Have you noticed the oh-so-apropos retro holiday yard décor in the Northwest Dallas neighborhood bordered by Royal Lane, Midway Road, Walnut Hill Lane, and Marsh Lane in Dallas? Dozens (actually 100) of vintage-style, six-foot-tall wooden trees punctuate the low-slung midcentury modern-style homes in the Walnut Hill neighborhood, recently featured in the Modern Mile Dallas Home Tour. The holiday display is a community initiative that’s cool in its own right, but the story behind the trees is even cooler.
The neighborhood featured in the Modern Mile Dallas Home Tour originated in 1954 in conjunction with a nationwide parade of homes. Building continued through the 60s and 70s, with design congruent with the midcentury modern design style. Remarkably, many of these period homes are still standing in the roughly one square mile within the boundaries of Royal Lane, Midway Road, Walnut Hill Lane, and Marsh Lane — a neighborhood known as Walnut Hill.
Erina Alvarado and her husband, Andrew, were part of the next generation who bought a home in the area. Several years ago, Alvarado noticed that three of her neighbors had the same retro holiday yard decor – hand-constructed wooden trees decked with vintage bulbs that perfectly suited the home’s midcentury modern style. Inquiring, she learned this story from a resident:
“Sometime in the late 60s, painted wooden Christmas trees started appearing in front of homes on Somerton Drive. These weren’t store bought, mass-produced trees. They were identical, handcrafted wooden trees painted Christmas green and adorned with strings of brightly colored lights, the kind we now call “vintage.” Eventually, every home up and down Somerton displayed these trees at Christmas, turning a nice, but ordinary, street into something magical. Several homes on Gooding joined in and more trees appeared on that street, too. As things sometimes happen, one Christmas in the early 70s most of the trees disappeared. Rumor has it that one night rambunctious high school boys tore through Somerton and broke or damaged most of them. The spell was broken. Some of the trees were repaired, but over the next few years, fewer and fewer trees made their appearance.”
Inquiring further, Alvarado learned that the original trees were built by neighborhood men who shared common plans to construct around 100 wooden Christmas trees. The three trees her neighbors owned had been handed down to them from parents who lived in the area in that era.
Last year, inspired by the story, Alvarado hired a woodworker to build 60 trees. She and volunteers painted and strung lights and offered them for sale, with the net proceeds to benefit Walnut Hill Elementary School. Neighbors snapped them up. More folks requested she start a wait list.
This year she returned to the project, partnering with the Modern Mile Home Tour in the fundraiser. She and her team crafted 100 trees that quickly sold out at $125 to $150 a pop. It was a group effort; she particularly credits Able Ramirez, president of the Walnut Hill Elementary School Dad’s Club, and Slade Ferguson for their help.
“Bringing the trees back was a dream of mine for several years, and not only is it a joy to see the neighborhood streets lined with them, it’s also been a joy to have the opportunity to meet so many of the neighbors. It’s definitely something that brings the area together during the holiday season,” said Alvarado.
No, they’re not making any more this year. The August-through-just-past-Thanksgiving Day time frame was enough for this seasons’s tree revival team. But, there’s a good chance the retro holiday yard decor will be marketed again next year. Tune in — we’ll keep you posted with announcements!