Swiss Avenue neighbors scrambled to recover from the June hailstorm for the 40th anniversary of the Mother’s Day Home Tour this year
For four decades, mothers of all kinds have flocked to Swiss Avenue on the second Sunday in May for the Mother’s Day Home Tour. If there’s one thing Swiss Avenue knows well, it’s mothers. But this year they’ve been dealing with the mother of all mothers — Mother Nature. And, wouldn’t you know it, she is a force to be reckoned with.
For people who live in East Dallas, “the June hailstorm” is a phrase that has been well worn out since the massive storm rolled through Dallas and wreaked havoc on June 13, 2012, leaving a path of destruction in her wake. For months after the storm, the city was a buzz of electric tools and clanging hammers. It was the same old story of roof repairs, car damage and window installations.
Pockets of the historic district were hit especially hard, and they’ve also had a harder recovery curve because of the delicate process of replacing original architecture, like antique wavy or bubble glass windows, tile roofs, flooring, and even a 1913 greenhouse. Every year the homeowners of Swiss Avenue dedicate countless hours and funds to prepping their homes for the Mother’s Day Home Tour; this year, for the 40th anniversary of the tour, participants had the added challenge of scrambling to repair their homes after the storm, and some of them just barely made it.
Josh Killian stood in his living room and watched as baseball-sized hail repeatedly slammed against his windows. He knew the windows weren’t going to make it much longer against the onslaught, so he moved into the hallway just as the first window shattered. Soon another window exploded, and then another. Hailstones bounced and rolled through the house, and when it was all said and done, the Killians found hail all the way in their kitchen, a good 20 or 30 feet from the broken windows.
The Killians’ home at 6003 Bryan will be on the tour for the first time this year, and from the looks of the beautiful, brightly lit home today, you’d never imagine that a little less than a year ago it was in shambles. More than 15 windows around the house were smashed and had to be replaced. Of all the things that had to be replaced or repaired around the house after the storm (including both the Killians’ cars, which were totaled), Kelly Killian is most devastated about losing the original windows. “That’s the one thing that still makes me almost cry,” she says, looking mournfully at the replacement windows. The new bubble glass just doesn’t compare to the original, she says.
Because the hail and rain sat on the floors for too long — which wasn’t very long, Kelly says, but long enough to warp them — the floors in the living room, dining room and entry hall were ruined and had to be replaced. “It was a pretty big project,” she says, but the floors weren’t original to the house, so that loss wasn’t quite as tragic as the windows. Their patio and roof also had to be repaired, but luckily their roof wasn’t tile like many of the roofs on Swiss. If it hadn’t been for the hailstorm, all the Killians would have had to do to prepare their home for the tour is clean and maybe reorganize a few things — no such luck.
Helen Rekerdres was in England taking care of her ailing mother when the hailstorm hit her home hard at 5002 Swiss. Like the rest of the world, she watched the brutal beating via sporadic clips on YouTube, while at home, her 1913 greenhouse was being thoroughly pummeled. Rekerdres’ greenhouse is one of the oldest in East Dallas. “Which is probably why it wasn’t totally destroyed in the storm,” she muses, “because it was made back when things were made more sturdy.” There are more than 200 panes of glass that cover the top and sides of the beautiful building in her backyard, and almost all the original panes were cracked or shattered and had to be replaced. On the bright side, Craig Rekerdres used this as an opportunity to upgrade. “This house is my husband’s baby,” Helen says. “He’s always thinking up new ideas to do to the house, so it was all sorted out by the time I came back.” Craig had to cover the broken windows immediately to keep heat inside the greenhouse so the hundreds of plants — including their 150 beloved orchids — would continue to thrive.
Not only did Craig take the opportunity to repaint the steel and cedar frame, but he also put in new window actuators (the mechanism that opens and closes the windows), upgraded the misting systems, and put in a new groundwater recovery system. “It’s absolutely lovely,” Helen says of the finished product.
Those on the tour will see 28 orchids brightening the Rekerdreses’ home. Many of them were once dying orchids Helen saved and brought back to bloom in the greenhouse. Orchids bloom for about three months, and then, with the help of the greenhouse, rest for about six months before blooming again, Helen says. Helen has become something of an orchid doctor since 2003, so her friends and neighbors often bring her orchids to nurse back to bloom. Luckily the hailstorm didn’t damage the orchids, although they didn’t go completely untouched. “I am still finding glass in the orchids,” Helen says.
The Rekerdreses also made a few other changes around the house in preparation for the home tour, such as building a new brick wall in their backyard. “Before the home tour. Everything is ‘before the home tour,’” Helen laughs as she points it out. Their home is one of two homes on the tour that are turning 100 years old this year. The other is at 5210 Swiss. Both are prairie-style homes, and the Rekerdres’ home is known for being “the purest example of a prairie-style house in Dallas,” says board member Robyn Schaub. “It’s a classic example of [the style of] Frank Lloyd Wright.”
Another prize the Mother’s Day Home Tour will feature this year is the infamous “Criswell House” at 5901 Swiss, which is most well known for once being the parsonage for W. A. Criswell, the founder of First Baptist Church in Dallas. The house was built in Jacbobethan style in 1924. The storm caused extensive damage to their roof, and repairs were completed only a few weeks ago, according to current owner Jean Bainbridge. Because the roof is made of a certain kind of slate that had to be special-ordered, and because of the high demand, it took more than nine months for it to be fully repaired. The new tile also didn’t look as aged as the original, so they went so far as to have them painted to match the original tiles.
This year the Mother’s Day Home Tour is adding a Vintage and Special Interest Auto Exhibit to the tour as a treat for the men, says Schaub. There will be a vintage car at each home. Also, St. Matthew’s Cathedral is slated to be on the home tour for the second time this year, although this year the cathedral will feature special artwork that wasn’t on the tour last time. The home tour is also hosting a candlelight preview of two homes that will be on the tour, as well as a pre-party at a home that will not be on the tour. The pre-party will be at 5020 Swiss, which was on the original Dallas TV show. The party will be South Fork-themed with dinner, drinks and a live band. The pass for everything will be $50 per person, and the regular tickets are $25 per person. As always, there will be brunch on Mother’s Day at Savage Park with all-day entertainment for adults and children.
HOW TO GO:
What: Mother’s Day Swiss Avenue Home Tour
When: May 11 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. & May 12 from noon to 6 p.m.
Where: Savage Park & Swiss Avenue
How Much: $20 in advance, $25 at the door
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