6015 Bryan Parkway

This beautiful historic home at 6015 Bryan Pkwy. just hit the market. It’s located inside the Swiss Avenue Historic District, one of the many beautiful Old East Dallas neighborhoods.

Even being a long-time Dallas resident, you might not be familiar with the official lines of Old East Dallas, unless perhaps looking at homes in the area. Looking at the neighborhood’s past is like a fascinating history lesson! Four adjacent, amazing historic neighborhoods are all part of Old East DallasSwiss Avenue Historic District, Peak’s Suburban Addition, Munger Place, and Junius Heights.

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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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Photo courtesy Charles Henry via Creative Commons

Photo courtesy Charles Henry via Creative Commons

In our culture of “bigger, better, newer, faster,” historic theaters may well be one of America’s most endangered buildings.

There are at least 160 of these beauties in the Lone Star State, once the center of a city’s entertainment district. But now these Arcadias, Palaces, Majestics, Paramounts, and Pioneers often sit in states of disrepair.

Some municipalities or private groups have stepped up and renovated these architectural treasures, like the Pines Theater in Lufkin, the Historic Texas Theatre in Oak Cliff, and the Crighton Theatre in Conroe.

But all too often, these buildings are demolished to make way for new development that looks flashier and brings in more rent per square foot.

In Odessa, the Ector Theatre is at the center of just such a situation now, with a proposal to make it part of a new downtown hotel and convention center, a $73 million project. Dallas-based Gatehouse Capital, a real estate investment company, made the proposal for development of the area that would include retaining the historic Ector image, but details are sparse.

Check out the whole story over on MidlandDirt.com!

 

 

20131226-MCALLISTER-slide-69UK-jumboThis is a must-read, perfect story to bring us out of our holiday rest: Dallas founder and past president of Preservation Dallas Virginia Savage McAlester takes the world on a tour of her 96 year old Swiss Avenue home located in the 5700 block of Swiss. She is also the author of  “A Field Guide to American Houses: The Definitive Guide to Identifying and Understanding America’s Domestic Architecture,” a veritable bible of historical preservation in Dallas and comprehensive history of American houses. Despite a life-threatening illness, McAlester has published an update of her 1984 book that is out this month and hopefully found it’s way into many ipads and readers.

Virginia is a native Dallasite whose father was once mayor of Dallas, and her whole family, it seems, have been activists working to improve various factions of the city of her birth for decades. Virginia is one of the people, if not the chief person, responsible for saving the glorious stretch of historic homes we have on Swiss Avenue today. She has lived in a Swiss Avenue home (or very nearby) for the last 64 years.

I’d like to draw attention to two statements made in the article. One,

William Seale, who lives part time in East Texas and is known for his histories of the White House, recalls the days when developers charged like “wild bulls” over the city’s old neighborhoods. “When she started broadening her preservation efforts,” he wrote of Ms. McAlester in an email, “few, if any, in Dallas had the slightest interest in historic preservation, thinking their history too new to be worthwhile.”

Indeed, in the 1960’s Swiss Avenue homes were about 40 to 50 years old, and by Yankee home ages, just not that old!

The local Lakewood Bank would not lend against these properties (and her father had been chairman of the board). They were, apparently, worthless, she said: “I guess one of the reasons that I wrote the first book is we needed to have a survey.”

As the article points out, the grand homes of Swiss became battered and were left very much unloved, except for her family’s and those nearby. At one point you could pick up a dumpy 5,000 square foot Swiss Avenue mansion for $30,000, and you were brave. Now they list for $1 million and more.

Still, Virginia doesn’t believe the housing market has fully come to its senses.

The shelter magazines and coffee-table books of today, she writes, worship “the singular statements — one-of-a-kind architect-designed landmarks, rarely encountered in the field but comprising a great many of today’s design awards.”

Dallas Realtor Ralph Randall says “My first introduction to this house, circa 1974, was at a family reunion. Our city is indebted to the Harris-Savage-McAlester family.”

Indeed, incredibly indebted. It does make us stop and think that we probably need to preserve even more of our “not quite so old” homes of today, because in 50 or 60 years, we will be as delighted to be inside them as we are any one of these mansion on stunning Swiss Avenue.