Our Iconic Home Feature

Couple on long journey to preserve a little Possum Kingdom

Lake history and create a beautiful home at the same time.

Story by Steve Nussbaum | Photos by Kim Nussbaum

A red and black logo for the pk magazine.

Steve and Shannon Llewellyn in front of the large stone fireplace. The round table in the living room can be seen in some of the old pictures left from when F. Kirk Johnson and his famous friends enjoyed the home.

Every issue of PK Magazine features an iconic home, and to qualify for that status it has to be a dwelling that people drive by when they’re giving a tour to visiting friends and family.

These homes aren’t always huge mansions, but they’re the ones that have a story to tell, and this time around it’s the home of Steve and Shannon Llewellyn – and what a story their beautiful home has! It may be part lake myth that’s mixed in with the facts, but there’s no doubt that they own an incredible abode that overflows with warmth, history and character.

The couple has lived all over the country as a result of Steve Llewellyn’s career with Frito Lay, but when they were finally back in Texas, they decided they wanted to buy a lake home.

The Llewellyns, who have always enjoyed the lakes in Texas, at one time considered living near Lake Travis in Austin, but they soon realized the commute was too far from their Argyle, Texas, home. They decided that a property on the west side of Possum Kingdom Lake would be much more feasible, especially having also visited the lake when Steve Llewellyn’s brother owned a condo in The Cliffs.

In 2017 they began looking at properties and found a true gem that others might consider just tearing down instead. It was interesting property, with two houses situated on the 1.5 acres for sale, so they called their real estate agent, Dee Henderson.

A red and black logo for the pk magazine.

What first struck them were the incredible views from the home, which sits up on a rocky cliff facing the state park and Broadway. The lot had huge oak trees and two homes and several other structures on it, and the street is filled with multimillion-dollar structures that have been rebuilt on these highly desirable and large lots.

A red and black logo for the pk magazine.

The couple said their first response in looking at the unique property was, “No way.†Shannon Llewellyn said they couldn’t really tell what the three-bedroom guest house was, and Steve Llewellyn refused to go inside.

The view, the history and the vision of what the property could be kept them coming back, though, and in 2017 they made their purchase.

A red and black logo for the pk magazine.

The legend of the F. Kirk Johnson house is rooted in history. Johnson was a wealthy oilman from Fort Worth, and the property had numerous pools, hot tubs and simple buildings that constituted a fishing and hunting camp. At one time the estate was made up of several buildings across a 1,500-acre ranch along the rocky cliffs of Possum Kingdom, and it’s believed that many of the white wooden structures on the property were used at the nearby state park and housed the workers who helped build it as one of the post-Depression renewal projects.

Johnson, being a very successful businessman, had many famous friends, including actor Jimmy Stewart, who also was one of his business partners. In fact, the two men were early investors in Central Airlines, a regional airline based in Oklahoma, and they also teamed up in ranching and racing horses. It seems their mutual love of the outdoors is what drew the two men together.

A red and black logo for the pk magazine.

When the Llewellyns bought the property, there were just two of the original buildings left, and the land had been divided into many lots. They were determined to preserve the original buildings and bring the property back to life, so they bought what was left of the original Johnson estate from the Stephens family, which hails from Graham, Texas. The Stephens left them a treasure trove of memorabilia and pictures of the historic property.

A red and black logo for the pk magazine.

It was well known that Johnson had a huge collection of rare African game art by famous German artist Wilhelm Kuhnert, and many of these paintings are now on display at the Fort Worth Zoo. Johnson was a large benefactor of the zoo, and his home at Possum Kingdom reflected his love of African safari art and big-game hunting. The Possum Kingdom home was filled with African art influence and even included murals of African game and safaris on the floors, and the Llewellyns have taken meticulous care in preserving these floor murals.

A red and black logo for the pk magazine.

There also is a collection of books and pictures from Johnson’s travels in the home, as well as signed pictures of Stewart and another famous Hollywood star, Spencer Tracy, in the home. It’s believed that movie legend Elizabeth Taylor even traveled to the home at one time, and one of the more intriguing items left behind in the structure was what appears to be an original script from the Oscar-nominated movie “Rear Window,†starring Stewart and Grace Kelly.

The original main house was a one-bedroom home with a large open space off the living room separated by a curtain to create an extra bedroom. The Llewellyns have added a spacious master bedroom and bath to the structure and converted the previously curtained-off space into a stylish sitting room, making the main house a two-bedroom, two-bath dwelling.

Visitors to the main house will note that it’s anchored by a large stone fireplace that evokes a sense of coziness. There is a large dining room table in the open living space, which leads to a huge screened in porch that goes along the entire back side of the home and is in many of the old pictures. It’s the Llewellyns’ favorite part of the home, and they said they enjoy the view it provides at all times of the year.

The living space opens up to the original kitchen that’s been totally restored by the couple, who preserved all the original cabinets and hardware while giving the space a stylish, modern feel. They even kept the original vent hood in the kitchen as an anchor for the space, which now looks nice, modern and functional kitchen with echoes to the history and visitors of a bygone time.

A red and black logo for the pk magazine.

The original kitchen has been turned into a modern working kitchen.  You can see the original vent hood has been incorporated into the design.

A red and black logo for the pk magazine.

The Llewellyns totally restored the original kitchen, preserving all the original cabinets and hardware while giving the space a stylish, modern feel.

The guest house, also known as the “Jimmy Stewart House,†was totally gutted and is now a designer showcase, with three bedrooms and baths to accommodate the couple’s children, who happen to be triplets. Each of them now can have their own spacious bedroom and bath in the guest house, which also features a small kitchen and laundry room. The details of preserving the old hardware, doors and design of the original building can’t be ignored, though. The restored wood floors in the guest house are stunning and serve as a reminder that “they don’t make them like that anymore.â€

The outside of the home is just as intriguing as the inside. Visitors entering the property are greeted by see two large structures left over from the Johnson era that must have housed large animals. One looks like it may have housed monkeys or large birds, while the other is the stuff of urban legend. It’s a large cement brick structure with what was a heavy-duty metal door, similar to what a zoo might have. The structure appears to have been surrounded by a large fence anchored in concrete, and it is believed that Johnson had a baby elephant on the property, which was hitched to a wagon filled with beer and allowed to roam the property to serve thirsty guests.

Of course, this story may just be lake legend – but the remnants of the structure do help to keep the legend alive.

The view looking down toward the main house features majestic oak trees that have survived decades of West Texas storms, and Shannon Llewellyn admitted that “every time we’re at home in Argyle and hear of a storm hitting Possum Kingdom, I worry about the trees before I do the house.â€

Off the screened in porch is a series of stone steps that make their way down the cliffside to the dock toward the shells of two very old hot tubs that were heated from below by burning wood, and Steve Llewellyn said one of his next projects is to restore the old hot tubs. A boat lift from decades past still sits on the cliff, too, and it was used to bring up boats in the winter.

The rocky cliff is just a small example of what makes Possum Kingdom unique, with Mother Nature displaying her own exquisite pieces of art.

This iconic home is a showcase in history and attention to detail. Shannon Llewellyn has kept the design warm and rich, with a tasteful emphasis on the original African art theme of the home. The entire structure is beautifully designed to capture the history of its original owner, while at the same time creating a modern, comfortable style that will be handed down to generations. Hopefully, they will appreciate the incredible job the Llewellyns have done.

A red and black logo for the pk magazine.

The screened in porch was part of the original home and one of the current owners favorite parts of the house.

A red and black logo for the pk magazine.
A red and black logo for the pk magazine.