Was there once a yacht in the backyard of a house in Highland Park? Curious Texas investigates


In the 1950s, Alan Cates’ mother used to drive him past a house on Miramar Avenue in Highland Park. According to Cates’ mother, a yacht was built in the backyard of this house.

Cates asked Curious Texas to find out more.

The house in question was at 4005 Miramar. It was owned by Cosette and Frank Newton and housed a unique addition that lasted 15 years – along with other noteworthy events.

In 1918, Cosette Faust, who had five doctorates, married Frank Newton, an eye surgeon. They moved into the house in Miramar, a block from the mansions along Lakeside Drive.

For a time, Cosette Newton was a professor and dean of women at Southern Methodist University. She traveled often and gave lectures, which was considered unusual for women in the 1920s and 1930s.

But she didn’t really come into the public eye until July 1938, when she was charged with forcible confinement for holding her gardener captive in her attic for five days.

According to The Dallas Morning News, Mickey Ricketts was found blindfolded, taped and handcuffed after Cosette Newton accused him of stealing a jade ring worth $5,000. Ricketts, who doctors said was malnourished, told deputies he was fed ‘something that tasted like a burger’ while in captivity.

Cosette Newton was charged with false imprisonment and reported to the Dallas County Jail. The ring was later recovered. The Newtons paid Ricketts $500 and the charge was dropped.

The Newtons’ notoriety grew when they decided to build a fake yacht in their backyard, which they dubbed the SS Miramar. A pool next to the ship served as a “port” and the cost of the yacht and landscaping was $60,000.

The first deck had a ballroom with green curtains, a kitchen, powder rooms, and French doors that opened out to the pool. The second deck, built for guests to walk around, overlooked the dance floor.

On the third floor was a captain’s wheel at one end and a promenade deck that led to the second floor of the Newton’s house.

The SS Miramar “launched” in December 1941 with a ball in honor of six debutantes.

For a time, the community was happy with the SS Miramar. Debutante balls, Red Cross classes, poetry society meetings, Dallas Women’s Democratic meetings, and charity fundraisers were held on the landlocked yacht.

In the 1950s the ship began to decay after the Newtons stopped using it, and it became a target of vandalism. Highland Park sued the couple in an attempt to get them to remove the yacht.

The Newtons built a 20ft fence around their home and had a collection of elevator doors, jail bars and aluminum umbrellas to deter vandals from entering the property.

From a 1954 story by The news, Cosette Newton testified that the umbrellas were “an act of defiance”. She said she nicknamed an umbrella above her house the “JC Muse umbrella” after Highland Park town attorney JC Muse Jr., who she said spread rumors that which she was crazy.

In May 1954, a court ruled that the Newtons must remove the fake yacht, along with the obstructions they had accumulated over the years. The couple appealed, and in 1956 the Texas Supreme Court upheld the decision and ordered them to scrap the yacht.

The couple opened their home to the public for tours as part of a farewell party for the SS Miramar.

The yacht was broken up and several years passed while the Newtons tried to reach an agreement with Highland Park regarding the repair of their house. At one point, the Newtons sued the city for refusing to give them a permit to make repairs.

The house was auctioned off in 1964 and later demolished.

In 1963, the couple opened the SS Miramar Museum on Cedar Springs Road, where they housed a collection of art and memorabilia from their lives, including a pair of life jackets inscribed “SS Miramar.” For a time, the museum was also a shrine to President John F. Kennedy, whose motorcade is said to have passed the store 10 minutes before he was shot and killed.

The Newtons lived in an apartment behind the museum until Cosette Newton’s death in 1975. Frank Newton died in 1977. It is unclear when the museum closed.

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