Every so often, when we have nothing to do except daydream about living in luxurious historic digs, we browse Preservation Dallas' compendium of "Historic Properties for Sale." Well, just so happened that we did that very thing yesterday, and we stumbled across a $2.1-million home located at 5020 Swiss Avenue. It certainly is historic: It was built in 1928 by the legendary local firm of Lang and Witchell: Lang was German-born Otto H. Lang, and Witchell was English-born Frank O. Witchell. Together and separately, they were responsible for numerous iconic constructions in this city, among them the Southwestern Life Building, Exposition Hall at Fair Park, Highland Park High School, the Fair Park Auditorium and the Sanger Brothers Department Store. A complete list of their inventory can be found here, along with substantial biographies of the men responsible, from 1910 to 1942, for shaping a large part of the city in their images.
And the house, says PD's listing, has other historic ties: It was owned by R.W. Higginbotham, then later real-estate man O.L. Nelms, who leased the Bob Wills Ranch House to Jack Ruby in 1952. It was also once the residence of Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison and hubby Ray. So, yeah. Lots of history.
But what really struck us about the house was who's selling it: Mary Poss.
Perhaps we missed it, but we had no idea the former mayor pro tem was selling real estate for Ebby Halliday. Guess it's not much of a surprise; after all, they've always been very close, and Halliday did endorse Poss for mayor when she ran against Laura Miller in 2003 -- and, yeah, Sharon Boyd had a field day with that one way back when. This news, or non-news, doesn't come as a surprise to Boyd, of course; Boyd told us yesterday Poss has been working for Halliday since last fall and that she's sold several historic properties in East Dallas and is doing quite well.
"It's the perfect job for her," Boyd says. "She's got the perfect personality to sell resident real estate. It takes somebody who really loves being around people and remembering faces. Nobody remembers a face better than Mary. This is the job she was always meant to do."
And Poss would agree. Indeed, she tells Unfair Park that she never wanted to run for city council in the first place way back when. Says she was "pushed into running," but that "once I got there, I really, really, really enjoyed the work" -- so much so she ran for mayor. When that didn't pan out -- she lost to Miller, by a margin of 56 to 40 percent, if memory serves -- the former banker needed a new gig. Turned out, Halliday had been trying to get Poss to come work for her "for years," Poss says. "I finally told Ebby, 'You're right, I should have done this 25 years ago,'" Poss says.
Turns out, you can probably do more preservation work as a real-estate agent than as a politician: She just sold a Charles Dilbeck-designed house at 8234 Garland Road, which went for $1.5 million -- and Poss says most of the folks who saw the place were more interested in the lot than the house, which many potential buyers were looking to tear down. Fortunetely, she says, the folks who wound up buying the place are planning on doing some remodeling in order to preserve the home, which was built in 1947, around the same time Dilbeck was doing the Belmont Hotel in Oak Cliff.
As for the kind words from Sharon Boyd, who used to give Poss nothing but grief during her tenure on the council, well, Poss wholeheartedly agrees: "I really do like people," she says, laughing, "which is what I think made my time at City Hall so rewarding to me." Only, when she was on the council she wasn't getting commissions on $1.5- and $2.1-million homes. That, too, is rewarding. --Robert Wilonsky
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