Charles Stevens Dilbeck

 

From 1932 to 1970, Charles Stevens Dilbeck (1907- 1990) designed more than 600 houses in the Dallas area that are appreciated for their welcoming presence and romantic design.

Dilbeck’s style cannot be summed up in one genre, as his work reflects varied styles that include French farmhouses, as well as Tudor, Spanish and Colonial Revival characteristics. What was popular about Dilbeck’s projects was his ability to blend and adapt historical styles to create a form of Eclecticism giving his houses a Dilbeck style uniqueness.

Born in Oklahoma, Dilbeck attended Oklahoma A&M (Oklahoma State University). After two years of school he began designing houses at the age of 20 for wealthy Tulsa businessmen. In the late 1920’s, when Tulsa commissions declined with the depression, Dilbeck moved to Dallas which was seeing economic growth thanks to the discovery of oil in East Texas. It was in Dallas that he opened his business in Highland Park Village.

Famous for his rough-hewn architecture, Dilbeck widely employed the use of plaster, wood and stone that are reminiscent of Old Europe. His designs often include details such as turrets, balconies, multiple chimneys and decorative brickwork that create an appealing Romantic design. His trademark details include asymmetrical massing, soaring windows, prominent chimneys, dovecotes and brick corbelling over primary windows.

Dilbeck differed from many architects of his time in that he did not design with only one style or work solely for the rich. His architectural approach ranged from small cottages, to large houses to roadside motels, which made him a master of manipulating styles. Dilbeck’s projects have been defined as “informal and whimsical,” characteristics rarely reflected in serious architecture. His portfolio included commissioned estate houses in Preston Hollow and Bluffview, but the majority of his work fulfilled the middle-class American dream of homeownership employing creativity and going beyond the traditional red brick box.

As well as commissioned work, Dilbeck also worked with developers to design entire subdivisions. In addition, he designed and built the newly restored Belmont Hotel located on Ft. Worth Avenue in Oak Cliff. Another pocket of his work remains in Cochran Heights, east of Central Expressway. One of the largest remaining concentrations of Dilbeck architecture remains in the Loma Linda area in Highland Park. In fact, the intersection of Douglas and Shenandoah is known as Dilbeck Four Corners because an example of his work remains on each corner.

Works Cited:

  • Patterson, Jann. Charles Dilbeck: The Romantic Eclectic. Dallas. Preservation Dallas. 2006.
  • Preservation Dallas. Homes of Charles Stevens Dilbeck: A Private Tour. Dallas. 1997.
 
Text by: Allyson Armstrong and Laura Flores
Edited by: Michael Hazel