Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Garland Council prolongs Tinsley-Lyles House decision; finally puts up $20,000 to study cost to restore, rehab

The 1870s vintage Tinsley-Lyles House in its setting in the old Heritage Park, where apartments now stand.

Garland City Council again kicked the can down the road on what to do with the vintage Tinsley-Lyles House, affirming its commitment to spend $20,000 more for an architectural and structural study to assess the condition of the historic dwelling and ascertain possible uses.

In work session Monday night, council formally removed from next year’s budget a proposed $75,000 for any actual repairs to the house. Mayor Douglas Athas said the money could be added back in or increased, depending on what the study shows and what council determines later.

The $20,000 is in addition to the $316,028 that the city already has spent on the historic house since 2013, when demolition of the house was last proposed.

Becky King of the city manager’s office presented the history of the house, mostly from the time it was first donated to the city in 1979 by Garland entrepreneur Jay Jones to its current unrestored status today. She said numerous groups over the years have proposed restoring the house but without success. Among those was the Leadership Garland 2009 Class, which first thought the restoration could be done with volunteers for about $1,000 but backed out when the estimate at that time came in for $88,960 for exterior work only.

King said Preservation Garland has raised $2,000 and hopes to raise about $900 more before the end of the year—for a total of $2,900—for work on the house.

Restoration costs for a home the size, age, and condition of the Tinsley-Lyles House and owned by a governmental entity could easily top $250,000 to $300,000 or more—and that doesn't begin to count the cost of sustaining the house year after year.

Sign from an unknown era sadly illustrates city efforts since 1979 to preserve and save one of Garland's oldest structures.

Councilmember B.J. Williams mistakenly referred to the Friends of the Tinsley-Lyles House as though it were an existing organization. The embryonic group disbanded and went onto other involvements nearly two years ago after wearying of lack of answers to key questions the group had asked the mayor, a councilmember, and city staff.

Williams asked for nonprofits to return to the city to say in light of the new proposed report what they would do to carry out fundraising endeavors. However, as last week’s blog reported, the single-purpose (fundraising only for the Tinsley-Lyles House) Friends Group ceased to exist after the city stonewalled on answers to three key questions the new proposed $20,000 study ostensibly will answer:
1. What is the ultimate end use for the house?
2. What are the most accurate estimates for restoring/rehabilitating/repurposing the house?
3. What secret or private agreements has the city made with any other organizations or persons in regard to the future of the house?

The questions remained unanswered at the end of Monday night's session, with the possible exception of vague references to plans for Preservation Garland to manage and oversee the house.

As my blog series last week pointed out, the city missed its golden opportunity for fundraising for the Tinsley-Lyles House when it failed to act swiftly in 2015 in the afterglow of the success and celebration of the Pace House, another historic home the city in 2013 planned to raze, but which today is now in private hands, is beautifully restored and maintained using only private funds, is generating annual tax revenue for the city, and is listed as a "Contributing" structure in Garland's Travis College Hill National Register Historic District.

Instead of capitalizing on the Pace's success, the city instead bungled and stumbled with the Tinsley-Lyles House restoration.

Even though the Tinsley-Lyles House is older than the Pace House, because of where it is situated now and the foundation on which it rests, the Tinsley-Lyles structure likely will never qualify for "Contributing" status on the National Register of Historic Places and, thus, the accompanying federal and state tax credits that could be used for its restoration.

Mayor pro tem David Gibbons noted that much of what King reported about the expenses for the Tinsley-Lyles House during the past two years was news to the Council.

“This city has never committed any usage for these historic buildings except for storage,” said Gibbons. “We have a museum that is open only four hours a week, a historic house that no one can access, and a rail car used for storage." He said the plea for more money for the Tinsley-Lyles House is occurring while citizens are crying loudly over potholes in their streets and other infrastructure issues.

District 5 Councilmember Rich Aubin said he supports spending the $20,000 for the study because he wants to see “a full range of what should be done with this building." Without the study and a plan, "the $75,000 is just pulling us down the rabbit hole.”

