Dallas' Modern Marcus House on Road to Landmark Status

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Stanley Marcus famously fired Frank Lloyd Wright and instead commissioned Roscoe DeWitt for his International Style house in Dallas.

Credit: Willis C. Winters, F.A.I.A.

A 10,000-square-foot Dallas residence built in 1938 for the co-founder of Neiman Marcus won't be bulldozed.

At a meeting on Monday, the city's landmark commission voted 14-1 to initiate the process of designating the Stanley Marcus House a city landmark—with the current homeowner's blessing. Although the city council's official designation won't take effect for months, the vote ensures that the house won't be demolished in the interim.

Owners Mark and Patty Lovvorn had notified the Texas Historical Commission in July that they intended to raze the residence they purchased from Stanley Marcus in 1994.(Mark Lovvorn cited energy-efficiency problems.) In August they backed away from demolition plans, vowing to renovate instead. Both attended the Aug. 8 meeting.

"It was clear that they really felt compelled to save the property after the large outcry from the public," says Katherine Seale, executive director of Preservation Dallas, who was also at the meeting. "Dallas is quick to erase its past, but people did not want this house, which embodies Stanley Marcus and his work, to go away. … There was also an outcry from the design community because of the architecture itself."

Marcus commissioned Frank Lloyd Wright to design his house, but later fired the notoriously difficult Wright and hired Dallas architect Roscoe DeWitt instead.

"A lot of people feel proprietary about Stanley Marcus and the Marcus family," says Kate Singleton, the city's chief planner for historic preservation. "He and his family brought the arts to Dallas and raised the bar on class and style in this city."

The Lovvorns' renovation will likely be eligible for the city's tax-exemption program, "which would be very helpful for them," Singleton says.

Preservationists point out that renovations are greener than demolitions.

"Beyond robbing the community of its rich cultural and architectural heritage, the demolition of buildings such as the Marcus home robs our planet of more of its resources," Veletta Forsythe Lill, a member of the board of advisors of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, wrote in an Aug. 15 op-ed in the Dallas Morning News. "So let's not demolish a historic building, send the construction materials to the landfill, cut down 60-year-old trees, flatten the site, ignore the history of the community and call it sustainability. It is not."

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