Tuesday, 5 May 2009

One Nonesuch Road, Dallas by Susan Cox.

Stanley Marcus and his wife, Billie, had been married for two years and were planing on building a modest home in Dallas. Billie, having "colonial" leanings, had to be converted, over time, to go along with a contemporary home. Modern architecture had yet to hit the city of Dallas and Marcus would be introducing the first International Style home to the city.

With the prospect of his son building a new home, Herbert Marcus not only wanted his son working for him, he also wanted him living very near him. So, Stanley's father, gave him 6 1/2 acres across from his house, an offer the young couple found hard to refuse.

Marcus began to interview some Eastern architects for the project, as well as a well-known California architect. Finally, Mr. Stanley went to visit Frank Lloyd Wright at Taliesin. Marcus' intent was to ask Wright's advice on his choice of an architect. During their conversation, as quoted in Marcus' book, Minding the Store, Wright asked Marcus "Son, why take the imitation when you can still get the original?" Wright further added that he would be happy to have the chance to build a home in Texas.

Stanley was thrilled, but he reminded Wright that he had a budget of $25,000 and he wanted a modest house. Marcus questioned if Wright could work within his budget and Wright said that he could. A deal was struck.

Wright traveled to Dallas and arrived on January 1, 1935. The city was experiencing very balmy weather, atypical of January weather. Marcus tried to explain that the temperatures were not always in the 70's in January. The property was viewed and sketches were made.

When the preliminary sketches arrived, there were no bedrooms in the plans, only "cubicles" as Marcus characterized them, to sleep in during bad weather. Wright had calculated that 90% of the time, the family could sleep outdoors on the deck, still assuming Dallas' weather was almost tropical. After much discussion and some arm twisting, Wright finally enlarged the bedrooms.

The next issue to deal with were the closets, or lack of closets. Simplistic in his design, Wright thought closets were unnecessary, since they only stored things people didn't really need. With each re-design, the Marcus house began to grow, ceilings were raised and the project grew in size and in cost. Wright actually thought that Marcus was underestimating his wealth after seeing the store and meeting Herbert Marcus. Wright continually asked for advances, more than likely to help finance Taliesin.

Feeling frustrated, Mr. Marcus, with Wrights knowledge, enlisted a Dallas architect, Roscoe DeWitt, to act as a local agent for Wright. Buildings designed by Wright were notoriously known for having leaky roofs and walls that would sweat, so Stanley wanted another architect to give second opinions on the ongoing design. Wright was also over 1000 miles away from Dallas, so it was also to be a time saver.

Finally, Wright's preliminary cost estimates arrived in the mail. Construction costs for the now much larger house ranged from $90,000 to $150,000, well over the original $25,000 budget. A significant amount of money for anyone during the Depression. A final construction figure of $150,000 was arrived upon by Wright.

Stanley Marcus wrote a letter to Frank Lloyd Wright questioning many aspects of the design and Marcus received an angry letter from Wright in return. Words were exchanged, the dust settled and the deal with Wright evaporated. Wright did not want to work with someone who doubted his work and had so little faith. The Marcus' then turned to Roscoe DeWitt to build their home, which he did, without reference to the Wright design and completed in 1938. The street onto the Marcus property was named Nonesuch Road by Mr. Stanley himself and the house, being the only home on the road, was Number One, Nonesuch Road. Stanley Marcus and his family lived in that home for almost 60 years.

For over 20 years, the home was an entertaining spot to many famous people in government, entertainment and the fashion world. Formal dinners for 30 - 60 people were not uncommon in the Marcus home, especially during Fortnight festivities. Guests included: Grace Kelly, the Prince of Monaco, Princess Alexandra of Great Britain, Lord Mountbatten, Christian Dior, Pierre Balmain, Estee Lauder, Elsa Schaparelli, Bill Blass, Emilio Pucci, Valentino, Roberta DiCamerino, Yves St. Laurent, Manuel Ungaro, Givenchy, Salvatore Ferragammo, as well as, Lyndon Johnson, Lady Bird Johnson, Eleanor Roosevelt, Nelson Rockefeller, Marvin Kalb, Eric Sevareid, Andy Williams, Jerry Lewis, Judith Leiber, Prince Albert of Belgium, the Prime Minister of Austria and others.

One guest mentioned by Marcus as being quite an extraordinary, was the visit by the Queen of Thailand. Her visit created one of the greatest security challenges he ever experienced. The Queen not only arrived with her 30 ladies-in-waiting and couriers, but she was wearing approximately $30 million worth of jewelry!

Subsequent additions to One Nonesuch Road in the 1950's and 1970's brought the total square footage to an approximate 10,000 square feet. Stanley Marcus sold this storied home in 1994. The buyer of the home asked Mr. Marcus to detail the history of the home, which he did, also including some of his personal photographs, maps and a hand-written letter about the home, it's construction and people he had entertained over the years.

The new owners, the Lovvorns, did some remodeling to the front entry, painted the brick and updated the bathrooms. The owners also pursued receiving historical designation for the home in 1999. Since the homes purchase, the Lovvorns have sold off several acres of the original estate. Subsuquently, the address of the home was changed to 10 Nonesuch Road, allowing for the addition of the other homes addresses.

In July of 2008, the Lovvorns, announced that they had decided to raze the nearly 70 year old structure, much to the shock of the city and State preservationists. Reasons cited by the owners for such a decision included the cost to maintain the home and their desire to build a more efficient and "green" residence. Most historians agreed that the reasons for razing the home sounded a bit weak.

Reaction from the city of Dallas and Dallascites was immediate. The Marcus' children and grandchildren were back in the public spotlight, stating their opposition to the demolition of something so important to the city of Dallas. One newspaper headline read "Mr. Stanley Wouldn't be Happy." The media was relentless and the owners, after months of, on again, off again demolition plans, have for now, decided to remain in the home.

Next time, the blog will focus on the Neiman Marcus Fortnights.

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