To many residents of her historical district, Dorothy Savage and Swiss Avenue go hand in hand. And no wonder. She first came to the street by birth, then returned to it by marriage. She watched the venerable neighborhood deteriorate as the post-World War II housing boom led to the destruction of stately homes along Gaston Avenue and their replacement with apartment houses.
And, along with her husband Wallace, she led the effort to preserve the street. In 1973, the Swiss Avenue Historic District became the first neighborhood in Dallas to receive such a designation.
In the process, Dorothy and other homeowners created the Historic Preservation League, Inc., the predecessor of Preservation Dallas. Urban renewal became recognized as a worthwhile goal. And numerous neighborhood groups from across the city learned the process by which to preserve the character of their neighborhoods.
The Savages’ legacy was honored in October when — on their 58th wedding anniversary — the city dedicated a park in the 5500 block of Swiss Avenue in their name. The triangular, paved and shaded Dorothy and Wallace Savage Park has long been a meeting place, the site of neighborhood parties and ice cream socials, as well as host to vendors during the District’s annual home tour.
“It was rather exciting,” Dorothy says simply of the dedication, expressing pleasure at sharing the honor with her husband and the other founders of the Historic Preservation League. “We all wrote letters, helped to organize.” And the people in the city government “would listen to me because of [my husband]. He was very well thought of.”
“It’s called Dorothy and Wallace Savage Park because it was really Dorothy that did the work,” says Wallace, who served as Dallas’ mayor from 1949-1951. “I was helpful at the beginning with the zoning and so forth, but it was really Dorothy that carried on the work.”
It’s at the heart of Swiss Avenue in more than one way, says Jean Naczi, a neighborhood resident instrumental in the effort to name the park, and a fitting commemorative of the place where Dallas’ neighborhood preservation movement began.
For a number of years, Swiss Avenue residents had talked of naming the park in honor the Savages, but it wasn’t until July 1997 that the process began. A variety of suggestions were entertained in public hearings, but in May, the Park Board voted unanimously to accept the name: The Dorothy and Wallace Savage Park and to honor all of the founders of the Historical Preservation League on the plaque to be placed in the park.
Gail Patterson, who worked with Naczi on the naming effort, says Dorothy has a way of getting people involved and giving them confidence that they can achieve their goals through volunteerism.
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