New District 3 Councilmember Jerry Nickerson said he would like to see the Tinsley-Lyles House in a park-like setting, in more context with its era. He painted a verbal picture of accompanying late 1800s elements, which he quickly noted might require one-half million to a million dollars.

“I don’t think that there’s any organization in town” that can raise that kind of money, he said.

As I have said—and will continue to say—now is the time for the City of Garland to take a tough look at the situation regarding this historic house and make the difficult decisions. Either paint or get off the ladder, as the old saying goes.

The concluding portion of my blog series stated that the city should consider turning the house over to a business use and let the restoration/renovation be paid for by private enterprise, but that was not even considered or discussed at the work session. 

I'm left wondering how many more years Garland city councils will spend debating what to do with this structure, which already could have been restored by now had the city managed the situation differently.

The second floor of the Tinsley-Lyles House, which often has been a magnet for homeless.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

A Tale of Two Historic Garland Houses: Our city's four options for resolving the Tinsley-Lyles House crisis

(Third and final in a three-part series) 

Bright and cheery, the Pace House's central hallway with its original light fixtures and transoms never fails to charm visitors.

Dark and dreary, the interior of the Tinsley-Lyles House awaits its future after an unnecessary 3-year delay due to city politics.

The City of Garland squandered a sparkling opportunity that well could have raised—totally from private funds—enough money to restore the historic Tinsley-Lyles House without requiring one additional penny from the taxpayers' pockets. It was a unique window of time that sadly has passed.

In light of that mess-up, what are the remaining options now for the city? Garland has four possibilities (with a few subsets) for what to do with the Tinsley-Lyles House.

1. It can simply tear it down, toss the remains in the landfill, and move on—perhaps finding some kind of adaptive reuse for the new, large, expensive foundation on which the house now sits. Throwing the city's history in the trash can (the Tinsley-Lyles is one of Garland's oldest remaining structures) would be a terrible waste of our city's resources.

2. Find a taker for the house, who then could move it to a vacant lot and restore it for private use. More than 500 people came forward after This Old House magazine, a Long Island-based national publication with a circulation exceeding 1 million, ran a story in its "Save This Old House" feature on both the Pace and Tinsley-Lyles Houses. Eventually only three actually submitted valid applications for the Pace House, with the only logical option for the city being the proposal that my wife and I made to move it to a vacant lot we already owned in Garland's Travis College Hill Historic District. We know firsthand the financial pain and physical toll that caused us. We own no more vacant residential lots that could be used to accommodate the Tinsley-Lyles. I know of one Garland citizen who at the time (three years ago) was an ideal fit for the Tinsley-Lyles project, had it gone into private hands then, but his interest has moved on to other commitments, as well.
The welcoming Pace House back porch is the setting for refreshments when guests pour through during the annual historic home tours on Garland's 11th Street.

3. Design a firm plan for the ultimate use of the house, then the city appropriate whatever funds are needed for that restoration, refurbishment, or adaptive reuse. Keep in mind that government-owned projects are always notoriously more expensive than privately-owned projects. Having worked with numerous preservationists, I doubt the house can be remodeled or restored by the city in its present nonresidential location for less than an additional $250,000 to $300,000 or more (after already having spent $316,028.18 on that project). Annual upkeep would have to be figured out, too. That could run anywhere from $40,000 to $75,000 a year for starters. And over the years the costs will go up.

If the city keeps the house, the first question really remains, how should the house be used? Unfortunately our city politicians have tap-danced on this question all along. Since city leaders have been so reluctant to be transparent about whether they have privately made any secret commitments, their dancing makes me wonder what surreptitious agreements truly had been reached with Preservation Garland Inc., which so far has not been successful in raising the funds necessary to restore or even sustain the house and has helped bring on the current crisis with the historic home.

Some have suggested the structure become a genealogical library. The Garland library board has made it clear that it does not favor this. Others have suggested it as an office for the Garland Convention and Visitors Bureau. Its location away from the main flow of traffic seems to diminish that idea. 

