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Preservationist off the Reservation

Mark Graham
In this photo, taken in June 2005, Dwayne Jones stands inside a historic South Dallas farmhouse he fought to save.
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Over the last few years, Dwayne Jones has proved himself an invaluable resource for both Unfair Park and its paper version. As executive director of Preservation Dallas, he's done more than anyone in recent memory to save landmark buildings that have managed to survive in this teardown town. Preservation Dallas' annual list of the 11 most endangered properties in the city has raised awarness about everything from historic homes in South Dallas that have fallen prey to neglect to economic issues threatening to disrupt the rehabilitation of historic buildings in downtown.

But today comes the news that Jones is leaving Preservation Dallas--and the city itself--in early December. He's taking over as executive director of the Galveston Historical Foundation, which, Jones tells Unfair Park, is the second-largest nonprofit preservation organization in the country, with some 5,000 members, 40 full-time staffers and an annual budget exceeding $3 million. "It's a big group," Jones says, adding that the Galveston foundation came looking for him.

"They've been talking to me on and off the last couple of months, and they made me a really, really good offer," says Jones, who's been PD's executive director for six years. "And it's going to be hard to leave. I really love Dallas. The urban issues here are really complex and challenging, and I've enjoyed dealing with them. It's been real rewarding. I am not leaving because I am unhappy. Professionally, though, it's a big step up."

Before Jones arrived in Dallas, Preservation Dallas had a relatively low profile; it was thought of mostly as a gathering spot for nostalgists who remembered the city before it was paved over like a parking lot. Jones, who has a wonderful relationship with the local media, raised its profile exponentially, and in the process made folks around town aware of the fact that Dallas' history was being erased brick by brick.

"The organization has really matured to where we're relevant to the community, and we've taken a strong position on historic properties to make a difference in a positive way for us and for the city. For a long time our organization didn't step out there and do it, and today our board does, and we're committed to it. We have some important projects coming up, and you'll hear about them in the next couple of weeks."

Which means Jones will have plenty to say till he leaves before the holidays. But Preservation Dallas is already preparing for his departure: Its board of directors has already set up a committee to find Jones' replacement, as if such a thing is possible. --Robert Wilonsky

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