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For some reason, Cosette Faust Newton believed umbrellas were an important element in her fortifications against vandalism. (photo: Highland Park Library)

D Magazine’s 40 Greatest Stories: The Backyard Yacht of Highland Park

The 4000 block of Miramar Avenue looks pretty normal — if “normal” can ever appropriately be used to describe a row of homes in Highland Park. It sits just off Lakeside Drive, with easy access to sickeningly picturesque Lakeside Park and Exall Lake. It’s a block away from Beverly Drive and Dallas Country Club as well.

The Newtons were serious about their property rights.
The Newtons were serious about their property rights.

The homes are a mix of traditional and modern designs, most valued in the $3 million-$4 million range. On the corner, technically on Lakeside, sits the 60th most expensive home in Dallas. At 4004 Miramar, you’ll find the cover model of the July-August 2014 issue of D Homeone of the 10 Most Beautiful Homes in Dallas. Across from that, at 4005, is a fairly unremarkable (by Highland Park standards) house that’s valued at more than $3.1 million, with $2.5 million of that assessed for the land alone.

That lot looked very different 50 years ago, when it was the location of a house belonging to Cosette Faust Newton and her husband Frank. There was much to remark about the place back then. In the early 1960s, it sat largely abandoned, fortified by cement fencing topped by broken glass. In the backyard stood a “mock yacht,” the three-decked S.S. Miramar, built to look like a ship and intended to host glamorous parties. All was in disrepair, and neighborhood kids weren’t shy about trespassing in the place that many thought haunted.

In 1977, China Galland wrote about Cosette Faust Newtown and her “Garden Ship of Dreams. She recounted Cosette’s long battle with Highland Park over her right to keep the S.S. Miramar sailing and of the growing paranoia that led her to transform her home into a fortress. (As well as the ugly side of her eccentricity, when she held a black gardener prisoner in her home.) It’s one of the 40 greatest stories ever published in D Magazine.

Note how Cosette Faust Newton subtly compares her plight to the fight for the Alamo.
Note how Cosette Faust Newton subtly compares her plight to the fight for the Alamo.

The museum that the Newtons opened on Cedar Springs Road after their house was razed is gone now. In its place is the Ashton luxury apartment building. So what we have left of them is photographs and whatever artifacts and books the library has in its collection.

Highland Park doesn’t seem like it’s quite so colorful today. Of course, now the town’s residents are so rich, they’d never bother building a fake boat out back. They’d be more likely to  build a fully operational luxury liner and a small lake to sail her in.