In 1871, William Gaston purchased a 400-acre tract of rural land that went from east of Swiss Avenue to Fair Park. Gaston, a successful Dallas banker responsible for most of our area’s growth, built his home, a two-story colonial mansion on the tract at 3900 Swiss Ave.
The property maintained a long-standing reputation of being one of the City’s finest showplaces. Gaston named the street after the nationality of his nearest neighbor to the west, a butcher by the name of Jacob Nussbaum, who was a Swiss immigrant.
As the population of Dallas increased, so did the number of stately mansions on Swiss Avenue. The street reflected an era of elegance and charm – until the years following World War II.
Returning servicemen needing homes for themselves and their families, population growth in Dallas, housing shortages, conversion of single family homes into rooming houses and apartments, and the growth of the suburbs were some of the combined factors leading to an era of transition and decline in one of the area’s exclusive neighborhood.
Swiss Avenue residents banded together in the early 1950’s to change zoning laws that would protect the street’s original single family home zoning and limit or prohibit apartment conversions and further commercialization in the historic neighborhood.
In the 1970s national and local trends promoted a “conserve and preserve” philosophy that resulted in active revitalization and growth of the historic area. As loans to purchase or improve historic homes became available, families began settling in East Dallas.
In 1973, after numerous appearances at City Hall by residents and community organizations, Swiss Avenue, along with parts of Bryan Parkway and Live Oak, was officially designated as the City’s first historic district.
“Conserve and preserve” has been a philosophy maintained by local residents long before national trends developed in the 70’s – a philosophy reflected in the charm and ambiance of homes on historic Swiss Avenue.
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