It is almost impossible to describe what it feels like to actually visit Walnut Place, the former Crespi Estate, as it was christened by owners Thomas O. and Cinda Hicks. But we were fortunate indeed to tour the 35,275 square foot (67,689 including terraces) estate for a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The most expensive home in Dallas is now on the market with both Allie Beth Allman and David Nichols of the brokerage bearing Allie Beth’s name. The home had previously been marketed by Doug Newby, who’s methodology had been to keep it highly exclusive and restrictive — few Dallas area agents were actually ever inside the home. That could be because Doug thought the buyer would come from outside of Dallas. He did have the estate plastered on every private jet publication out there. Until now, it has not been in the MLS.
Last Thursday, the extraordinary Preston Hollow estate was opened to the agents of Allie Beth Allman to tour for the very first time. Everyone was absolutely breathless. The drive-up as you turn into the graceful private gates at 10000 Hollow Way is more like driving through the French countryside to a fabulous chateaux deep in the heart of the forest. You are on 25.25 acres but you are seconds from the Dallas North Tollway entrance and about a seven minute drive to downtown Dallas with minimum traffic. Office in Preston Center and you could even walk –it’s 4 miles! Midland — well, just another 5 hours west!
The drive splits, forking to the right and left. The two circles culminate in the entrance to the crushed limestone auto courtyard. It is here the original Crespi Estate, designed by Maurice Fatio, was situated on the rambling acreage for the best possible siting: the drive pulls you into another world of pastoral escape, all of which is viewable from the estate. The estate overlooks a forest of trees and a creek which runs through the property. There are meadows and trails, a year-round pond, a helipad with a lighted landing pad that is covered with grass when not in use to maintain the natural aesthetic. There are two courtyards lined with 16 magnolia trees each, a greenhouse, formal rose garden, lighted tennis court, and a 1500 foot deep well was drilled on the property and that water is then purified to water the estate grounds.
You enter the estate though an ornamental steel front door. You will enter into the original Crespi estate that was built in 1938. The addition, completed by John Sebastian, flows completely seamlessly from the original mansion to the new. I’m told the Hicks did not just add more limestone to their exterior renovation, they went to the actual quarry in Indiana that had supplied the original limestone back in the 1930’s. They re-opened it and excavated stone from the same terra for the absolute utmost chance of a perfect match. Stones, as you know, can be like fabrics and no two are ever 100% alike. A Corian technique of light sandblasting was used to match the new Indiana limestone to the old original, perhaps remove the “newness”.
The home is amazingly balanced and perfectly symmetrical. It begins with the marble floored gallery hall running the girth of the main house.
Walk in to the right and there is the formal dining room, generously sized, but not overpoweringly so. The Oak Chevron patterned floors have a dark ebony finish and were imported from France. In this room is a most amazing juxtaposition of contemporary art to a classically traditional home. The dining table is large, but there is room enough for a cozy secondary table. The walls are lacquer with a high-glossed finish with ornamental plaster accents.
A word about the renovation. The Hicks bought the estate in 1997 and gave Mrs. Crespi a life estate on the property, but work on the home did begin. (We will have more posts from Nancy Smith, who recalls countless parties at the Crespi Estate prior to the sale.) The renovation took place from 2000 to 2003 – 33 months to complete. At times there were 250 people per day working on the estate. The detail of the work is unbelievable — the dentils in the intricate, hand-carved ceiling moldings, the 30 coats of automotive lacquer paint on the chocolate-colored walls of the back corridors, the classic gracefulness everywhere.
This wing holds the Breakfast Room, floored with imported French wood in an intricate pattern. The kitchen is also surprisingly cozy for a home of this magnitude. But it is as efficient as the finest commercial gourmet kitchen. There are antique French terra cotta floors, backsplash tiles of 17th century manganese purchased at auction over a period of three years, two sinks, four ovens, a ten-foot long La Corneu Diva range stove that runs about $65,000 with commercial grade fans, and European tile backsplash. The kitchen cabinet millwork is flawless and the finish is glazed. There is linen behind the glass door cabinets. From the tiles, there is imported European limestone in the hallway leading from the kitchen to the Conservatory.
The Conservatory was added new during the renovation. It has marble floors and limestone fireplace mantels, and those floors are heated by running hot water tubes imbedded below the marble.
Adjacent to the kitchen is the breakfast room and the Butlery, another well-sized room with a center dining table, more counters matching the kitchen finishes, another sink and commercial refrigeration. The antique floors in this room are from France, and the walls and ceilings are hand-stenciled. This room is for more cozy, casual dining, or for children and nannies.
The family room is also warm and beckoning, with dark ebony finish floors on wide oak, stenciled raffia walls and concealed doors near the entrance. Those perfectly recessed doors are but one example of the detailed, man-made perfection that has gone into this home and is evident in every room.
The library, half of which was in the original estate, has paneling dating back to 1820 that was imported from France. The room is one of Marino’s crowning glories. The ventilation grilles in the entire home are custom, and happen to be bronze, as is the detail on the fireplace. The famous green and silver bar is completely original from the Crespi Estate, but the walls have been newly silver-leafed.
The living room is entirely new, very spacious. This was where the Hicks hosted an event for former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani years ago, when he considered a run for the White House. It is floored in antique hardwoods imported from France with walls that are two feet deep in thickness. The living room overlooks a wooded courtyard with an elegant fountain. An original parlor was taken down to the studs and turned into a private office for Mr. Hicks with double televisions built right to the metal frames of the walls.
