No one denies that the Aldredge House is a beautiful home, or that it has been well-preserved by its caretakers, the Dallas County Medical Society Alliance, but the current use of the historic Swiss Avenue home as a venue for weddings is no longer tolerable for its neighbors. It’s about more than just stray panties after a bridal party send-off. It’s about neighbors being able to enjoy their private property.
That’s what Jim Dunkerley said after the Sept. 23 Landmark Commission meeting where the Aldredge House was granted approval for preservation criteria covering four rooms in the home. But in this war between neighbors, that was just the first battle. Today is D-Day.
After months of back-and-forth between the two sides, the Board of Adjustment will hear from Chris Hamilton and others on why the events venue should have its non-conforming use permit revoked. This would mean an end to weddings and meetings at the Aldredge House, and perhaps an end to the Aldredge House as we know it.
It has been a rocky road to this point, with both sides of the table claiming that the other is unwilling to give an inch. After last month’s Landmark Commission meeting, I chatted with both Hamilton and Dallas County Medical Society Alliance Aldredge House Committee Chair Wendy Hansen. Both Hansen and Hamilton said that, despite negotiations, they were nowhere near a compromise.
In fact, representatives from the DCMSA met with Hamilton and neighbors to hash out a compromise that would allow the Aldredge House to continue to operate as an events venue. From Hamilton’s telling, they met from morning until late at night, going over a proposed Planned Development district that would hopefully satisfy both parties. And at the end of the meeting, no progress was made.
Neighbors have offered to host a gala once or twice a year to raise funds for the Aldredge House, putting down their own money to see that the home is preserved. Surely one or two big events a year would be easier on the historic home rather than 30 to 50 weddings and meetings, Hamilton said.
“I offered to pay for it with my own money — and did you see some of the people who were in the audience today? Some of these people have a lot more money than we do, but they’re not offering to pay for a fundraiser,” he added. But his idea was a no-go for the DCMSA.
More mediation was scheduled for the morning before the Landmark Commission meeting, but that was canceled at the last minute by Aldredge House representatives. They then turned up in full force with about 100 people sporting green buttons and Mardi Gras beads. Lindalyn Adams, Virginia McAlester, Ruth Altschuler, and David Preziosi were among the heavy hitters to reach the mic in support of the Aldredge House being named an official Dallas landmark.
And though the commission voted to approve the Aldredge House’s request, commission chair Kathryn Seale repeated a theme we’ve heard from everyone outside this kerfuffle:
“I hope that you both can work together to find a resolution,” Seale said.
But is that possible? Sarah Dodd, who is working with Hamilton, Dunkerley, David Dean, Stephanie Stanley, and Barbara McDaniel, released a video yesterday that detailed the loud, boisterous receptions. They have, in effect, gone nuclear.
The Board of Adjustment will meet today at 1 p.m., so we’ll see if there’s any hope for a mutual resolution. Otherwise, it could very well end up being like our favorite Festivus tradition — the airing of the grievances.