According to Mattel Inc., one of the country’s premier purveyors of aspirational lifestyle content, a dream house (or rather Dreamhouse™) includes the following: an elevator, a two-story slide from your bedroom to the pool, a puppy play area, a rooftop deck, bunk beds, a DJ booth—of course—and one of those egg chairs that hangs from the ceiling.
This fantasy ideal of a modern home was designed for Barbara Millicent Roberts, better known as Barbie®, a fashionable polymath who has worked as a physician, an astronaut, and an aerobics instructor. For decades, everything about her life—her clothes, her work, her physical proportions, and, yes, her home—has served as a model for what Americans and their children should strive to achieve and acquire. And Barbie has gracefully borne this burden on a pair of tiny, perpetually arched feet.
How humbled she would feel, then, walking through the halls of Christy Thompson’s newest home, which is still under construction, at 6915 Baltimore Drive, in Dallas’s tony University Park neighborhood. How cramped and uninspired her residence would seem compared with Thompson’s 23,688-square-foot mega-mansion, which includes six bedrooms, a kitchen with two islands, a spa bath, a safe room, a wine cellar, and a subterranean garage (one of several garages) that can, I’m told, comfortably fit eighteen Chevy Suburbans. The exterior of Thompson’s house is swathed in Bulgarian limestone—the same kind the Greeks are using to renovate the Parthenon, according to Thompson’s husband, Stephen Hill. The two-story, single piece columns outside the front door are eighteen feet tall, the second tallest of any U.S. residence. (The tallest, apparently, are on an estate in Springfield, Missouri.)
Would Barbie wail in jealousy when she saw the massive vanity off the side of the master bathroom and angrily pinch Ken when she saw Thompson’s elevator, which, by virtue of being indoors instead of affixed to the exterior and exposed to the elements, is plainly superior to hers?
Admittedly, there is as yet no DJ booth in Thompson’s home, but there’s certainly room for one. Behind the bathroom of the mother-in-law suite, for instance, lies a gargantuan white chamber the size of a small airplane hangar. The room was intended to be Thompson’s mother’s closet and office, but since she moved into an assisted living facility, Thompson and Hill are not sure what to do with it now. It could easily fit a turntable, as well as a full bar and a crowd of rowdy German ravers.
Currently, Barbie’s house is retailing online for $199.99. Thompson’s has been listed for $43 million, making it one of the most-expensive homes on the market in Dallas (another house in the neighborhood was listed for $39 million this summer). It’s a remarkably flashy property for such a taciturn owner. Thompson is not a socialite heiress in the tradition of Peggy Guggenheim or Paris Hilton. In her five decades in Dallas society, she’s managed to stay mostly out of the public eye. So far out of it, in fact, that only a few grainy photos popped up when I first googled her name.
Still, that price tag has brought with it plenty of attention. The Dallas Morning News published a story about the house, it was advertised in the Los Angeles Times and New York Times, and it has become the buzz of the Dallas real estate scene. This publicity has in part been carefully orchestrated by a team of realtors eager to target the kind of luxury buyer to whom the phone-number-length prices listed in the New York Times’s real estate section seem exceedingly reasonable. “Put it in the context of retail,” said Ralph Randall, one of the agents working on the listing. “When Neiman Marcus, back in the day, was on a massive expansion kick, they didn’t go to the same markets that a Dillard’s or a Macy’s is going to”—Dillard’s, in this scenario, being the equivalent of a house in the high six figures.
The attention on the property is partly organic, however. Few topics fascinate Americans more than the mega-wealthy and how they spend their money. Over dinners and drinks, the less financially endowed among us can spend hours discussing what we would do with our millions if we suddenly won the lottery. Besides the one person at the table who inevitably announces in a loud and self-congratulatory way that she would donate all of the money to charity, as if to catch the ear of any Nobel Peace Prize judges in the vicinity, the rest of us usually have some idea of our priorities among, say, a mansion with an infinity pool, an apartment in Paris, a Lamborghini, and a trip around the world on a private yacht.