Preservation Garland Inc., has repeatedly talked about making the Tinsley-Lyles into a house museum of early Garland life. The crucial report by the "Summerlee Commission on Financial Sustainability of History Organizations" released in mid-2015 presented strong evidence that house museums not tied to major national, state, or local events or personalities all across the country are in deep financial trouble. The report says the only hope for saving these house museums is for local, state, and national governments to step in and provide the necessary funding. The report also recognizes the unlikelihood of this happening, because of so many pressing infrastructure issues facing governments at all levels. The report recommends finding some way to downsize the number of these house museums. 

I personally know the author of that Summerlee report—Texas preservationist and Baylor University professor Gary Smith. In conversations Gary told me that what Kay and I did in taking the historic Pace House really should be the model for dissolving hundreds of house museums all across the country. 
Tinsley-Lyles House in original condition about the time it became the property of the city in 1979.

4. Sell or lease it to some business or retail entity that can pay to have it restored and convert it into a retail or office space operating from its present location. On the site where it is now, the building might make a nice restaurant, clothing store, or other retail establishment—or maybe even a law office or architect's office. It could give downtown Garland some additional sound retail that it sorely needs. Unfortunately, no federal and state historic tax credits would be available for restoring this project. The Tinsley-Lyles is not part of a National Register Historic District. Even if it were to ever become part of such a district, too many serious mistakes, such as location and foundation, may already have been made for it to be a "Contributing" building.

After fighting so diligently to save this historic structure in 2013-2014, I personally am weary of all the political infighting, arguing, controversy, backbiting, and inertia surrounding the Tinsley-Lyles House. A decision needs to be made about its future—and that decision needs to be made soon and be permanent!

Because of its historic value, tearing it down isn't the right option.

Leaving it standing as is to keep deteriorating ("demolition by neglect" is the term for this practice) isn't the correct choice either.

Giving it to someone with the funds, energy, determination, and an appropriate residential lot to move it and restore it and use it might be a possibility. But remember: many are willing, but few actually respond. Most of those indications of interest or outright offers for the Pace House and the Tinsley-Lyles House originated from outside the City of Garland. Is giving it to another city what Garland really wants to do?

Using it as a living museum—once a popular idea and once my top preferred choice—now has been proved to be not wise because so many of these house museums have become albatrosses around the necks of communities all across the country due to rising maintenance costs. This solution is possible, but only if the city or a group of citizens with a bona fide track record steps up with an ironclad commitment to pay for it over the next 40 to 50 years.

Since squandering their golden opportunity in 2015 following the grand success of the saving and celebration of the Pace House, the city and Preservation Garland Inc., must now look for new ways to solve the problem they created—without shoving the expense on to the backs of the already overloaded Garland taxpayers.

The public should not be forced to pay one added nickel for these mistakes.

Since during the past three years the city has already invested nearly a third of a million dollars in this historic home with so little to show for it, and since the paltry $75,000 currently proposed for renovating it will barely start the adaptive-reuse process that is necessary, I'm leaning toward the city’s pulling the $75,000 out of the budget now. Since $75,000 is not enough, further requests likely will follow—thus reigniting this hurtful fight again and again. The more incensed people get, the more "Tear it down!" is likely to become the battle cry. 

The city must make it crystal-clear to Preservation Garland that the house belongs to the city, not it, and then start an intensive search for a quality business willing to lease the structure from the city—even at $1 a year for the first five or 10 years in exchange for rehabilitating it—and turn it into a classy restaurant or other appealing and needed place of business in the downtown area.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, of which Kay and I are participants and fans, promotes the idea of adaptive reuse as what preservation is really all about these days. Keeping the historic exterior framework but adapting the inside of the house to a new purpose like a privately-operated business venture seems like the most economical, sensible, and forward-moving way to go right now.

Think about it! And then call your city councilmember and tell him or her your decision.

Let's put a period at the end of this fruitless dialogue about the future of the Tinsley-Lyles House—an issue that handily could have been—and should have been—resolved three years ago!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

A Tale of Two Historic Garland Houses: The second, an embarrassment that is "woefully, pitifully unnecessary"

(Second in a series of three)

Louis and Kay Moore on Pace House Moving Day—Public enthusiasm and euphoria on that day easily could have vaulted the Tinsley-Lyles House to success, too, but city politics and bungling kept any such victory from being achieved.
Friends of Tinsley-Lyles House fundraising was set to roll (as demonstrated by this trifold flyer ready for wide distribution), with blue-chip personnel in place, until unkept promises, unfulfilled commitments, unanswered questions, unsquelched misinformation, and old city political alliances intervened.

