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Scientologists turning off-beat Dallas estate into off-the-beaten-path refuge for followers

Title: Scientologists turning off-beat Dallas estate into off-the-beaten-path refuge for followers
Date: Wednesday, 3 May 2000
Publisher: Dallas Morning News
Author: Laura Griffin
Main source: nl.newsbank.com

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The buzz started when the Church of Scientology Celebrity Centre moved into an old, quirky mansion at Buckner Boulevard and Dixie Lane, about a mile east of White Rock Lake. 'I have no idea what a 'Celebrity Centre' is, but I haven't seen anyone famous around here yet,' said Mark McCord, who lives nearby. The church's new home is in a landmark estate named 'Grandwick' by a former owner because it reminded him of a castle in Germany. The gaudy 10,000-square-foot home built with numerous architectural styles has had many incarnations through the years. It became an overgrown, rundown eyesore, then was transformed into an ornate, eccentric home with an outdoor wedding chapel and a ballroom that doubled as a banquet room and reception hall. For a while, it was a bed and breakfast.

A spokesman said the Church of Scientology has spent about a half-million dollars to purchase and remodel the rambling house and devoted a lot of time to working with residents to ensure a smooth transition into the neighborhood. 'When we bought the property, we talked to neighbors individually, interviewed them and answered their questions,' said Scott Gordon, the church's director of public relations in Dallas.

Mr. Gordon said the Celebrity Centre church provides a secluded place for artists and professionals to study and seek spiritual growth. It has had weekend open houses for neighbors and potential members, he said, but a grand opening has been pushed back until late summer to allow more time to complete renovations.

Detractors of the church say Scientology is a moneymaking cult, but members say it is attacked because, at nearly 50 years old, Scientology is still a new religion. There are 12 Celebrity Centres 'across the planet,' with the largest in Hollywood, where many of its members are in the entertainment industry, Mr. Gordon said.

The garage has been transformed into an area for 'purification rundown,' which includes a sauna, exercise and diet to rid the body of toxins, part of a Scientology drug-rehabilitation program. Bedrooms have been divided into small counseling or 'auditing' rooms. There, church officials use a device called an E-meter - which they say reads thoughts - to eliminate negative mental images and help parishioners achieve a 'clear state.'

One thing about the house won't change: The Last Supper, etched in a 10-by-4-foot glass window in the dining room. Grandwick's former owner commissioned an artist who spent a year working on the property, etching and sandblasting the 700-pound piece of glass. Currently, it is covered up by a wall of bookcases full of Dianetics and other Hubbard teachings. Soon, Mr. Gordon said, the room will be a chapel, and the bookcases will be moved.