porch for architectural balance. Finishing exterior touches included mission-style lighting and lush landscaping.
The interior of the home was decorated by Josie McCarthy in “English country” style that, in contract to its gingham-and-pine American cousin, tends more toward the elegant, though still very warm and comfortable. The downstairs living room, den and dining room are painted and lacquered in buff, dark brown and medium peach respectively, creating a wonderful layering of shadow and light. Antiques grace the delightfully proportioned front rooms including a 17th century terra cotta urn, converted into a lamp; an English seaman’s chest purchased in India; and Delft pottery — the bowl on the dining room table was actually salvaged from a shipwreck on the bottom of the ocean. There are also some examples of the mid-18th century English trend of incorporating Oriental design such as a unique corner cabinet in the den and an ornately carved wooden screen that hangs above the living room couch.
A quaint Civil War trunk found in his grandmother’s attic is tucked into one corner. The weathered knapsack belonging to Grandmother’s great uncle still rests inside and the Dan hopes someday to restore the fragile letters found in a partition.
Some of the original millwork survived including the staircase. Also, the original hall chandeliers are intact. Other elements were lost including the original mantles for the three fireplaces.
The Patterson’s house is one of seven memorable Swiss Avenue homes that will be open for tour on Mother’s Day weekend, May 8, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and May 10, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.. Tickets are available in advance ($8) at the Lakewood Minyards or on the day of the tour ($10) at one of the tour homes — look for the umbrella tables. The 1999 theme is “The Four Cornerstones of Home Stewardship: Preservation/Repair, Restoration, Renovation and Remodeling.” The upcoming tour will feature Elliott’s Millennium Home, which will be a “before” tour this year and is planned for an “after” tour next year. In the interim months, a series of 12 restoration workshops will be held covering the typical problems encountered in restoring a home. Watch future issues of the Advocate for details.
For information about the Swiss Avenue tour, contact 214-220-9400.
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