The current predicament of what to do with Garland's Tinsley-Lyles House—the boondoggle sitting on an abnormally high concrete foundation behind the city's downtown public library—is a result of unkept promises, unfulfilled commitments, unanswered questions, unsquelched misinformation, and old political alliances that appeared to become more important than practicality.

A 2014, much-lauded, sound, do-able, "win-win" plan I presented to City Council to direct the two houses' future—"The Way Forward"—has been only halfway realized and has been allowed to be overrun by egregious and totally unnecessary mishandling of the Tinsley-Lyles House side of the deal.

In "The Way Forward" document I presented to council on February 3, 2014, these solutions were enthusiastically supported: 1. The Pace House would return to the private sector, with the city donating the structure to the bidder making the soundest pitch; 2. The city would retain the Tinsley-Lyles House, with a separate charitable foundation (apart from either existing preservation group—Preservation Garland Inc. and Landmark Society)—formed for the specific, single purpose of raising funds to restore and maintain the dwelling in perpetuity. 

Part of the latter's appeal to the council was the wonder-upon-wonders feat that Garland's two oft-contentious preservation organizations—the decades-old Garland Landmark Society and newly-formed Preservation Garland Inc.—had agreed to not oppose the creation of the new nonprofit to raise funds to restore and operate the Tinsley-Lyles House. From the transcript of the February 3 council work session, I stated that The Way Forward plan "can resolve the issue and unite the community and set the stage for better stewardship of these two historic structures." 

In a private meeting at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, February 1, 2014, over dessert, at our home near downtown Garland, two key Preservation Garland leaders agreed to support the new, independent fundraising entity and pledged to set aside public rancor with Landmark. Simultaneously, in a separate meeting, a Landmark representative agreed not to publicly oppose the plan as it went forward. 

A groundswell of support, out of gratitude, privately arose. One prosperous and well-connected Garlandite, immensely relieved and thankful that the issue might be settled amicably, without strife that had surfaced in the past, pledged an unspecified amount of funds to the cause and offered her spacious home to host a major fundraising event. 

However, in a meeting on March 3, 2014, just before council was to be polled on a final decision and much to my surprise, representatives of Preservation Garland pressed for permission to address the body. (At a work session, a citizen is only allowed to address the council when specifically called on by a council member.)

As the polling approached, Councilmember Anita Goebel stated to the council, "Before we make any decisions, I’d like to have the Preservation Garland to give us a presentation on what their plans are for the house if they receive it." Three members took their seats in front of the council. I learned only just beforehand that this was going to happen. I was not invited to participate, sit with the three, or to speak; much to my embarrassment the key Preservation Garland spokesperson intimated inaccurately that I was lock-step with their efforts that night.

Setting aside its private pledge to avoid public rancor and to let the new, independent nonprofit carry the ball in fundraising, Preservation Garland suddenly and without explanation began asserting itself to become the fundraising arm. Despite its pledge on February 1, 2014, to avoid personal attacks, a key Preservation Garland leader also publicly began speaking of the other organization's leadership in a demeaning manner. Then-Councimember John Willis afterward told me my face looked utterly crestfallen when those remarks emerged.

In a transcript of the public hearings of the March 3, 2014, work session, Mayor Douglas Athas repeatedly specified that no decision would be reached that evening on who would occupy the Tinsley-Lyles House, who would operate it, or for what purpose the structure would be used. He specified that the council poll to be taken that evening was for the specific purpose of retaining or demolishing the two houses. 

The transcript of the meeting shows that Athas stated: "Our decision tonight is whether to keep the house in the city's custody or return it to the private sector."

Councilmember Anita Goebel stated: "Mayor, I don't know if it's appropriate, but I think we ought to save the house, keep it as city property, and let the Preservation Garland pick up after we move it."

The mayor reiterated that while the council appreciated Preservation Garland's update that it had just given on its work, the vote that evening merely was to keep or demolish the two houses. He obtained city staff's support to work with a nonprofit, should it emerge, to raise funds for the refurbishing. 

When the vote was taken, the council was favorable toward what I had outlined in "The Way Forward" plan that I had authored. Willis cast the lone dissenting vote, favoring that both houses be awarded to the private sector and that the city retain neither.

However, the damage was done. Preservation Garland's public demeaning of the Landmark leadership, aired on the city's TV broadcast, dampened the enthusiasm that had swelled from the private sector when it appeared that a harmonious decision, with unsavory remarks aside, would be reached. The individual (allied with the Landmark leadership) that had offered to host a major fundraising effort was less eager to go out on a limb. So was a local bank president who had pondered helping lead the fundraising efforts to restore the Tinsley-Lyles House. 

Furthermore, despite the Mayor's repeated clarification, the Preservation Garland leadership emerged from the meeting believing (with some council encouragement) that as a result of that meeting, Preservation Garland had been "given" the Tinsley-Lyles House to take total charge of. 

I personally felt betrayed. Endless volunteer hours on the part of a loyal, private citizen had been spent to hammer out a workable compromise that was disregarded in what felt like the blink of an eye.

Remembering the actual truth of what occurred in the March 3, 2014, council meeting, and with encouragement and the go-ahead from the city manager's office, my wife, Kay, and I pushed on to form the independent organization that became known as Friends of Garland's Historic Tinsley-Lyles House, as the mechanism to raise funds to restore the historic home in a way that preserved early Garland life. It was patterned after the short-term, one-topic-only citizens group that raised money for the Pace House restoration in 1985 when the home was moved from its original location on 1st Street at State to behind city hall. The records of that community-wide, community-building, historic fundraising were found in a box in the attic of the Pace House when it arrived on our lot.

Members of the new Friends nonprofit were some of Garland's most proved, successful, blue-ribbon fundraisers for other philanthropic projects. In the past, their combined fundraising efforts had raised countless hundreds of thousands (and possibly even millions) of dollars for worthwhile, charitable causes in Garland and Dallas. 

These charter members (all Garland residents) eagerly signed on to join Friends of Garland's Historic Tinsley-Lyles House in the rush of enthusiasm that followed the April 11, 2015, historic home tour on 11th Street after the newly refurbished Pace House was dedicated and a Texas Historical Marker awarded to Travis College Hill. More than 500 people poured into the Pace House and into the vintage neighborhood to witness a fresh Garland commitment to historical preservation and into the quality restoration that had been done on the Pace. 

On May 28, 2015, the Friends of the Tinsley-Lyles House organizational meeting was held in the Pace House living room. Organizers sensed that in the afterglow of success of the Pace House relocation and the historic home tour that had just drawn scores of people interested in history, fundraising for the Tinsley-Lyles House could be kicked off successfully, with a new wave of supporters willing to be tapped. With some of the same skilled, zealous people helping steer the ship of the Tinsley-Lyles House fundraising, the just-realized, tangible success on the Pace would signal that it could be done again. 

Before actual fundraising could begin, however, the veteran, much-respected fundraisers in the group cautioned that, based on their past experiences, three critical questions must have concrete answers from the city:

1. What ultimate long-term usage did the city envision for the Tinsley-Lyles House? Organizers believed that it would be difficult to approach donors about a vague restoration effort that lacked specifics.  

2. What repairs and restorations were necessary for the structure and what would all this cost? We did not want to start a fundraising campaign that was inadequate to actually meet the needs for the work necessary. Returning and asking people for more donations when your first estimates are wrong is considered a no-no in fundraising.

3. Were there any secret or non-public commitments that city leaders had made to any group or person regarding the usage or future of the house? Some of our organizers were concerned because Preservation Garland leaders had continued wrongfully to espouse, since the March 3, 2014 council meeting, that the city had "given" that organization the house and believed the city could be paying to fix it up as an office for the organization. Mayor Athas, despite his insistence at the March 3, 2014, council meeting, appeared to have done nothing to correct the misinformation. Athas and the head of Preservation Garland were longtime political allies. I and others wondered why the mayor himself did not strongly intervene and set the record straight with his ally, the council, and the public.

