Legendary Southfork Ranch is sold; buyer pledges preservation

Southfork Ranch

The famed Southfork Ranch has a new owner. But the purchaser, Centurion American Development Group, promises nothing will change about the history of the site, which was the setting for the fictional Ewing family’s home in the classic TV series Dallas.

“Our intent is to keep the operation of it as it being the house J.R. lived in,” said Centurion American Vice President Sean Terry. “Maybe upgrade some things a bit, like modernize the events center. But the house itself, you won’t be able to tell a difference.”

And yes, Terry said tours will still be held for the public, even as the work is being done.

“We think the repairs we need to make we can do while keeping it open,” he said.

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The purchase of the property previously managed by Forever Resorts includes 241 acres spanning both sides of Murphy Road south of Parker Road in the Collin County city of Parker.  Of that, 40 acres is the area made famous in Dallas, including the Southfork Mansion conference and event center. The  rest is open green space.

“We are looking forward to working with the city of Parker to determine the future of this historic property,” said Mehrdad Moayedi, CEO of Centurion American. “Southfork Ranch is one of the most important and beloved parcels of land in the Metroplex with more than 400,000 visitors each year, and we’re proud to lead the team bringing it into its next evolution.”

Terry said both he and Moayedi are long-time fans of the TV series that ran from 1978-91 on CBS. The series still has fans around the globe as it is broadcast in syndication – and even shown in first-run status in some countries.

“Mehrdad grew up watching Dallas. I’m sixth generation Collin County, and I remember watching with my parents,” Terry said.

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Terry recalled meeting Larry Hagman, who played the villainous oil baron J.R. Ewing on the series, which ran on CBS from 1978 until 1991.

“He was grander than life,” Terry said. “These were the days before social media when you feel like you know celebrities because they post a lot. I remember so vividly how much larger than life he seemed to me,” Terry said.

The series was rebooted on TNT in 2012, even bringing back some of the original characters, including Hagman as J.R. But Hagman passed away during the filming of Season 2 and the series was canceled in 2014.

Of course, Hagman’s memorial service was held at Southfork in December of 2012.

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And through it all, Southfork Ranch was spotlighted. Because of the ranch’s high profile on television, the beautiful white mansion, the pool, the barns, the pastures and all the trimmings quickly became a tourist mecca.

The house was built in 1970 by Joe Duncan and was known as Duncan Acres. The property was originally 200 acres. The mansion at Southfork Ranch is a 5,900 square-foot house with a 957 square-foot enclosed garage that was turned into a den/card room.

Final development plans for Southfork Ranch include residential lots, although the size and number will be determined following discussions with the city of Parker. However, Terry emphasized that these will not change the most famous part of the site.

“We’re going to have to have some houses on the property to make it profitable, but we want to keep that history that made it famous,” he said. “Yes, we do build single-family houses, but we also appreciate history and legends.”

Terry also said that while houses are in the planning, the area could include such additions as a boutique hotel, restaurants and other enhancements.

“We haven’t talked with the city about that yet, but now we’ll start those conversations,” he said.

Terry added that plans are to also maintain a certain amount of green space among the residences and businesses for folks to do some hiking or biking, perhaps in the form of a nature trail or natural area.

“We’ll have some kind of system with something that’s walkable,” he said. “That is an important part of living and folks have rightfully come to expect it.”

Southfork Ranch joins other historic projects acquired by Centurion American, including the Statler Hilton Hotel in downtown Dallas and the Mesquite Arena, home of the Mesquite Rodeo.