Minding the House: Recollections from Stanley Marcus' Family

Billie Marcus, left, and Stanley Marcus with Coco Chanel before the first Neiman Marcus Fortnight in 1957

Swear, I will not turn Unfair Park into a 24-7 Marcus House drive-thru; in fact, this will likely be our last posting on the subject as it moves its way into the paper version of Unfair Park. But before we move on, a few words from the children and grandchildren of Stanley and Billie Marcus, who've sent e-mails and posted comments to Unfair Park concerning the impending demolition of the house Stanley had built in 1938 and which played host to countless immortals, the list of which seems to grow with each passing interview.

After the jump, you will find the thoughts and recollections of daughter Jerrie and son Richard; also, a comment from Juliette Aston, one of Jerrie's daughters. --Robert Wilonsky

From Jerrie Smith:

When I learned of the possible destruction of my former childhood home at No.1 Nonesuch Road, I was saddened -- not only for nostalgic reasons, but for the potential loss for the City of Dallas and its architectural heritage. When my father built his house in 1937-'38, I am sure he didn’t conceive of it as a future city icon, but as a well-designed home that reflected his contemporary aesthetic and something that worked for his family. Now, 70 years later, even though the nine acres surrounding it are gone and the red brick has been painted white and the brick glass and solid redwood door have been replaced, its history remains, and Dallas, being a relatively young city, is short on history. So it is sad, to me, for Dallas to lose any of its past involving creativity and the arts.

I know it’s an old house and it is expensive to efficiently air-condition and heat 9,000 feet of space, but surely there are alternatives to consider before the wreckers are called in. Here’s my idea: Open the casement windows. They were designed to catch the breeze.. Or, better yet, the City of Dallas could offer a tax incentive for proper restoration and find some group to turn the home into a center for architecture, civic, design -- a creative think tank.

There must be a way to continue to use the home as a place of inspiration and creativity.
From Richard Marcus:

When my father sold his home he was well aware that the purchaser would subdivide the property for additional homes. I suspect he was also aware that the new homes would be considerably different in style to the one that he and my mother built in 1936. He probably suspected that the new owners might replace the existing house in time.

Growing up in this home my sisters and I were aware that we lived in a "very modern" house -- at least that is what our friends' parents would tell us. Some were suspicious that it represented a style slightly "un-American."

At a certain age we understood that the home built by our parents was, in terms of Dallas architecture, different and, in the eyes of many visitors, something special.

But, what truly made it special was what occurred inside: tea with Eleanor Roosevelt, the steady stream of the world's foremost fashion and product designers, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis for a late supper after appearing at the State Fair Music Hall, exchange students from all over the world, lunch with Lady Bird Johnson, Murrow's Boys from CBS News: Daniel Schorr, David Schoenbrun, Marvin Kalb, Winston Burdett and Eric Sevareid for a late night visit ... and many, many others.

What happened inside shaped our family's understanding of the world around us and, in some small way, influenced what happened in Dallas as a whole.

Perhaps the current owners are unaware of the spirits, voices and ideas that inhabit their home. Perhaps they will find ways to solve the energy inefficiency and enjoy the true energy of their home.

From Juliette Aston:
It is sad to see what people do today. This was my Mother's and Grandparent's home. If you want to build your Dallas Mansion find another spot. There is someone who wants to save a bit of history and house like this out there. Shame on you.

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky