By Barrie Page Hill / The Dallas Morning News
When the urge to feel a little sand in our sandals beckons us to the beach, many pack up and head south. The Drumm family steps out their back door.
Harvey and Judy Drumm and their three children live in the Vilbig Lake area of south Irving. The neighborhood, off of South MacArthur Boulevard near Oakdale Road, is a well-kept secret, even for many Irving residents. Families who live in the close-knit neighborhood are sold on its convenient location and lakeside lifestyle.
“I’ve lived in the Dallas area for 50-plus years, and I’ve never run across a neighborhood like this,” says Jim Young, president of the Irving Lake Association, a group of lakelot homeowners. Mr. Young and his wife, Darlene, moved to the neighborhood in 1994. “You have the lake atmosphere, but you’re right here in the middle of Dallas-Fort Worth. Living here gives us the best of both worlds. As my wife says, it’s like being on vacation all the time.”
Ducks waddle across lawns. Turtle heads bob on the 125-acre lake. An occasional crane dots the horizon. Residents park boats in driveways and prop fishing poles against backyard decks and docks.
The neighborhood association schedules regular activities for residents and conducts lake cleanups, with homeowners pitching in to tidy up the lake and shoreline. The association stocks the lake with a variety of fish each year, Mr. Young says, and the Bass Club hosts monthly activities for fishing enthusiasts.
Judy Drumm and her ex-husband bought a home on the lake 12 years ago.
“I’m from Puerto Rico, and when I saw this neighborhood and the lake, I just loved it. It was just breathtaking,” she says. “It was a beautiful, beautiful day, and when I saw the lake, I knew this is exactly where I wanted to live.”
Mrs. Drumm remarried two years ago.
“She came with the house,” teases her husband, Harvey Drumm. “It was a package deal. I told her it was the lake and the house, or no deal.”
Living on a lake is a great deal for this family, who enjoy fishing, boating and the view from their back yard.
Mr. Drumm hauled in several truckloads of white sand to make the backyard beach. He’s built a hexagon-shaped deck – which extends over the water – and is putting in new stone retaining walls. A hammock sways under the mulberry tree. A blaze of red roses and golden marigolds brighten the yard.
“This is my therapy. I love to spend time in the gardens and working outside,” Mr. Drumm says. “This is our retirement home. We love it. We don’t plan on going anywhere else.”
Mornings on the lake
Like many residents, the couple’s lifestyle revolves around the lake. They sip morning coffee on the patio. Friends gather for dinner and conversation under the glow of patio tiki lights. Their children invite school chums over for fishing and swimming. Shareef, 11, says having a lake in his back yard is “pretty cool.”
“My friends come over, and we get to go swimming and have parties and stuff,” Shareef says. “Sometimes they come here instead of all of us going to Wet ‘N Wild. It’s fun to live on the lake.”
Across the street at the Parson home, Gail Parson and her sister, Angela Williams, are watching Ms. William’s 3-year-old daughter, Amarah. The little girl is making mud pies on the lakeside deck. A breeze blows across the water as several brown-and-white ducks circle near the shoreline.
Gail and Mike Parson didn’t know the home was on a lake when a Realtor showed them the property two years ago.
“My husband about knocked me over to get outside to take a look at the lake,” Mrs. Parson says. “We’d lived in Irving a long time, but we didn’t even know the lake was here until we came to look at this house. We grew up on a lake in Minnesota, so we all loved the lake right away. … When Mike and I were dating, we’d go out on the lake and talk about someday owning our own lake home. Here we are.”
Mrs. Parson’s father and mother, visiting from Minnesota, also fell in love with the neighborhood. They bought the home next door as a second residence. Ms. Williams is living in the home until her parents permanently relocate. A gate has been added between the two homes for easy access.
Mrs. Williams hopes to buy a home on the same street. “I’m a single mom and was living in downtown Chicago. This is a much better place to raise children,” Ms. Williams says.
The family members take their boat out for evening spins and enjoy fishing from their dock. Robert, 11, practices his swing, batting rocks over the water.
“I caught a catfish my first time fishing,” Robert says.
‘Nice place to live’
John and Ronda Cornwell also moved to the neighborhood about two years ago, when their son was a baby. Now Jack fishes with his dad.
“You don’t have to head to the lake; you just go to your back yard,” Mr. Cornell says. “I grew up in Irving, but I didn’t know about this lake. I’ve had friends tell me they used to ride their bikes out here when they were kids before any of these houses were here. … It’s a really nice place to live. We have all kinds of people who live in the neighborhood – Indian, Chinese, African. People here are all really friendly.”
Under the shade of a large tree, two ducks nest in the family’s back yard. One has made a nest in the top of a large trashbag.
“I start my day out here feeding the ducks,” says Mark Withers, the Cornwells’ neighbor. He and his wife, Robin Strouse, are computer consultants who work in downtown Dallas. “We definitely moved here for the lake. We’d call Realtors and tell them we wanted a house on Vilbig Lake, and most of them didn’t know what we were talking about. It’s a pretty well-kept secret.”
Vilbig Lake got its start as a series of gravel pits.
“The lakes were my grandfather and great-grandfather’s gravel pits,” says David Vilbig, owner of Vilbig and Associates, a Dallas civil engineering and surveying firm. Mr. Vilbig’s great-grandfather, August Vilbig, and August’s brother, John Vilbig, opened Vilbig Brothers Excavation in 1886. Mr. Vilbig’s grandfather, J. Lee Vilbig, took over the business, operating it for many years as one of the area’s premier galena pits.
The Vilbig family sold the land to Centennial Homes in 1972, and the developer built homes around the lake.
Kevin Kendro, an archivist with the city, turned up several maps and aerial photos of the area. The lake doesn’t exist in a 1930 aerial photo, but it does appear in a 1959 aerial shot. In 1964, an Irving road map indicates the lake had been named Lake Vilbig.
“I’ve also heard it was a catfish farm at one time,” says Wayne Lee, senior civil engineer with Irving’s Public Works Department. Mr. Lee has lived in the neighborhood since 1992. “We really don’t know a lot about the history of the area, but we know we all like living here.”
Staff writer Barrie Page Hill can be reached at 972-594-7198, ext. 2001, or by e-mail, at firstname.lastname@example.org.