As It Happens

Mistaken demolition of century-old pink home in Texas a 'tragedy,' says owner

Robb Hagestad promised his dying friend that he would take care of her family home. Now all that's left is a dirt lot.

Robb Hagestad promised his dying friend that he would protect it

An old photo of Mary Ann Degataire's home in Dallas, Texas. (Submitted by Jeremy Wenninger)

Story Transcript

The home on a quiet street in Dallas, Texas was known for its bright pink paint, extravagant Mardi Gras parties, and most of all its late owner, Mary Ann Degataire. 

Now all that's left is a pile of rubble, after the 98-year-old home was demolished in a case of mistaken identity. 

"This is really a tragedy," Robb Hagestad, the new owner of the home and Degataire's longtime friend told As It Happens host Carol Off. 

On Feb. 19, the company JR's Demolition was in the Dallas neighborhood to demolish a nearby home. Instead, the pink home was brought down by mistake — bringing an end to Hagestad's years-long fight to fulfil a promise he made to his late friend. 

Degataire died in 2018

Before she died in 2018 from cancer, Degataire asked Hagestad to look after the home that had been in her family for more than 30 years.   

So for the past two years, Hagestad, and his partner Jeremy Wenninger, have been working through the complicated process of obtaining the ownership and renovating the property.

"Now we've got nothing but a dirt lot," he said. 

A shot of the home after it was demolished. (Dave Walkington)

On Feb. 19, Hagestad woke at 6 a.m. in his home in California to angry phone calls from neighbours in Texas, who were shocked and confused to see the pink house being torn down. 

Hagestad said that the neighbours reacted so intensely because the house, and Degataire, were a fixture in the neighbourhood. 

"Everyone came and sat on the front porch and Mary Ann would always be there to meet people and throw a party or hold a conversation," he said. 

Centrepiece of the neighbourhood

When Hagestad lived in Dallas for 20 years, he was often at the house to attend parties or to watch football games. 

"I've spent the last three days just mourning this loss because Mary Ann and her family were really, sort of, the centrepiece of this neighborhood," he said. 

"That's why this is really a tragedy."

That's really the legacy. It was a happy place. It was pink. It was fun-  Robb Hagestad

JR's Demolition's owner, Bobby Lindamood, told the Dallas Morning News that this is the first time an error like this has happened, and that they are working toward a solution with Hagestad. 

In an emailed statement to As It Happens, Lindamood said that the house was empty and appeared to be in "demolition-ready condition." He said the curbside address and front yard were covered in trees, the water, electricity and gas were disconnected. He also described how the house had no concrete foundation, a sagging roof and the front door didn't work. 

A photo of the house taken by JR's Demolition, before the home was demolished. (Submitted by Bobby Lindamood)

Hagestad agrees that the home wasn't in great shape, but that's because Degataire didn't have the money to keep it up before she died. 

"My poor friend Mary Ann, prior to her death of course, had been living on disability and therefore certainly didn't have any money to maintain the property and so it had fallen into disrepair," he said. 

But the foundation of the home was good, Hagestad said and he just received a list from his contractor of all the things they needed to do to make a "livable, beautiful property."

Hagestad says he doesn't hold any ill will toward the company for its mistake. 

"They've been very gracious and they have apologized and they've said that in their entire history, some 40 years, this is the first time this mistake has ever been made," he said.  

While Hagestad and his partner are mourning the loss of the house and trying to figure out what's next, contractors have been trying to buy the property. 

Robb Hagestad, right, and his partner Jeremy Wenninger were planning on renovating the house before it was torn down. (Submitted by Jeremy Wenninger)

He's still not sure how they are going to honour Degataire's legacy, but he says selling the house is definitely not an option. 

Instead he hopes to someday build a home there that is "fun and interesting" — reminiscent of the pink home. 

"That's really the legacy. It was a happy place. It was pink. It was fun," he said. 

Written by Sarah Jackson. Produced by Kate Cornick. 


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