View Full Version : The Architecture of George Dahl

12 December 2006, 02:42 PM
Famed architect's HP house demolished
01:07 PM CST on Tuesday, December 12, 2006
By DAVID FLICK / The Dallas Morning News


The buildings of famed Dallas architect George Dahl may stand for decades as monuments to his talent, but one of his most personal works was on its way to extinction Tuesday.

The current owner of an art deco house designed and occupied by Mr. Dahl during the late 1930s was issued a permit Tuesday morning to demolish the structure. A few hours later, workers had torn down half of the house.

Mr. Dahl’s Dallas firm produced about 3,000 projects, but he is probably best known for transforming Fair Park for the 1936 Texas Centennial Exposition. He personally designed the signature Esplanade and the Tower Building.

He also designed the country’s first drive-in bank — at Hillcrest State Bank in University Park. Mr. Dahl died in 1987 at age 93.

The house on Bordeaux Avenue in Highland Park was the second of three houses that Mr. Dahl designed and lived in. Family members said the four-bedroom, brick-and-glass home was his favorite.

“I think it was the house he liked the best,” said Ted Akin, Mr. Dahl’s son-in-law. “As he got older, he became more interested in modern design. And this was the house that reflected it.”

The house’s current owner, Lynn G. O’Neil, did not return several phone calls seeking comment. But family members of Mr. Dahl said Ms. O’Neil told them she grew up in the house, that it was in poor repair and she wanted to replace it with something newer.

The house, which Mr. Dahl occupied from 1937 to 1941, was featured in The Abrams Guide to American House Styles, published in 2002, as an example of “American Deco.”

It will also be included in a still-untitled book, scheduled for publication next year, surveying Park Cities architecture. The book is being compiled by Dallas authors Willis Winters, Prudence McIntosh and Virginia McAlester.

Ms. McAlester, author of A Field Guide to American Homes, said the Dahl house is of particular interest because he designed it at about the time he served as chief architect of the Texas Centennial Exposition.

“The fact that he was working on it during that time makes it a very important house,” Ms. McAlester said.

The house is architecturally significant on its own, she said.

“There are very few houses of that style in the country,” she said. “I haven’t seen anything of that style anywhere, and I’ve seen historic districts nationally.”

Nonetheless, the house has no official historic status, and such a designation has never prevented demolition of a house in Highland Park, said Kirk Smith, head of Highland Park’s building inspection department.

Dahl family members were given a last chance to tour the house over the weekend, and they said afterward that they had mixed emotions.

“It kind of makes me sad, but I guess it’s progress,” said Gloria Akin, Mr. Dahl’s daughter. “I understand why people build these huge new homes; they want big rooms and big closets. That’s what they do these days, but I hate to see it, I really hate to see it.”

Mrs. Akin said she lived there from the time she was 4 until she was 9.

Though her father did most of his work at his office in what is now the Interurban Building downtown, he had a drafting table set up in the house that he sometimes worked at, Mrs. Akin recalled.

Mr. Dahl used a star motif throughout the house — with iron stars on the ironwork and stars on the blue-painted ceiling of the dining room. He also used glass blocks in the walls to provide diffused light.

The family left the house in 1941 to move to a colonial house that Mr. Dahl designed in Bluffview.

“He didn’t really like colonial, he just did it because that’s what my mother and I wanted,” Mrs. Akin said.

Family members described Ms. O’Neil as sympathetic and cordial during the weekend visit, but some still remained disturbed at the loss.

“It’s a sin, it’s like burning books,” said Ashley Akin, Mr. Dahl’s granddaughter.

“It’s one of those houses that’s unique. You can’t duplicate things like that.”


George Dahl

Occupation: Architect

Born: May 11, 1894, in Minneapolis, Minn.

Education: bachelor’s degree in architecture, University of Minnesota, 1920; master’s degree, Harvard University, 1923; fellowship, American Academy in Rome, 1923-25

Arrived in Dallas: 1926

Family: Married Lillie Olsen in 1921; one daughter, Gloria Akin; second marriage, Joan Renfro, 1978

Died: July 18, 1987, in Dallas

Most famous designs: Titche-Goettinger building, Ferris Plaza, Downtown Neiman Marcus store, Hillcrest State Bank, Texas Centennial Exposition (general layout), Tower Building at Fair Park, Fair Park Esplanade, Cotton Bowl restoration, The Dallas Morning News building, Southwestern Life building, LTV Aerospace Center, former Dallas Public Library (SOURCE: Architectural Images)

E-mail dflick@dallasnews.com

More on George Dahl (http://www.lib.utexas.edu/taro/utaaa/00028/aaa-00028.html)

12 December 2006, 03:50 PM
Let that be a lesson to all budding architects. When you design your dream home, better make it bulldozer-proof.

Or better yet, borrow some tricks from ancient Central American tomb designers.

The big rolling boulder is particularly effective against bulldozers, though you only get a limited number of shots (depending on attic storage). Be sure to supplement with poison arrows.

12 December 2006, 04:49 PM
I still can't bring myself to enter the Ross Fiesta after Dahl's wonderful Sears Roebuck Building was bulldozed. Had it survived a few more years, I'm convinced the structure would have been converted into something wonderful.

12 December 2006, 06:07 PM
from dallasnews.com over the top blog:

What would Mr. Stanley say?

Re: David Flicks's story about architect George Dahl's Highland Park house being bulldozed today - I'm just finding the ultimate irony that a Highland Park gal would tear down a historic house, which was designed and lived-in by the very same guy who designed the Downtown Neiman Marcus store. Isn't there some high-society fashion rule against that somewhere...? Anywhere...?

Mr. Dahl's other designs? The Fair Park Esplanade, The Tower Building and most of the other Centennial Exposition buildings (national treasures), and oh, yeah! The building in which yours truly (and a bunch of other folks) works ... The Dallas Morning News.

What would Mr. Stanley say? Read on ... to see exactly what Stanley Marcus did say in 1997 about teardowns and and rebuilds in Highland Park and elsewhere.

Big houses -

The resizing of homes on small lots may very well be within the
legal regulations, but the mixture of grandiose houses and modest
ones is imposing a new look on whole neighborhoods. Big and little
homes don't mix well.

The owner of a small house receives a flattering offer and agrees
to sell. One mega-house moves in. Then, another owner of a small
house succumbs to a tempting price. Very quickly, the whole street
gets an unbalanced look.

Some nice streets in the Park Cities and Dallas have had their
vision of residential life shattered, and the cities themselves
have lost some of their charm.

Too bad.

- July 22, 1997

Posted by Nancy Moore at 3:58 PM (E-mail this entry)

Columbus Civil
13 December 2006, 08:40 AM
I remember reading James and the Giant Peach as a young boy.

13 December 2006, 02:07 PM
I remember reading James and the Giant Peach as a young boy.

lol. is roald a relative of george's?

13 December 2006, 03:54 PM
How depressing. :( What's wrong with this city, these people?

24 January 2008, 07:17 PM
Are there any pictures of that old Sears Roebuck building floating around on the internet somewhere? The one on Ross that was replaced be a Fiesta.

09 March 2016, 01:20 PM
Dallas Morning News exploring move from longtime home in 'Rock of Truth' building


“A move is by no means certain,” Moroney told employees. “We are evaluating our current building and other possible locations to determine which one will best further our design — and your work — needs.”

The News’ building at Young and Houston streets, across from Union Station, was designed by noted architect George Dahl and has housed the newspaper since 1949. It is known as the “Rock of Truth” for the monumental inscription on its facade.