One of the many houses in the Swiss Avenue Historic District. Photo: Swiss Avenue Historic District

One of the many architecturally significant houses in the Swiss Avenue Historic District. Photo: Swiss Avenue Historic District

In the late 1960s and 1970s, the preservation climate in Dallas was almost nonexistent. Historic buildings were routinely razed on a whim and the city lost quite a few prominent structures, like the Commonwealth National Bank in 1969, the Melba Theater around 1971, the Southland Hotel in 1971, and the Hotel Jefferson in 1975.

The Swiss Avenue area, now one of Dallas’ most treasured neighborhoods, was almost destroyed by high-rise development and disinvestment. But in 1973, homeowners banded together to protect the area and through historic district status and many years of investment by property owners, created the first historic district in Dallas, and what is now the “crown jewel of East Dallas.”

The Swiss Avenue Historic District is truly a success story and one that blazed a trail for other future historic districts in Dallas to follow,” said David Preziosi, Executive Director of Preservation Dallas. “It stands as the finest example of an early 20th-century planned neighborhood with an eclectic mix of houses representing virtually every popular residential design style of the day.”

Those efforts, along with 12 projects, organizations, and individuals, were recently honored at Preservation Dallas’ 16th annual Preservation Achievement Awards. The awards recognize the most outstanding developments in historic preservation and individuals or groups who are committed to preserving Dallas’ history. They help continue the organization’s efforts to educate and advocate for the preservation and revitalization of the city’s significant historic buildings and places.

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The Davis Building, aka Republic National Bank Building, in downtown has Dallas Historic Landmark Designation. 1926 this structure was the tallest in Dallas. In 1945, this structure was the largest office site in Dallas. Photo: Davis Building.

Downtown Dallas’ Davis Building, aka Republic National Bank Building, has Dallas Historic Landmark Designation. In 1926 this structure was the tallest in Dallas. In 1945, it was the largest office site in Dallas. Photo: Davis Building.

Dallas has a rich historic and architectural legacy, shown through buildings like the Texas Theatre in Oak Cliff, DeGolyer House and Gardens in East Dallas, and the Eastside Warehouse District and State Thomas neighborhood in Uptown.

But just because a building or neighborhood plays an important part in the story of Dallas doesn’t mean it’s protected from big changes, up to and including demolishment.

Just last September, 1611 Main Street and neighboring buildings were razed as part of the Joule’s expansion plans. It was a beautiful Romanesque Revival built in 1885, one of downtown’s oldest structures. It sat next to the site of another Dallas landmark torn down by the Joule in 2012, the former Praetorian Building.

Lakewood Theater is another example of an unprotected structure—it may be beloved, but nothing stands between it and the wrecking ball besides the assurances of the owner that they won’t demolish as part of renovation plans.

That’s where historic designation comes into play and the efforts of Dallas preservationists to care for the future of the buildings and neighborhoods that have shaped what our city into what it is today.

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