Buy your very own Southfork
It’s part of the ‘Dallas’ legacy that Irish househunters who would like to channel their inner JR Ewing are now spoiled for choice
IT HAS BEEN called the second-most-famous white house in the US. For a generation, Southfork, the dormer-windowed, colonnaded Ewing family home, symbolised self-made success.
The TV series Dallas infiltrated every aspect of Irish life. Artifice imitated life in the glamour, the wealth, the scheming and the wardrobe malfunctions in the original series, which ran from 1978 to 1991. Now the show is back, and the next generation have been inculcated in the Machiavellian ways of doing business in Texas.
In reality, there were several Southforks. The original house, as seen in just the first five episodes of the show, was the called Box Ranch. It was used for exteriors only and was more decoratively southern in feel. A house on Swiss Avenue in Dallas, which became known as “the Swiss house”, was used for interiors. Filming then switched to a property called Duncan Acres, which has since legally changed its name to Southfork. It’s owned by a resort company, and you can visit and see the gun that shot JR, his ten-gallon hats and cowboy boots, and poison dwarf Lucy Ewing’s wedding dress. Fans can even get married there.
Southfork’s look was easy to emulate – as long as you had plenty of land. Across this country, homeowners paid the TV series the ultimate compliment: they built their houses in the Southfork style. Basic bungalows sprouted pillars, columns and balconies. Planners turned a blind eye to the souped-up builds. (These were the days before the property tax was even a twinkle in the Government’s eye.)
The midlands and the western seaboard are littered with homages to the Dallas house.
One stand-out example of the ranch’s colonnaded flourishes sits on the main street of a west Co Clare village. Its scale and decorative front have earned the property the moniker “Southfork” locally.
There are those who also draw a direct correlation between the broadcasting of Dallas, the original TV show, and the excesses of the Celtic Tiger. If the show had never been screened here, would the “brick barons” ever have conceived of their families breakfasting in an intergenerational fashion by an outdoor swimming pool, as the Ewings did? Might we have saved ourselves a lot of heartache if we had never watched the Ewings’ cowboy antics?
In 1978, Dallas was beamed into the sittingrooms of people who hadn’t heard of mobile phones or the internet, and its 24/7 celebrity updates. It was fadó, fadó before reality TV and Twitter.
The country was in the depths of a recession, and Dallas offered a rush of glamour that went straight to our heads. The lifestyles, the luxury homes and the conspicuous consumption lifted us out of the dark ages, if only for an hour a week. It was pure escapism. It’s part of the Dallas legacy that Irish househunters who would like to channel their inner JR Ewing are now spoiled for choice.
In the new series, Dallas: Revenge Power Family, production designer Richard Berg re-created the original staircase “because it was iconic and what people expect to see in the foyer of Southfork”, he told the website UltimateDallas.com. In reality, there is no upstairs on the set. The upstairs rooms are re-created elsewhere on the sound stages.
It makes sense that a blockbuster like Dallas should be resurrected now. Given the current economic climate, its timing is perfect.