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Peggy Heinkel-Wolfe - DRC

Advocate receives honors

Profile image for By Peggy Heinkel-Wolfe / Staff Writer
By Peggy Heinkel-Wolfe / Staff Writer

Dolores Vann sat in the comfiest easy chair at Greg and Jane Naugher’s house and waited for her scoop of vanilla, even though she didn’t get the same formal invitation to the Denton neighborhood’s ice cream social that her neighbors did.

More than 50 neighbors in the Oak-Hickory Historic District stuffed themselves into the kitchen and family room Sunday afternoon and pulled out all the stops to honor Vann. Between a proclamation from Mayor Chris Watts and a certificate of commendation from the Denton County Historical Commission, neighbors made sure Vann knew they appreciated the footwork she did to get the district established.

Vann researched the history of the old homes in the “Silk Stocking” district and wrote articles about them to help educate the community in the 1970s. Some business leaders and city officials opposed her advocacy to protect the homes, telling her that she stood in the way of progress.

“The city wouldn’t take care of us at all,” Vann said. “It cost me my health, but it was worth it.”

Vann and her husband, Don Vann, bought their home, a grand, red brick Georgian revival on Oak Street in 1967. The couple lived on Hillcrest Street and had looked at the house when it went on the market.

Dolores Vann didn’t think her husband knew that she would go back over to Oak and park every Wednesday night to look at the house and dream. One day, as she was planning a birthday party for one of her children, her husband came home and asked if she wanted to go look at houses again.

“I told him, ‘I’m up to my ears in a birthday party. I can’t go now,’” she said. But he persuaded her.

Pretending he was lost, they ended up at the red brick house. He teased her, she said, saying “let’s see if the door is open.”

It was locked. Then, he handed her a big red key and told her, “It’s yours.”

The neighborhood saw again recently that threats to historic preservation don’t go away.

The renovation of a historic home on Bell Avenue last year remains controversial as the owners try to reach a final compromise with the city and its Historic Landmark Commission.

The renovation of another home on Oak touched off more concerns this year about the quality of communication between the city and its historic neighborhoods.

The city has three residential districts for historic preservation: the Oak-Hickory Historic District, the West Oak Historic District and the Bell Avenue Conservation District.

The Oak-Hickory neighbors got together Sunday, not only to have ice cream but also to take other collective steps to improve the neighborhood, according to Randy Hunt, who with his wife, Annetta Ramsay, helped organize the event.

Hunt announced that the district has been approved for a neighborhood grant to install new, historic-looking street lights.

The district brought plans for five new poles on Oak first, Hunt said, with plans to put historic-looking lights on Hickory Street next. Then, the group will make plans for lights on the district’s side streets.

The $10,000 grant still must be approved by the city manager, according to Katia Boykin, senior planner for the city. But once that approval goes through, the neighborhood, which pledged a match for the project, will help buy the light poles and bases.

Denton Municipal Electric will contribute the acorn-shaped lamps and the labor to install the fixtures, according to spokesman Brian Daskam.

The city has been using neighborhood grants to make small improvements — such as the downtown “Little d” bike racks and the community garden at Evers Park Elementary School — and to foster leadership that helps protect neighborhoods.

The City Council is expected to meet in a work session today to discuss whether it needs an ad hoc committee to work with the Historic Landmark Commission and planning staff on issues that affect historic preservation.

PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881 and via Twitter at @phwolfeDRC.