Douglas Newby prowdly recalls his first real estate transaction 20 years ago, which included the acquisition of 22 houses for the Historic Preservation League’s Historic Dallas Fund.
The late Ed Beran, architect of the Wyndham Anatole and the Adolphus Hotel restoration, and other members of the purchasing committee embraced these majestic though dilapidated houses with great vision and commitment. They purchased the endangered structures and quickly resold them to individuals committed to their restoration, generating enough profit for the Historic Preservation League to hire its first full-time executive director.
This transation in 1976 was the start of Mr. Newby’s real estate commitment to older neighborhoods, historic homes and important estates. He is known as a knowledgeable broker who is keenly iterested in art, history, and the architectural character of Dallas. He has sold more historic homes and homes placed on the Department of Interior’s National Register of Historic Places than any other firm in Dallas.
His sales include homes designed by many of the most important architects and architectural firms in Dallas, including: Otto Land and Frank Witchell, partners in Dallas’ most significant architectural firm in the early 1900s, who were responsible for designing the Cotton Exchange and Dallas Power and Lighting building and introducing the Prairie School style to the Southwest; Hal Thompson, a prominent residential architect known for designing many of the most prestigious homes in Munger Place, Highland Park and Turtle Creek Park; Betram Hill, who was known for the formal and symmetrical design of his mansions; CP. Sites, known for his bold interpretations of the Prairie and Progressive styles; C.D. Hill, Clifford Hutsell and the architectural firm of Marion Fooshee and James Cheek, who popularized the Spanish Colonial Revival style with their houses on Beverly Drive and Lakewood Boulevard; Clyde Griesenbeck and John Dana, who teamed up in the late 1930s to design the Hall of State and many houses in Highland Park; and regionalist Charles Dilbeck, David Williams and O’Neill Ford, who expressed designs sympathetic to Texas and the Southwest in Old East Dallas, Perry Heights and University Park.
Mr. Newby attributes much of his firm’s success over 20 years to simply understanding that knowledge and information about a house create value. Many homes, he says, have been torn down that had more value than the vacant land. He says he sees homes that do not sell for their full potential because the architectural and historic values went unnoticed.
He points out that many new houses are awkward derivatives of other clumsy houses, rather than homes that reflect a classic order of architecture, which always means more value architecturally and economically.
When asked why so many real estate companies have merged, been absorbed or gone out of business, Mr. Newby says, “It is more expensive to run a business in Texas than it was 20 years abo. The taxes and fees for agents have gone up, as has the state-required paperwork on each tranasaction.
“This has caused many of the prominent local firms to join large, more generic firms in an effort to cut cost per agent. The small specialized firms that emphasize value and service for increasingly sophisticated buyers have flourished. The benefits a small firm provides to buyers and sellers keep growing. For the same reason our clients might conduct an international search for the right architect, they will conduct a search for the right Realtor. Our clients recognize that we understand their taste, appreciate their homes and can efficiently serve their needs. While it is not feasible for a large company to have a training class for every special home, as a small firm, we can focus our resources on a specific property.”
Douglas Newby has been committed to the tradition of civic involvement and community service established by Dallas’ oldest firms.
The restoration movement was in its infancy when Mr. newby created the Dallas Restoration Home of the Year Award, presented by the mayor and chosen by the presidents of the local AIA, ASID and the Historic Preservation League, the editor of D Magazine, and various CEOs. The selection process was dynamic, as each judge had a different but very committed approach to “restoration to live in,” says Mr. Newby.
The award helped define and promote an interdisciplinary approach to restoration, says Mr. Newby, who wrote The Guide to Older Neighborhoods of Dallas for the Historic Preservation League.
Mr. Newby is excited about his firm’s potential over the next 20 years.
Dallas is becoming increasingly interested in restoration, architecture and older neighborhoods. We see evidence of this from Swiss Avenue to Volk Estates. “Prominent purchasers also recognize you can only get so grand with a new house,” says Mr. Newby.
Nothing is more elegant or has more character than a beautifully renovated estate, Presently, we have listed the finest estate in Dallas. But whether it is the finest estate or a more modest home designed by Hal Thompson, we understand and appreciate that every time an extraordinary home is designed or a historic home is restored, this is a gift to Dallas.