Unlike most Americans, Thompson has the pecuniary wherewithal to turn her aspirations into reality. In another of the multiple garages around the house, she told me this is pretty much what she would have designed for herself when she was a kid fantasizing about what her future might hold. Initially she and Hill had conceived of the house on Baltimore Drive as their primary home, which meant they would spend a whopping 15 to 20 percent of their time there. But then the housing market got hot, prices of homes everywhere skyrocketed, and Thompson figured, why not list it?
Much like Mattel’s, Thompson’s new home, with its grand scale and top-of-the-line amenities, represents an ideal. It represents glamour, abundance, and opulence—and the supreme comfort of a frictionless existence in which all eighteen of your Chevy Suburban–owning friends can show up at once and you don’t have to worry about where they’ll park.
Like Barbie, Thompson has sleek blond hair and smooth, apparently poreless skin. Also like Barbie, the 52-year-old’s exact profession is a little ambiguous. “We have luxury vacation rental homes,” Thompson said vaguely when I asked about her primary business.
Thompson is the daughter of the late wildcatter James Cleo Thompson, known to friends and family as Jimmie, who founded the Thompson Petroleum Corporation with his father in the seventies. In nearly six decades in the oil business, Jimmie made a fortune as one of the biggest independent oil producers in America. Wealth generated wealth, and soon he expanded his business beyond the oil fields. He served as chairman of Crockett National Bank. The consummate Texan, he also owned cattle ranches in his home state and in Colorado.
Like her father, Thompson was born and raised in Dallas. When she was sixteen, the family moved into a large, white-brick home directly across the street from her current construction. The property at 6915 Baltimore Drive used to belong to her grandparents. She bought it from her father in 2005, and when the house next door to it became available, in 2016, she bought that too and combined the two lots.
Thompson credits her mother, Dorothy, with instilling in her a passion for home renovation. “It was something that she did and she did well,” Thompson said. She recalled her mother’s remodeling of their home when she was a child. Dorothy enlarged the den, raised its ceiling, and added a glassed-in sitting area that jutted out into the yard. Most excitingly for Thompson and her sister, Linda, Dorothy revamped the game room upstairs. She installed a balance beam, on which Thompson could practice her gymnastics. Thompson said that watching her mom taught her a lesson most children only learn when using a cheat code in The Sims: “You can get exactly what you want in a house if you build it yourself.”
After high school, Thompson initially stayed in the neighborhood, enrolling at Southern Methodist University, in University Park. But after two years, she said, she felt she had to get away and do something different. Her family had often vacationed in Colorado when she was growing up, so she transferred to the University of Colorado Boulder, where she studied geology, sociology, and Spanish.
Her escape from the Park Cities didn’t last long. After she graduated in 1992, she came home to Dallas and joined the family business as a partner. And when Jimmie died, in 2010, she and her sister took over what by then was a constellation of businesses. But they soon found that oil and petroleum production was not the license to print money that it had once been, especially for independent producers.
In 2017 Thompson and her sister started shifting increasingly toward another booming industry: real estate. While the Thompson Petroleum Company continued to extract oil and gas, the women began investing in various office buildings across the Metroplex. They dabbled in luxury vacation rental homes, mostly in the United States.
In 2015 Thompson was reintroduced to Hill. The two had traveled in the same circles their whole lives but had never interacted much. They both grew up in the Park Cities area, not far from the house they’re building now, and their dads had played football together at nearby Highland Park High in the late forties and early fifties. Hill was a bit older than Thompson and divorced. He had managed a construction company and commercial properties for years, and the pair bonded over their shared passion for real estate. They’ve been working on 6915 Baltimore almost as long as they’ve been together—they officially broke ground on the project in January 2018—and Thompson attributes much of the project’s success to their partnership.
The couple complement each other well. In person, Thompson is quiet and…
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