This year’s 19th annual Swiss Avenue Historic District Tour of Homes, scheduled Mother’s Day Weekend May 10-12, has a little something for everyone. How about:
• A $200 (that’s right, no misprint) house in the Mill Creek district that has been restored by its current owner.
• A renovation-in-progress home, being restored by a husband-and-wife team.
• An arts, crafts and antiques estate sale, benefiting Trinity Ministry to the Poor, at one of the tour homes.
• A home reportedly “haunted” by a previous owner, complete with unexplained footsteps and doors that open and shut by themselves.
And, of course, the tour also includes numerous other examples of architecturally significant homes, many filled with antiques and art.
It all begins with the traditional candlelight tour of the seven homes from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday, May 10. The tour continues Saturday, May 12, with a Swiss Avenue parade beginning at 11 a.m., and homes open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. It concludes Sunday, May 13, with homes open from noon to 6 p.m.
Other activities scheduled throughout the weekend include a Victorian tea presented by Crescent Court’s Lady Primrose, arts and antiques displays along Swiss Avenue, food samples from local restaurants, old-fashioned trolley bus rides, and horse-drawn carriage rides.
According to publicity chairmen Hal and Sue Lancaster, Swiss Avenue was conceived as a “silk-stocking” district in 1905 and was home to some of Dallas’ early political and business leaders.
Between 1905 and 1930, 227 houses were built, with historians recognizing 16 architectural styles, including Greek Revival, French and Italian Renaissance, Georgian, Prairie, Jacobethan, and Spanish Baroque.
Branching out from the Swiss Avenue mansions, smaller homes were built on narrower nearby streets to create a small-town feeling within the city.
By World War II, however, the area had begun declining, precipitated at least in part by increased labor demands from a Ford Motor Company plant formerly located on East Grand Avenue. The increase in jobs created a housing shortage, resulting in “room-for-rent” signs in many of the area’s homes.
Following the war, extensive areas were rezoned for apartment development, resulting in further declines to housing quality that threatened the neighborhood’s existence.
However, several Dallas citizens banded together in the early 1970s to obtain Historic District status for the area, which was later added to the National Register of Historic Places.
That action proved to be a catalyst, as restoration began renewing the district, median beautification projects commenced, and neighborhood organizations began working to ensure the area would not again be threatened with extinction.
Proceeds from the annual tour benefit various neighborhood projects, community organizations and local schools.
Tickets are $7 per person if purchased in advance from Rainbow Ticketmaster outlets or $8 per person at tour homes or Triangle Park during the event. For more information, call the tour hotline at 855-7252.
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