The Historic Alex Camp House
The Camp House, now the headquarters of The Dallas Arboretum & Botanical Society, was originally the home of Alex and Roberta Camp. The home is considered a major work of noted Texas architect, John Staub.
The 22-acre Camp estate was purchased by the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Society in 1980 and given to the City of Dallas in 1990. Together with the 44-acres DeGolyer estate, also owns by the City of Dallas, the two are administered as a single unit but the Dallas Arboretum & Botanical Society.
Roberta Coke Camp was the daughter of Roberta Rosser and Henry C. Coke, a successful Dallas attorney and nephew of Richard Coke, longtime governor of Texas and a United States senator in the late 19th century. Miss Coke married Alex Camp, a real estate developer and city councilman, whose family founded one of the first banks in Dallas.
About 1930, the Camps purchased a large tract of land overlooking what was then a rural setting by White Rock Lake. After considering several prominent architects, they chose John Staub, of Houston, to design their new home. Staub is probably Texas' most famous residential architect, and the Camp House is his best-known Dallas work. It was completed in 1938 at a cost of about $80,000.
The house is a harmonious combination of Latin Colonial, English Regency, and Art Deco architecture. It is asymmetrically balanced, with a thin, two-story block which is eccentrically pierced by a shallow-gabled bay and a long, one story appendage. The house's sand-surfaced brick and its metal roof provide a contrast in surface finish. It is one-room deep throughout, with all rooms except the bathrooms having three or four exposures. This arrangement permits wonderful vistas and penetration by breezes. Most windows run from floor to ceiling and slide into side pockets.
After Mrs. Camp's death, the estate was transferred to several artistic and charitable organizations with no specific use for the property, leaving its future uncertain. The house was essentially abandoned. The structure was vandalized and otherwise damaged by neglect until a Society board member intervened.
The Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Society was negotiating with the City of Dallas in 1978-79, to develop a botanical garden at the DeGolyer estate. Board member Ralph B. Rogers, then chairman of Texas Industries, learned that the Camp Estate was to be sold and possibly divided into residential or commercial lots. He purchased the entire property and helped the note until it could be paid by the Society. When this was accomplished in 1982, the Camp and DeGolyer Estates were combined to become The Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden.
A major task facing the society was the full-scale restoration of the Camp House and grounds. General clean-up began in 1979, but the restoration was more cosmetic than structural. The complete restoration cost some $850,000.
Today, the Camp House provides offices for the Society and space for many of its meetings, lectures, workshops and special events. The main level and veranda area, when available, may be rented for appropriate meetings, wedding, receptions and similar occasions.
The restoration of one of Dallas' finest homes was made possible by a major grant from the Eugen McDermott Foundation of Dallas.