Lael Brodsky is certain that an Ursuline nun named Dormilla haunts her 100-year-old home on Strait Lane. The house, which is adjacent to Ursuline, once housed nuns. It also sheltered Cistercian students during the 1960s, before the school moved to Irving.
“I don’t know if Dormilla died here or sort of lives here,” says Brodsky, who moved into the house a year ago.
“I swear there are lights that don’t turn off. My husband says, ‘I think you just need to change the bulb.’ And I say, ‘No, I just changed the bulb.’ Or someone will say, ‘I thought I just saw you come up the stairs,’ and I’ll say, ‘No I just got home.’ She’s not mean. She’s just sort of protecting the house.”
The Brodsky family moved into the 8,500-square-foot home about nine years after building a modern house designed by Frank Welch in Greenway Parks. Brodsky, a Greenhill graduate, says some people don’t understand why her family moved from a modern abode to a historic home. She says they had no intention of selling the Welch home until they received an offer they couldn’t refuse. The family started the building process again but became discouraged.
“People ask how we went from a contemporary house to a 100-year-old house, but it really is the same. The ceilings are high, and there’s a lot of light. I like this one better. It has a better vibe.”
Brodsky flips lovingly through a photo album of the home and details its history. She points out an Ursuline yearbook that showcases the same fireplace mantel. The home was featured in House Beautiful magazine in October 2001. It was once home to Fred and Jerrie Smith, one of Stanley Marcus’ daughters. The Neiman-Marcus descendants raised five children in the home, including photographer Allison V. Smith, who once scratched her name on the spiral railing.
The Marcus children — and now the Brodsky children — enjoyed playing hide and seek in the home, which has a ladder leading from a first-floor closet to the third floor and lots of nooks and crannies.
Brodsky’s art collection includes a George Tobolowsky statue in the front yard. Interior designer David Cadwallader helped style the home, mixing new pieces with items from the family’s previous home. Two Frank Welch photos from Paris’ Jewish District adorn the wall. Brodsky says they collect both contemporary and traditional pieces.
“We buy what we like,” she says. “We’re not serious.”
Brodsky’s 13-year-old son, a Greenhill student, hosted a sleepover the night before our visit. The boys play Fortnite in the playroom above the garage. The family’s King Charles Spaniels are due to return. A grandfather clock chimes.
“This is a really good entertaining house,” Brodsky says.
DID YOU KNOW?
One of Stanley Marcus’ granddaughters threw her bouquet from the second floor of the house when she was married. Who caught the bouquet? Larry Hagman, according to Allison V. Smith and Roger Horchow.