Harlan Crow’s House is Filled With History

Harlan Crow added a library wing to his home along Turtle Creek.
Harlan Crow added a library wing to his home along Turtle Creek. (Photo: Dan Piassick)

Harlan Crow’s Highland Park house is filled with books, manuscripts, and works of art that add up to one of the largest private collections of Americana. But even his house can get rolled.

As a simultaneous celebration of April Fool’s Day and Kathy Crow’s birthday, a group of Park Cities moms toilet-papered the Crow home at 4700 Preston Road on Tuesday night. To hear Harlan tell it, his and Kathy’s 11-year-old daughter was the ringleader of the late-night shenanigans.

“Although we deal with a lot of musty old books, we try to have fun while we’re doing it,” Crow said Wednesday during the Park Cities Historical and Preservation Society’s Distinguished Speaker Luncheon.

Crow spoke at the Dallas Country Club event because his house, and his Americana collection, will be featured on the society’s Historical Home Tour on April 12. Crow said he and Kathy have hosted a number of students and researchers through the years, “so we would love for you guys, our friends and neighbors, to have a chance to be a part of it.”

History buffs who buy tickets that day will certainly get their money’s worth. Crow’s collection includes:

  • A 1493 pamphlet based on Christopher Columbus’ hand-written letter to King Ferdinand. Crow said his copy is one of only 16 known to still exist, and it’s the only one in private hands.
  • One of four known copies, according to Crow, of Amerigo Vespucci’s Mundus Novus, the first published use of the phrase “New World.”
  • William Pierce’s hand-written notes from the Constitutional Convention in 1787.

Crow said his collection is particularly strong in politics and government, and he’s working to strengthen it in the areas of literature, science, and commerce.

“The only thing we don’t collect is Hollywood and sports,” he said, “but sports fans will be interested to know that we do have a Honus Wagner card.”

Crow isn’t sure how exactly the collection of more than 10,000 books and more than 5,000 manuscripts began, but he thinks the genesis may have been when President Herbert Hoover visited his childhood home. Crow’s father, Trammell, gave him the president’s business card, and that was the first piece of Americana he held on to.

Many other occupants of the White House are represented in Crow’s art collection, which includes a portrait of George Washington by Rembrandt Peale as well as paintings by Dwight D. Eisenhower and George W. Bush. His sculpture garden is divided into an “uphill zone for the good guys” (Winston Churchill, Margaret Thatcher, and, in the near future, Ronald Reagan) and a “downhill zone for the bad guys” (Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin, and Mao Zedong).

Crow said people often ask him why he owns the latter group of statues. He said people of his generation will never forget the Cold War, but he wants to make sure that younger people know about the geopolitical struggle.

“If these statues can be utilized as a tool to remind newer generations of the failure of the bad guys and the triumph of the good guys,” he said, “then it’s a lesson worth having.”

6 thoughts on “Harlan Crow’s House is Filled With History

  • April 2, 2014 at 3:26 pm

    This was a great event! The Park Cities really is fortunate to have the PCHPS and many citizens who are dedicated to preserving the history and architecture of the towns. I hate to see original Tudors torn down and I’m sure the 75 realtors in there feel differently because new Mediterranean homes with hand scraped floors or whatever trend happens to be today makes them a bunch of money. Margaret McDermott Cook is now everyone’s idol! Such a darling, spunky little lady.

  • April 2, 2014 at 3:48 pm

    Yes, I neglected to mention that 102-year-old Margaret McDermott, who’s lived in Highland Park since 1919, had a great line. As the luncheon’s honorary chair, she said she supports the Park Cities Historical and Preservation Society because, “Obviously, I am historical, and I obviously believe in preservation.”

  • April 2, 2014 at 5:50 pm

    We could have listened to Harlan Crow for hours. His dedication to preserving history and Americana is important to us all and our future. Mrs. McDermott had a sincere and important message. She was truly touched. It was wonderful!

  • April 3, 2014 at 5:36 am

    A fabulous luncheon listening to Harlen speak about his collection. The Crows have contributed so much to our city including the massive downtown projects. I was fortunate to work for Trammell Crow when he was building and shaping Dallas. Is is a pleasure to see Harlan caring for the city and preserving the old buildings. Mrs was McDermott was a delight adding her appreciation of preservation.

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  • April 12, 2014 at 12:44 pm

    Thank you to Harlan Crow and all the homeowners for opening their homes for the tour. The tour was great, and I look forward to the tour next year.


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