The Friends group had initiated the group's nonprofit application in Austin, which had to be completed before the IRS would issue the group's 501(c)(3) designation. With my vast background in nonprofits, I knew that after we secured the answers to the three crucial questions, completing the process for tax-exempt nonprofit would be merely a speedy formality. 

On July 31, 2015, Friends organization members Don and Barbara Baynham and Louis and Kay Moore and Preservation Garland representative Jerry Flook met at city hall with Mayor Athas, Councilmember Goebel, and city employee Becky King, and laid out the three crucial questions for response.

At the meeting, the city promised to get back to us soon with answers. 

More than two years later no answers have ever been forthcoming. 

At a later point after our July 31 meeting, the city tried to hire Dallas preservation architect Norman Alston, who grew up in Garland, to develop a plan and cost estimate for the restoration/repairs. He requested $15,000 for his services. Councilmember Goebel nixed that plan—stating that enough city money had been spent on the old house already.

Then, in May 2016 at a Dallas gathering of preservationists, which Kay and I attended, those familiar with the situation in Garland rolled their eyes about the huge concrete, non-historic-looking foundation on which the Tinsley-Lyles had been relocated. At that gathering I also learned—in Dallas, not in Garland, and from a Dallas citizen, not a Garlandite—that when the house had been moved from its trailer behind the Patty Granville Center, a super-important wood pin in the original 14 X 14 log cabin encased in the Tinsley-Lyles House had been broken irrepairably. I wondered why no one in the city had shared that crucial fact with me and others involved with Friends of Garland's Tinsley-Lyles House—or with other interested Garland citizens as well.

Our organizing members had earlier decided not to move forward on further organization or fundraising without first receiving concrete answers to all three questions. 

Individual organizing members had quantifiable success records with fundraising in the past and could have immediately put their hands to the plowshares for this Garland project, but naturally, while the city delayed month after month in providing answers that were necessary to move forward, these organizers' ardor cooled. 

During this time, these hard-working, Garland-loving, organizing members were out elsewhere, raising untold thousands of dollars for other preservation and non-preservation organizations in the Dallas area that they were involved in. The time and energy these talented people expended on other projects easily could have been devoted to the Tinsley-Lyles restoration project. 

These citizens ultimately deemed that their considerable skills were of no consequence to the city and moved on. Eventually the Friends of the Tinsley-Lyles House organization died on the vine for lack of support from the city and its leaders.

Meanwhile, the house has been allowed to sit on its high-up perch un-restored, becoming a haven for homeless who lived underneath it—eventually prompting the expenditure of more city funds to build interim solutions to protect the home from the possibility of vandalism and perhaps even an accidental fire. 

Preservation Garland Inc. finally attempted a fundraiser that did not draw the hoped-for participation and dollar amounts. No exact amount was released of what was raised nor of how much of city funds were expended to support the failed fundraiser. The group has tried a few other small fundraising efforts with uncertain success.

So, there the house sits to this day—an endangered remnant of the city's dwindling historic home inventory. It is an embarrassment that is woefully, pitifully unnecessary.

Next: What options does the city have now for what to do with the Tinsley-Lyles House?

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

A Tale of Two Historic Garland Houses: One a huge national success story, the other an eyesore and a bureaucratic and political quagmire

(First in a series of three)

The Pace House 2017 ready for its home-tour guests

The Tinsley-Lyles House after being lowered onto its tall foundation


This is a tale of two city-owned, vintage Garland houses that reflect a valuable part of the city's story in the early days of its history. 

Four years ago both were threatened with demolition to make way for more apartments near Garland's City Hall. The city was faced with highly publicized crisis about their future.

Today, one house (top picture) is now privately owned. Moved to a new location, it is listed as a "Contributing" structure in Garland's first National Register Historic District, awarded by the U.S. Department of the Interior. Beautifully refurbished, the house now is an income-producing asset for its owners in the near-town Travis College Hill addition. For three years as a residential property, it has produced a commendable amount of tax revenue for the City of Garland.

