Fort Worth City Council members voted to approve Texas Wesleyan University’s request to remove the historic designation from the old Dillow House, allowing the university to raze the delapidated building.
Council members Joel Burns and Frank Moss voted no. Councilman Dennis Shingleton said he supported TWU’s request, but recused himself from the vote because his son is the university’s head basketball coach.
Several neighborhood and historic preservation leaders spoke against the TWU request, saying it set a bad precedent.
The city’s Historic Landmarks Commission last summer voted down TWU’s request for permission to demolish the Dillow House, in the path of a planned university development. The university then asked the city’s Zoning Commission to remove the historic designation from the property, winning that vote in January and pushing the case before the council.
“We are dismayed by the process being used to remove the historic designation on the Dillow House,” Jerre Tracy, executive director of Historic Fort Worth, Inc., told council members.
Fred Slabach, Texas Wesleyan president, told council members the university has a well-known commitment to preserving its historic buildings, but the Dillow House “simply is not feasible to repair.”
Councilwoman Kelly Allen Gray, who represents the Polytechnic area, moved to approve the university’s request, noting the importance of TWU’s development plans to the neighborhood’s revitalization.
“Our goal is always to preserve history,” she said. “We always lean to the experts in this area,. but sometimes in reality, history and progress collide, and I think this is one of those times.”
Burns, who represents the Near South Side, asked council members to commit to tightening up the city’s historic preservation ordinance.
The prairie-style house, near East Rosedale Street and Vaughn Boulevard, was built by Samuel Dillow, a grocer and banker who lived in the two-story, 3,500-square-foot home until he died in 1931. His daughter, Audrey Dillow, graduated from Wesleyan and donated the house to the university in 1979. She lived there until her death in 1982.
Wesleyan used the house, which received a historic designation in 1990, as its alumni headquarters and a meeting place until 2007. It has been vacant since then and deteriorated after being damaged by two fires.
But the university plans to develop a new office building for the Central Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church on its campus and needs the Dillow House property for a new campus entryway.
About 25 employees from the conference office on the city's near west side will move to the new 15,000-square-foot building at Wesleyan, Slabach has said.
- Scott Nishimura, Star-Telegram Fort Worth City Hall reporter