Keeping Little Forest Hills weird: a spike in quirky yards
Photograph by Jessica Turner.
There’s a special neighborhood in east Dallas that has it all: pretty hills, mature trees, charming cottages, and lawns adorned with giant giraffe artwork and huge gumball machines. Oh, did you expect topiary and unusually green grass? Sorry, this is Little Forest Hills, and residents live up to their motto “stay funky”.
Spoil yourself and cruise this area bordered by Garland Road, Lakeland, Eustis and Old Gate. Formerly agricultural land and woods, the 1910 construction of White Rock Lake nearby stimulated the development of small houses and cottages by the lake. By the end of the 1950s, most of the lots had been built. The 1980s saw an influx of artists drawn to the area’s natural beauty, affordability, and proximity to the lake.
Walk down any street in Little Forest Hills and feel the bohemian vibe. Animal art abounds: the aforementioned giraffe, of course, as well as cranes, lizards, a rooster, a horse, a pig and a cow with long horns. You’ll even spot the elusive Bigfoot.
All types of art dot the neighborhood. Joe Stokes, a 23-year-old resident, knows a thing or two about it. You can’t miss its place in San Benito. Just look for the bright yellow bottle door.
“When I first moved into the house I started picking up concrete and stones that were thrown to build a serpentine wall around the front of the property because I love the walls. He said. “Then I thought, ‘What is a wall without a door? I also thought it would add a touch of whimsy as well as security.
Fantasy, of course. The portal evolved over the years until its yellow. It is topped by a gable covered with a mosaic scene of a man overlooking a village at night. Peek just past the door and through the trees to spot a bright blue mosaic on the gable end of Stokes’ house.
Most eye-catching of all are the several dozen Topo Chico bottles mounted all around and at the top of the door, creating a halo effect.
“For a while my girlfriend and I drank nothing but burp water,” he says. “I collected bottles thinking that one day I could build a bottle wall or a bottle tree. Instead, I created my bottle holder. I later learned that bottle trees are supposed to ward off evil from those who pass nearby. My gate being the main passage leading to the entrance of my house, everyone who enters is cleaned.
Another must-see item – one that began his quirky garden artistic quest – is a 10-foot-diameter metal coil, which Stokes rescued from an old shopping center. He drove it home in his old Toyota pickup, convinced it belonged to his backyard.
Make sure to look for one of his favorite pieces: a Talavera Frog on the Roof.
A A few streets down on Groveland you will undoubtedly spot the shaded corner lot with a giant gumball machine in front and in the center in the courtyard with a line of blue, green, purple and red bowling balls serving as a border. Welcome to the art explosion that is the home of Laurie and David MacIver, who lived in Small forest hills for 13 years.
The MacIvers admit they are not above what they call “treasure hunting.” For them, a bulky trash day equates to artistic inspiration. A box of old bottles and a random metal rack? Why, yes, this could be the makings of a wind chime. Three rows of colorful bottles, strung at varying lengths, capture the breeze and the light.
Look just beyond this beautiful room to see the two giant dragonflies perched on the fireplace of the house.
“I saw a post from someone making dragonflies out of stair railings and bed poles [for the body] and I started making the ones with fan blades as the wings, ”says David MacIver. “The first art we did was stained glass. We had a neighbor who is a retired stained glass artist who donated his leftover glass. We took it and created our own windows.
Adding to the couple’s glass art collection are David’s clever creations made with old window frames filled with antique crockery, such as dishes, ashtrays and plates. The spaces are filled with glass marbles.
“We love the feedback we get from neighbors telling us this is their favorite home in the neighborhood,” he says. “They are driving home specifically by our house to see what new we have.”
The artistic spirit is alive and well in these quiet, shady streets, and Stokes sums it up well: “If you’re looking for uniformity, monotony, keep going. You won’t find it here. People here know what they’re getting into. Keep Little Forest Hills funky.
PATTI VINSON is a guest writer who has lived in East Dallas for over 20 years. She has written for Advocate magazine and Real Simple.