Annually, at least 500 admirers pour through this dwelling, the Pace House, as part of a public home tour, where guests glimpse an authentic farmhouse from the Texas frontier. Daily, visitors ease up to the curb alongside it at 317 South 11th Street, sometimes appreciatively pausing their cars to take photos. Others stop by on foot as they pass through to their destinations.

Its restoration is featured in an award-winning documentary that has been viewed by many thousands in the U.S. as well as internationally and has brought great acclaim to our city.

The other house (bottom picture), snared four years later in the quagmire of Garland city politics, represents a boondoggle. City Councilmember Anita Goebel of District 2 once estimated that the City of Garland has already shelled out about $330,000 on the dwelling. Recently, the Garland city manager's office released figures showing the total to be $316,028.18. Earlier Anita and other councilmembers signed off on a city appropriation of $179,000 for the project. Now the mayor, some city councilmembers, and other city officials are wanting to spend another $75,000 just to begin the process of restoring the house. Nobody knows for sure what the total cost eventually will be. Nor have they said publicly how the house will be used.

This second house, the Tinsley-Lyles House, is situated near the downtown Garland Central Public Library next to the city's railroad car and depot occupied by the Landmark Society, which focuses on maintaining photographs, files, and other records and memorabilia of Garland's past. The Tinsley-Lyles House was built by William A. Tinsley in the latter part of the 1800s and was purchased by R.H. Lyles in 1902. Moved from its original site at Austin and First Streets, it is one of Garland's oldest remaining dwellings.

Today, the Tinsley-Lyles House sits boarded up and is subject to decay while city staff members struggle to keep homeless residents out and hope and pray a fire never occurs there. Its dilapidated condition regularly prompts questions, "What is going to be done with that house?" visible from the rail line, Main Street, and other significant rapidly improving, visual parts of Downtown Garland.

The Tinsley-Lyles House is NOT situated in the new Downtown Garland National Register Historic District (mostly the Downtown Square and some buildings surrounding it). Where it sits now, it has little to no chance of ever being added to the National Register of Historic Places. Its foundation was built up artificially high because it sits over a box culvert—prompting jokes and snickers about the not-so-historic, oversized foundation. Historic preservation architects in Dallas laughingly say when the house is eventually moved again, the current massive concrete foundation should be converted into a new but small city coliseum. Others not-so-jokingly say it could be a new city swimming pool.

The bottom line is, the Tinsley-Lyles House is an eyesore, a mess, a bureaucratic quagmire, a political hot spot—and sits begging for the community to come together, set aside petty partisan politics, and find a workable solution that will lift it above the fray. The key question is, can it ever be something meaningful for the city's inner core that will help draw people to the downtown area?

In the next column, I will address "How Did the City of Garland Get into This Mess Anyway?", and then in a third and final column, "How Does the City of Garland Get Out of This Boondoggle?"

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

"Saving Magic 11th Street" now available on YouTube and on DVDs

I am pleased to share with my readers that the 25-minute documentary, Saving Magic 11th Street, is now available on YouTube. That link is below.

As requested, we also have DVDs available for $5.00 each plus $3.00 shipping for those who prefer this method of viewing the documentary. Please call me at 800-747-0738, ext. 1, for more details.


Monday, April 11, 2016

Renewal, history, civic call-to-arms combine in trailblazing documentary with message for all

Garland's South 11th Street--oh, wasn't that the place that got the Pace House?

Isn't that where the neighbors had the street closed?

A Texas Historical Marker--didn't one get installed there last year?

Aren't a bunch of pretty restored homes situated there?

Many people by now may have heard something about our little street--only two blocks long at its core in the Travis College Hill historic district. But they may not know the full picture about how ridding the town of "Marijuana Avenue" (our nickname for a portion of West Avenue C that ran by our house) relates to historic preservation in an area that one sympathetic official once identified as "going nowhere" and that another community leader once called "that slum". Or how a major neighborhood re-invention was kick-started when Garland's Pace House was featured in Time Inc.'s 1.1 million-circulation This Old House magazine.

