Real Estate mogul Robert Folsom may be best remembered as the Dallas mayor who brought basketball and Reunion Arena to Big D. But Lake Highlands resident Darrell Hurmis likes to share another anecdote about Folsom — the tale of a so-called “screw up.”
“Bob Folsom once built on the wrong land,” Hurmis says, chuckling. “This was back in the days of handshake deals … so he calls the guy who owns that land and tells him, ‘I screwed up’ … so they swapped land.”
Hurmis can tell tales on all the big real estate names — Trammell Crow, John Stemmons, Henry S. Miller — and the stories go beyond the more widely known accounts for which the tycoons are so notorious. After all, it’s the idiosyncrasies and character quirks that make the Commercial Real Estate Hall of Fame inductees, the stars of a new coffee table book, so fascinating.
“They are the people who shaped and molded Dallas-Fort Worth. You know their buildings, but we wanted to share their stories,” Hurmis says.
Hurmis, of Henry S. Miller Commercial, along with his real estate contemporaries Robert Grunnah, president of Henry S. Miller Commercial, and Chris Teesdale with Colliers International set out to produce a book that would preserve the personalities of the people who constructed DFW. The men hashed out ideas during weekly lunches at Sevy’s Grill in Preston Hollow.
“We thought it might take about a year,” Hurmis says. “That was six years ago. We really had no idea about the ins and outs of publishing a book.”
For help, they contacted Elizabeth Perkins, a teacher and the yearbook advisor at Highland Park High School.
“They knew me because I had taught one of their daughters. The first time we met, they just wanted information. They asked me a lot of questions. Then they went away for a while,” Perkins says.
Later on, they returned and sweet-talked her into overseeing and penning the book, which would entail interviewing all 65 Real Estate Hall of Fame inductees and/or their families. A time-consuming task though it was, she couldn’t resist.
“These are three of the most gregarious men you’ll ever meet,” Perkins says. “They had such a clear vision of what they wanted, and were having such a good time with it. By the end, I almost didn’t want to finish writing because the meetings were so much fun.”
Just as the book committee knew little of the book-writing business, Perkins hadn’t the slightest idea about the commercial real estate industry. It didn’t really matter, she says. This isn’t a history book. It’s a book of character sketches about a tight community of people who survived tough times. They had fun stories — some too racy to make the book — and struggles, alike.
“It’s about people who lived large,” she says.
While much time was spent recounting and compiling old war stories, the men also had to come up with money to fund the publication. During the six years of nurturing their product, they raised more than $250,000 through private donations and sponsorships.
“About $50,000 of that we made right here at Sevy’s,” Hurmis says. “We’d run into people we knew, and we’d tell them what we were working on, and they would want to get involved.”
The end product, officially released at a recent party, is a large, navy hardback titled “The Book: Dallas/Fort Worth Real Estate Hall of Fame”. It’s chock full of easy-to-read tales and colorful photos of the city in various stages, telling images of the subjects (such as Irving C. Deal and his hundred or so hot-pink clad “Deal Girls”) and renderings of future plans for Dallas-Fort Worth land.