Blueprints and Bitewings: Meet the Designing Dentist

Fort Worth has many fine houses designed by prominent architects such as Sanguinet and Staats, Messer, Hedrick, Clarkson, Weinman, Pelich. But today we look at a special case: houses designed—and built—by an amateur architect, a man trained in dental molding, not dentil molding.

Michael Joseph Bisco was born in Austria in 1877, came to the United States in 1887, graduated from the Chicago School of Dental Surgery in 1905, moved to Fort Worth from Mineral Wells via Hereford by at least 1910, became prominent in local and state dental organizations.

bisco 1915By 1915 Dr. Bisco was regularly placing small ads for his dental practice in the Star-Telegram.

bisco 20 census

bisco 1920By 1920, although Bisco still listed himself in the census as a dentist, he was developing a sideline: real estate. (The Cheltenham addition [1920] is north of the Berkeley addition [1924].)

bisco 29 cd dentist

Dr. Bisco continued his dental practice in the Medical Arts Building, but by 1926 he was designing and building speculative houses in upscale neighborhoods: Park Hill, Monticello, Cheltenham, Ryan Place. In fact, in 1929 he lived on Winton Terrace in Park Hill with wife Pearl and son Jack. Dr. Bisco’s designs reportedly were based on sketches that Pearl made as the couple traveled. By then Clarkson, Hedrick, Pelich et al. may well have felt thusly about Dr. Bisco: “Hey, Doc. Stop with the architecture already. You don’t see us filling cavities, do you?”

bisco 10-14-27 handoutIn its October 14, 1927 issue, the Handout of Texas Woman’s College reported that Dr. Bisco had conducted “a group of students through homes in an exclusive section of the city.” He surely had designed and built those houses.

bisco 27 ad no artBy 1927 Dr. Bisco was gaining a reputation as a “builder of better built homes.”

bisco 30 censusIndeed, by the 1930 census Bisco listed his occupation as builder.

Several Bisco houses survive (albeit remodeled), especially in Colonial Hills and Park Hill:

bisco 38 2405 MCE2405 Medford Court East.

bisco 38 2440 MCE2440 Medford Court East.

bisco 41 2421 colonial2421 Colonial Parkway in Colonial Hills.

bisco 41 2425, 2409 colonial parkway panel2425 and 2409 Colonial Parkway in Colonial Hills. Note that the deed card for 2425 lists Bisco and his wife and, in 1945, Walter R. Humphrey, who was editor of the Fort Worth Press.

In 1940 Dr. Bisco built a house at 2448 Colonial Parkway for Milton Glazer, son of Jo Glazer, who founded the Uncle Jo Beverage Company on East Lancaster.

The house has been modified.

Here are some more of Dr. Bisco’s houses:

2328 Medford Court West in Park Hill (1927).

2336 Medford Court West in Park Hill (1927). The two on Medford Court are side by side.

2801 6th Avenue in Ryan Place (1926).

2229 Winton Terrace West in Park Hill (1927), not far from the murder-tinged William P. Clark house.

house bisco 2417 medford w 19292417 Medford Court West (1929).

house bisco 2900 6th 19282900 6th Avenue (1928). Built for Lionel Bevan, president of The Fair department store.

bisco 39 monticello own house

bisco house 3661 monticello 1939 utalIn 1939 Bisco built this house for himself at 3661 Monticello Drive in Monticello. He designed and built two other houses on that street in 1929 and 1931. Note the ribbon driveway. (Photo from University of Texas at Arlington Library.)

bisco monticelloThe ribbon driveway has been repoured, the front porch has been remodeled, and trees now provide shade for Dr. Bisco’s Monticello house.

Pearl Bisco died in 1935. Dr. Bisco and his second wife moved to Louisiana in the 1950s. Michael Joseph Bisco, the designing dentist, died in Mississippi in 1959.

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9 Responses to Blueprints and Bitewings: Meet the Designing Dentist

  1. Judy Alter says:

    Great article, Mike. As someone who lived in Park Hill and raised my kids there, I loved it. Like a nostalgia trip, except I never knew a dentist designed all those familiar houses.

  2. Suzanne Hammond says:

    I posted on Billy Joe’s site about my grandparents’ Adams home at 1941 Chatburn Court…a beautiful Tudor that I loved to visit…lots of nooks & crannies, a floor furnace with a huge grate that I loved to sit on in the winter, a detached garage with an apt over it…so many great memories…just loved it…it has been beautifully renovated as of several years ago…

  3. Jim Sluck says:

    Any old photographs of 2900 6th Avenue 76110 would be appreciated…any resource to find those would also be appreciated

    • hometown says:

      Mr. Sluck, the Tarrant County Historic Resources Survey, published in 1986 by the Historic Preservation Council for Tarrant County, has a photo of that Bisco (also photos of two similar houses—a suspected Bisco in Park Hill and a confirmed Bisco in Berkeley Place). But I do not know if those photos still exist or where they are.
      They might be in the Tarrant County archives.

  4. Chris Bellomy says:

    For clarity’s sake: The Texas Woman’s College cited here is now Texas Wesleyan University. It should not be confused with today’s Texas Woman’s University in Denton (then the College of Industrial Arts and Sciences).

  5. earl belcher says:

    Those are some good-looking houses. But how about the murder house? What happened there? It’s almost Halloween. We should try for a ghost hunt there. More great work from Mike.

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