Luxurious history: Swiss Avenue home tour is like stepping back into another era

The Aldredge House marks its 100th year on Swiss Avenue. (Photo by Rasy Ran)
The Aldredge House marks its 100th year on Swiss Avenue. (Photo by Rasy Ran)

With its elegant columns and dark wooden interiors, a walk through the Aldredge House gives a hint at what life in East Dallas looked like back when the city felt more like a big town.

It was 100 years ago when architect Hal Thompson put the finishing touches on the two-story mansion at 5500 Swiss Ave., which took two years to construct. The home was built for William J. Lewis, a Maryland native who made his fortune as a rancher in West Texas before marrying 18-year-old Dallasite Willie Newberry, but the couple would live there only a year before she decided the place was too grand.

The house briefly was occupied by Lewis Mormons before one of Dallas’ most celebrated power couples took ownership in 1921.

A banker and Texaco director, George N. Aldredge was the son of George Aldredge, a prominent district attorney who read the eulogy for confederate leader Robert E. Lee when his memorial statue was unveiled in Dallas. Rena Munger Aldredge was the daughter of Robert Munger, a cotton-gin pioneer who built Dallas’ first luxury development, Munger Place, where the house sat. Moneyed, politically connected and socially active, the couple were known for their civil engagement and support of the arts, specifically the Dallas Symphony and Museum of Art.

The house played witness to dozens of family celebrations, especially weddings. It was a tradition for Aldredge brides to have their wedding photo taken on the ornate walnut staircase wearing the 1906 Belgium lace gown that Mrs. Munger had made for her daughter Rena’s wedding. Sadly, the tradition ended in December 1964, when the dress was downtown at Neiman-Marcus to be altered for Virginia Aldredge’s upcoming nuptials and a five-alarm fire broke out, destroying the delicate heirloom.

The Aldredges would stay in the home for more than 50 years, ensuring the family’s name would forever be associated with the property. When Rena Aldredge reached the end of her life in 1975, she made plans to donate the property to the Dallas County Medical Society Alliance, but only under the promise that it maintain the house.

Now, 40 years later, much is exactly as it was in the iconic estate, one of only three named as “nationally significant” in the 1975 Dallas Historic Landmarks Survey.

The Aldredge House is just one of the seven historically lux abodes you can see on the 44th annual Swiss Avenue Mother’s Day Home Tour, set for May 13 and 14. The weekend also includes a sumptuous brunch in Savage Park along with an art fair, car show, children’s play area, live music, free horse-drawn carriage rides and air-conditioned mini-coaches, along with plenty of food and history.

Swiss Avenue Mother’s Day Home Tour
May 13-14
$25 ($30 day of the event)
sahd.org


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