Number of Endangered Historic Properties Unknown in Dallas

Ongoing efforts to save a historic home near downtown Dallas have revealed that the city has an unknown number of unprotected and endangered historical properties.

The Cedars, an 1880s Victorian-style home on Griffin Street West, was set to be demolished before the city recently stepped in to delay the process. The iconic home is among an unknown number of properties in Dallas that could vanish, unless the city designates them as historic.

"When cities are assessing their historic preservation program, one of the first things they do is (ask), 'What do we got? What's our inventory of property? Where are they located? What kind of condition are they in?'" said Katherine Seale, chair of the Dallas Landmark Commission. "We don't have a road map of what it is that is the most endangered."

The answer to those questions would serve as the basis to the city's Historic Preservation Plan, but the last time one was created in Dallas was 1988. Seale and other preservation organizations are pushing the city do update their plan and take a new inventory.

"An effort to get a city-wide survey would help us inventory and prioritize (endangered properties). It will certainly help property owners that have these, so they don't get blindsided," Seale said.

Without the protection of being in a historical neighborhood or designated as a historical landmark, the fate of some of Dallas' most historic buildings is in the hands of their owners or developers.

"A lot has changed since (1988). By national standards, anything that is 50 years or older is considered historic. We have a lot more buildings that are considered historic. All of those properties are in jeopardy of going away, without any notice," said Preservation Dallas Executive Director David Preziosi.

Preservation Dallas conducted a limited inventory several years ago, focusing their attention on residential property and neighborhoods. Around 2009 the city initiated the process of conducting a new survey to update its inventory, but the financial crisis severely limited its financial resources. With residential and commercial development popping up across Dallas, Preziosi believes now is the time to update the list of historic property in need of protection.

"Our cities are defined by the unique buildings and things that we have," he said. "When we start losing those properties we become more generic."

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