During this year’s Swiss Avenue Mother’s Day Home Tour, the Aldredge House – the Grand Dame of the Swiss Avenue Historic District – will open its doors at 5500 Swiss Avenue and host a free and open to the public speaker series sponsored by Friends of Aldredge House.

Slated for Saturday, May 11, and Sunday, May 12, scheduled talks will cover a wide range of topics, including antique cars, family heirlooms, historic homes, and preservation, as well as native greenery. 

The speaker series is just one of the activities on offer during the weekend-long Swiss Avenue Historic District Mother’s Day Home Tour. 

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endangered places

Located in the city’s first residential historic district, the Aldredge House made the 2015 list for endangered places in Dallas. All photos: Preservation Dallas

Dallas City Councilman Philip Kingston flexed his mighty negotiation skills and made peace for the folks who live on Swiss Avenue and the Dallas County Medical Alliance, owners of Aldredge House.

As you know, it’s been quite a tussle. The neighbors contested the continued use of the house for meetings and programs. The Dallas County Medical Society Alliance (DCMSA) felt the special use permit was too restrictive.

This afternoon, in Council Chambers, Kingston made a motion to approve the City Plan Commission-crafted PD and SUP with some modifications and Kingston’s motion passed. The whole thing took about five minutes. Councilman Dwaine Carraway, acting as Mayor in place of the absent Mayor Rawlings, said “there, we fixed Aldredge House.”

Here are the modifications. The SUP stands, restricting the number of events per year at the house after 5:00 pm to 36 per year with three events allowed per month. But only two must be non-consecutive, as opposed to all three before. Evening events may now operate until 10:00 pm, instead of 9:00 pm, and fundraising events for the house are included as a permitted use when they weren’t before.

The SUP expires in 2021 and must be reviewed at that time before renewal.

David Dean, a neighbor and civic leader, said the neighborhood didn’t get everything they wanted, the DCMA didn’t get everything they wanted. Thus it was a good deal.

Afterwards, the DCMSA said they are committed to working within the guidelines passed today for the continued operation of Aldredge House.

endangered places

I was just alerted to the story WFAA-TV’s Tanya Eiserer ran on the 5 pm news this evening depicting a recent supposedly “noisy music wedding” at Aldredge House. It came on the personal Facebook page of Dallas Observer reporter Jim Schutze.

Here’s the thing: Schutze was at the wedding.

Eiserer said that “loud parties continue and soon will get worse” at Aldredge House — not true. There will be no more weddings. The one in the video was in October and one of only two weddings at the home, owned by the Dallas County Medical Society Alliance, of which I am a member, in two years. Eiserer interviewed the same few neighbors who complained originally. The evidence she used was a two-year old tape (made before the Alliance fired the caterer who got us in this mess) and then “loud wedding music” allegedly from the October wedding in the video, which was made by the next door neighbor, Nick McCune.

Oh and she mis-spelled the name of the DCMSA president, Barenda Hino as Harenda.

What she didn’t say was the music heard on the video was being played a full block from the Aldredge house.

Stanley (Stephanie Stanley, who lives behind the Aldredge House) cited a wedding that was held there one afternoon in the rose garden that ended when a New Orleans-style band marched down the street.

“It was like being at a band practice or a street in New Orleans,” Stanley said.

Hino (Barenda, president of the DCMSA) said it was one of only two weddings allowed at the home in the past two years. She said it was a family that lived nearby and their daughter had always dreamed of a getting married at the Aldredge House. Hino said the band did not start playing until it left the grounds of Aldredge House as the wedding party marched toward the family’s home on Bryant Parkway.

She said they had permission from the residents on Bryant Parkway for the band.

As Schutze says on his FB post, “She didn’t even try to come back to the bit about things being about to get worse. She did not allow the Aldredge house spokesperson to fully rebut the video. This was a hit job planted by a paid flak, and 8 bought it:” (more…)

endangered places

Located in the city’s first residential historic district, the Aldredge House made the 2015 list for endangered places in Dallas. All photos: Preservation Dallas

[Editor’s note: The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and should not be interpreted as the editorial opinion of CandysDirt.com.]

A public hearing will be held at the City Council meeting on Wednesday, January 24, in the afternoon on the proposed PD and SUP for the Aldredge House, located on Swiss Avenue in the Swiss Avenue Historic District.

The Council will hear the request for the Aldredge House to permanently become a museum home and education center for non-profit use. 

Support is needed to help the house as its future and use will be determined at the meeting! 

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Aldredge-House

I had a personal stake in this dog fight, as I have mentioned before: I’m a proud member of the Dallas County Medical Alliance and I do not want us (the DCMA Foundation) to lose Aldredge House. Never ever. It’s a beautiful home, one of the few open historic homes left in town, and it means a lot to many people in Dallas, particularly Alliance members. So of course I attended the hearing as soon as I could, and was happy to see so much press there. Robert Wilonsky at the Dallas Morning News tells it best, and he’s not an Alliance member. Read on.

