An Exclusive Look Inside the DeGolyer Mansion
Posted March 9th, 2012 | by The Update
Inside The DeGolyer Mansion, a landmark luxury property on the Dallas Arboretum grounds.
The DeGolyer Mansion is an unobtrusive, one-level Spanish Colonial home, built in 1939 just above the shores of White Rock Lake. Blending harmoniously into the surrounding landscape, the architecture was purposefully designed to appear a century old. Most locals are familiar with the structure because it’s nestled within one of our most notable landmarks, the Dallas Arboretum. It is doubtful, though, that even a majority of the half-million visitors touring the property each year recognize this gem.
The DeGolyer haven shelters a rich history. Deemed the father of applied geophysics, Renaissance man, Everette L. DeGolyer, was born poor in a sod hut but became one of the most renowned geologists in the world and died a multi-millionaire. His impressive list of accomplishments and honors, rank him among scientific giants such as Edison, Westinghouse and Bell. However, one of his greatest achievements was courting the love of his life, Nell Goodrich DeGolyer. Behind many a great man is a great woman, and it’s entirely possible that the flourishing legacy of the DeGolyer residence belongs to her.
Nell was also a strategic thinker and visionary who began college at fifteen and earned both a music degree and a bachelor of arts. While supporting her husband’s career, she explored Europe, raised four children and still made time to assist The League of Women Voters, among many other civic and political endeavors. In addition, overseeing the construction and decoration of her 21,000 square foot home was an admirable feat. Rancho Encinal, her pride and joy, along with the notable gardens surrounding the home, became the foundation for elite social gatherings, meaningful community events and influential business dinners. The estate was eventually purchased by the City of Dallas and every effort was made to preserve this historical treasure. But years of public events and tours took its toll, and it came time for a revival. The task would require respect for the property’s history, along with a distinguished sense of style and considerable knowledge about converting a private residence into a commercial venue, all while maintaining its original intimacy and warmth.
Emily Summers Design Associates was tapped to do the job as the team had just completed a successful remodel of the Alex Camp House, also on the property. Social powerhouse Margaret McDermott, who was close to the DeGolyer family, requested her designer friend extend her expertise to the mansion. Summers says she was “honored” to secure the project. Although the entire house needed attention, Summers insists the sound foundation left for her made the project easier, explaining that the DeGolyers were “visionary clients who brought together a great team (from the start).” Following the guidelines of the National Register of Historic Places, Summers and her associates mined the past for inspiration. The firm studied remaining furniture styles and perused documents on previous paint colors and floor plans. The designers were careful only to make changes that would support and amplify the original beauty of each room.
The result is a perfect study in elegance. The welcoming foyer draws guests in with great expectation — the tinkling of crystal and fine silver seems just out of earshot. The natural light, regal tapestries and well-oiled antiques relay a cheerful spirit. Soft, glowing walls provide a subtle backdrop for the substantial wooden case pieces and luxurious upholstery. This mood is especially enjoyable in Mr. DeGolyer’s beloved library, a setting appropriate for casual cocktails with guests or curling up with a book next to a roaring fire. Warm, earthy hues are livened by an energizing red, humanizing what could be a large, impersonal space. This color palette extends to each public room, supporting a pleasing visual flow. The formal living area boasts handsome, carved woodwork and a stunning octagonal coffered ceiling. Yet, this parlor is far from pretentious, as Summers’ group incorporated generous lamplight providing softly illuminated gathering areas.
The most intimate wing includes a private sitting area, master bedroom and dressing area. Here, the colors cool to garden greens, complimentary to the deep scarlet used before. The lovely grounds are invited inside with airy floral fabrics and a trellis patterned carpet. Each composition illustrates the art of preserving negative space. The editing and paring down is cleanly evident in the serene interior landscape. The experience can only be matched by the elaborate natural masterpiece just outside the doors. The tour is not complete without a brief respite in the attached Restaurant DeGolyer, where guests can enjoy traditional high tea service and a bit of bubbly, much the way they would have at one of the DeGolyer’s frequent gatherings. Cheers to our city’s history, the legacy of its fine families and to preserving architectural treasures that continue to celebrate the community that binds us all.
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