And how in the world did two retirement-age folks whose daily calendar now is governed by grandkids' carpools get so deeply involved in all of this—something so far removed from our globe-trotting days as journalists with a keen interest in all things religious?

 And what about this would be considered "magic", anyway? 

 All of those questions and more are answered in a new 25-minute documentary video, Saving Magic 11th Street, slated to premiere free at 2 p.m. Friday, April 22, at Garland's Plaza Theater on the city's historic downtown Square. The video will then be played continuously in the parlor of one of the 103-year-old homes (401 S. 11th Street) in Travis College Hill during the noon to 5 p.m. Saturday, April 23, historic home tour. Both events are part of Garland's 125th "birthday party" Heritage Celebration.

Afterward we plan to share the short film with troubled neighborhoods, wannabe historic districts, and other interested parties all across Texas and the U.S. that we believe need to hear the call-to-arms message the documentary has to offer.

Many neighborhoods in lots of cities across our country—and even overseas—could benefit from lessons we and our resourceful neighbors have learned—and the skills we all have developed—along the way as we watched, at first helplessly, as our beloved neighborhood slipped from respect and honor into neglect and abuse and then moved back again to well-deserved honor and regard in our community today.

As Garland Mayor Douglas Athas throws out the gauntlet on camera so aptly, "If it can happen here, it can happen anywhere." The principles are the same, though the geographic locations may vary!

This is a "neighborhood documentary" like few others you will ever have the opportunity to see. It shows a special glimpse of what can happen when resourceful neighbors, responsible government entities, and others who "get it" cooperate in such an ambitious civic venture. It features duplicatable how-to's for taking your neighborhood back, insights from citizens and city leaders, lavish aerial footage, and glimpses of past glory days that will strike a deep chord with many recalling their own hometowns. It shows the concurrent track between Travis College Hill's refurbishment and the downtown Garland rebirth just blocks away. 

A documentary of this caliber and magnitude would be too costly for us, or for other average citizens, to produce, despite high intentions. To hire an outside firm to chronicle such detailed and personal highlights over a three-year period of time while these events were taking shape would have had a price tag into the stratosphere.

But our son, Matthew J. Moore, whose work-life has been blessed with some exceptional professional opportunities, has been deeply committed to following and telling this phenomenal story, though he lives two states away. Thanks to his video-production talents (and those of his sweet-spirited colleagues), plus his devotion to his parents and to the memory of his grandparents (11th Street residents for nearly 50 years), Kay and I have had to invest only a modest sum for this magnificent short film. We have no intention whatsoever of ever even trying to earn back our costs.

The video is our gift to all the Garland movers and shakers, past and present—including mayors, city councilmembers, a Dallas County commissioner, a school-board president, doctors, preachers, school administrators, postmasters, small-business owners, and many others but especially to Kay's parents, J.D. and Mable Wheeler—who ever lived in Travis College Hill or who will come after us in this quaint 103-year-old vintage neighborhood.

It is also our gift to all the citizens of Garland who live in an aging, inner-ring Dallas community facing numerous hurdles as the city tries to reinvent itself for a brighter tomorrow alongside many other competitor-cities in the DFW Metroplex who are striving—sometimes with more wealth and resources—for the same thing.

Please join us for the premiere at 2 p.m. on Friday, April 22, at the Plaza Theater (the beautifully spruced-up movie house where, incidentally, my wife watched Saturday-afternoon flickers during her childhood)—and then participate with us in trumpeting forth the message that decay and ultimately the wrecking ball aren't the best answers for aging neighborhoods and downtown areas.

This renewal project has made us better citizens. We believe viewers will become better for having learned about it.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Like Historic Home Tours? Then please put April 11 in Garland's Travis College Hill on your calendar

Excited about April 11 and racing like crazy to get things company-ready! Hope you'll put this event on your calendar--noon to 5 p.m., with a 3 p.m. ceremony awarding our Interurban Land Company's Travis College Hill neighborhood's Texas Historical Marker.