But can I just tell you about some of the more tantalizing moments?

Chris Hamilton, the young attorney with a child who lives across the street from Aldredge House, and who has spent so much time on this case,  said that the party noise woke his child and sometimes also him from sleeping.

He showed a video in which attendees cursed at a neighbor; he said it was “a little bit scary” to be woken from a “dead sleep by people who are screaming at the top of their lungs.” He showed forged signatures from a vendor contracted by the caterer showing that neighbors were OK when giant tents being erected on the property in 2014 and 2015.

Red panties

The red panties that started it all!

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Aldrege House 2 with BOA sign

Update: Precious Jo North, friend and fellow Alliance member, tells me that we made a lot more than $30,000 on the home tour. Co-chair Sandi Ciarochi and the team brought in $112,000, the second highest fund raiser in DCMSA history! (I just don’t have a head for numbers.) The Prescription Texas Luncheon with then-Governor Rick Perry brought in more than $150,000. That’s the kind of power we need to sustain Aldredge House, and I bet we could figure something out…

As you know, I am very torn over the Aldredge House dilemma. We have not been good neighbors RECENTLY on Swiss Avenue. That wasn’t the Alliance’s fault, necessarily. It was a sub-contractor’s fault. Once we became aware of the problem, we rang bells loud and clear. It’s like having a bad employee who does things behind your back, and once you discover what’s going on, there is a whole lot of clean up to do. It makes you think you should just do everything yourself. It’s not your actions, but whatever he or she did reflects poorly on you.

I wanted to say a word about the neighbors recent offers to host a gala fundraiser for Aldredge House — very kind offers. In 2007, I chaired a Home Tour on behalf of the Alliance, for Aldredge House. It was months of work and preparation, and we ended up raising about $30,000. I was proud of my team’s work, but it was time-consuming and EXHAUSTING. And I have a lot of energy. The problem with limiting Aldredge House support to a gala here and there is that it quite simply won’t be enough. It takes a LOT to maintain and preserve a home. We need to make sure we have options to support it in the future. When the economy turns, as it will someday, people won’t be digging into their pockets for a gala ticket to preserve an old house. They will dig deep for cancer research or hungry, homeless children, and there are plenty of wonderful organizations in Dallas that cover these needs.DCMSA Home Tour

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Aldredge-House

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.

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Harryette Ehrhardt

Harryette Ehrhardt

Guest post by Harryette Ehrhardt, founder & past president of the Swiss Avenue Historic District

My husband Jack and I bought our house on Swiss Avenue in 1970, three years before Swiss Avenue was a historic District. We worked on the formation of the District and also the founding of Preservation Dallas. I have represented the neighborhood on the DISD School Board and in the Texas State Legislature. To say we have weathered storms and battles is an understatement.

People have now read the stories and blog posts written about the current predicament of the Aldredge House. On one side, the members of the Dallas County Medical Society Alliance (DCMSA) thought they were doing a good thing by tirelessly volunteering over the course of 40 years to keep the Aldredge house afloat, preserved, and open to the public. They never made a dime for their efforts, but to the contrary, gave lots of time, woman-power and money to the cause.

On the flip-side, we have good neighbors who bought homes on Swiss Avenue to enjoy all that the neighborhood has to offer as a great place to live in Dallas, but who are sometimes bombarded with excessive noise and activity from their neighbor, the Aldredge House.

Temperatures have risen and the rhetoric has amplified. We need to take a deep breath and put down the megaphones (figuratively and literally).

Last night, immediately before the Swiss Avenue Historic District (SAHD) annual meeting, 100- plus people heard a presentation from the DCMSA, including the grandson of Rena Aldredge, who gifted the home to the DCMSA 40 years ago.

Other than apologizing for any discomfort their events had caused the neighbors and advising that they had worked, and would continue to do so, on addressing the issues, there was no discussion of the current conflict.  The presentation focused on the history of both the Dallas County Medical Society Alliance and Foundation and the Aldredge House, and their upcoming joint centennial celebration.

The current, upcoming and early Presidents of the DCMSA represented the arc of time over four decades. They were there to educate neighbors, old dogs like me and my husband as well as the fresh young faces who will carry the torch forward for our historic district, on their plan to maintain it as a joyful, harmonious place for the future.

The response was very positive. When the history of the house and the commitment to the mission of keeping it publically accessible and preserved were explained, everyone in the room learned something. The DCMSA alliance was applauded several times by the standing room only crowd.

Immediately following the DCMSA presentation, the annual meeting of the SAHD took place, as it does every year free of charge at the Aldredge House.  It was business as usual; the officers of SAHD were re-elected and the annual budget approved.  

We are not just an historical neighborhood, we are a smart neighborhood. We can roll up our sleeves and work with DCMSA on the proposed city ordinance that will preserve the Aldredge House and bring peace and quiet to the neighborhood. Let’s roll.

Harryette Ehrhardt is an American educator and politician. She served as a Democratic member of the Texas House of Representatives from 1995 to 2002.