The first floor contains a butler’s pantry, a full laundry, a flower room, loggia and the two garages.There are a total of eight garage spaces, seven are usable (the eighth space is more of a motorcycle bay). There is also a woodshop.
The crowning glory of the second floor is the 3,000 square foot master bedroom wing with entry vestibule, and the Crespi Estate ribbon design on the doors. The master bedroom has an antique fireplace surrounded by slate, and separate his and her bathrooms as well as dressing rooms. The lady’s bath resplendent with Sherle Wagner, the gentleman’s bath with the most beautiful book-matched marble. There are two dressing areas each for the lady and gentleman of the house — “her’s” has mercury glass panels and pleated fabric closet doors to protect clothing, plus a personal lady’s study with an antique honed cut marble fireplace. His has a “Spogliatoio” — that is, a combo formal dressing/casual sports room for men made of Honduran mahogany paneling hand-waxed in French polish. The master also has a sitting area and a terrace.
The second floor contains four more en suite bedrooms and baths, each with dressing rooms, and another laundry room.
The third floor holds an exercise room, a massage room and bath with steam shower, two more en suite bedrooms, a trophy room, and three terraces.
The basement level contains several maintenance and storage rooms that run below the house and motor court. There is a wet-bar, a movie theater (not to be confused with the nearly full-sized theater in the Recreation Complex), a mechanical room, a 500 bottle capacity wine storage room kept at a constant 55 degree threshold with alarm if the temperature veers warmer or colder and a case wine storage room. There is also a two-story, two bedroom staff wing (Staff Wing One) with sitting, security, separate laundry room and a large common room with a kitchen. Then another staff wing (Staff Wing Two), with a bedroom and common area with a kitchen
There are a few ancillary buildings on the estate, of course. The most prominent is the Recreational complex which holds a 24 by 47 foot great room with massive beams — the ceiling was fabricated in Austin, the floors are pure Texas limestone, and the commercial industrial kitchen is of stainless steel. Because this complex is where the pool and spa are located, there are both men’s and women’s changing rooms with lockers and showers. The pool is 25 x 35 feet long, making it country club sized. The Recreation Complex also holds a guest bedroom and bath upstairs. The cinema is on the lower level and is seriously about the size of the theater at Highland Park Village — at 25 by 36 feet it holds 19 seats, has a reel projection room and concession counter for candy and popcorn. Framed jerseys hang on the walls, a reminder of when Hicks owned the Texas Rangers, Dallas Stars, the Mesquite Championship Rodeo and the Liverpool F.C. There is another changing room down here as well as a laundry room. The beauty of the location is that the soundtrack can be as loud as a sonic boom and no one will hear it unless they are actually in the theater. The Recreational Complex has a total of three full bathrooms and two half baths.
The guest house can also serve as a “business house” or complex. Or it can comfortably house guests! It has a living room, formal dining room, a secretary support room/office, full kitchen and loggia. The second story has two bedrooms with huge full baths crafted of rare granites and marbles, patterns perfectly matched, dressing rooms, and storage.
There is a family house located near the second gated entrance to the property with four bedrooms, four full baths and one half bath, kitchen and bar, a nearby one bedroom apartment above the two car garage.
As we have said, the restoration of the Crespi Estate was long, arduous and painstaking. The original idea started on a napkin sketch followed by thee years of planning after the home was purchased August 15, 1997. Experts were flown in from around the globe for consultation and execution of the work. The outside frame, center corridors and front staircase in the front of the house are all original from the Crespi Estate and were designed by famed Swiss architect Maurice Fatio, originally built in 1938.
The remainder of the house and complexes were designed and built from the ground up under the guidance of New York based architect and interior designer, Peter Marino. Dallas builder John Sebastian was the contractor and the rebuild took more than 250 people at times to work 7 days a week, three project managers and five superintendents, one for each floor. All masons were commercial, four specialty artists were flown in from New York City and France. Local painters J.C. Martin, Phillip Minton and Tim Baxter plus a team of artisans from France completed the extensive paint finishes. Lighting design was done by Craig Roberts and the Hicks brought in London-based garden designer Arabella Lennox-Boyd as head landscape architect, with Warren Johnson as the contributing architect.
The features are yet another example of the details that make this estate so incredibly special. The doors and windows are all American-made Zeluck windows made of rot-free mahogany wood or metal from Crittall all with UV protection on glass. All the fireplaces have a sophisticated motor system to guarantee that each draws perfectly created by an Oregon specialist, the main house has a commercial elevator that access all three floors and the basements, indoor and outdoor lighting systems are by Lutron and the home was carefully sound engineered: acoustic experts suspended the ceilings so noise could not slip between floors, all mechanical equipment is isolated to mask any possible noise, and all speakers throughout the house are hidden by plastic veneer. You can hear the music but never see from whence it comes.
The home has commercial-grade air conditioning with a four-pipe system, a cooling tower, every A/C grill custom crafted and 35 air handlers. There is a full house generator that would last about 10 to 12 hours. There is a full state of the art security system. The home is also fully fire-sprinkle red with concealed heads on all the 14-foot ceilings.
The sales price is $100 million. It is the most expensive home for sale in Dallas and among the most expensive in the nation. I asked Allie Beth and David two things we all want to know: is any of the artwork for sale and where are the Hicks planning to go?
The art is definitely not for sale, I’m told.
“The Hicks children are grown and have their own homes,” says Allie Beth Allman. “They also spend time at their home in La Jolla but will always maintain a residence in Dallas.”
Photos of the Main House interiors:
Photos of the Guest House interiors:
Photos of the Recreation Complex: