Swiss Avenue among best neighborhoods in Dallas
In the 1850s, an adventurous group of French, Belgian and Swiss settlers failed in their goal of establishing La Reunion Colony, a utopian community west of the Trinity River. But their loss was Dallas’ gain, as some departing members moved east of the river, founding what became Swiss Avenue, one of the city’s most prominent neighborhoods.
Among the founders were Jacob Nussbaumer and Henri Boll, who settled adjoining properties along White Rock Road, which they renamed Swiss Avenue in honor of their native country. The men sold land parcels to other former La Reunion colonists, and to members of Dallas’ new wave of European immigrants.
Within a few years, Swiss Avenue became known as the upscale core of the Munger Place development, which began in 1905, when brothers Collett and Robert S. Munger started developing the area north of Old East Dallas, with an extension of Swiss Avenue as its centerpiece.
All houses are two stories
The brothers established Munger Place as Texas’ first deed-restricted neighborhood. Swiss Avenue houses had to be a full two stories, have a uniform setback of 60 feet and cost at least $10,000. Rich and powerful residents occupied Swiss Avenue homes, which became known as a socially elite area. Noted architects Hal Thomson, C.E. Barglebaugh and Lang & Witchell designed and built houses in a variety of styles, including Neoclassical Tudor, Spanish Eclectic, Italian Renaissance, Colonial Revival and Prairie.
Today, many well-to-do Dallas residents count it a privilege to live in this community, which is less than two miles from downtown and features towering trees, sloping green lawns, rose-covered trellises, inviting front porches and lush landscapes.
“It feels like a small town,” says Gaye Jackson, a 10-year Swiss Avenue resident. “We care about each other and look out for each other. My 5-year-old son calls some of our neighbors ‘aunt’ and ‘uncle’ because he feels so close to them.”
First residential historic district
Jackson is vice president and former president of the Swiss Avenue Historic District, established in 1973 as the city’s first residential historic district. The effort of residents and organizations to earn that designation was a boon to the area, which had suffered after the Great Depression and World War II, with many stately mansions turned into apartment houses, half-way houses, brothels and dog kennels.
Today, the area is a lovely and sought-after neighborhood, and several organizations exist to promote the area, maintain a welcoming atmosphere and perform acts of service. The Swiss Avenue Neighborhood association sponsors events including the annual home show and festivities on Mother’s Day, as well as the annual Halloween celebration that attracts thousands of trick-or-treaters. The Swiss Avenue Women’s Guild hosts an annual spring brunch for new residents, as well as other social gatherings. The guild also supports Disciples of The Trinity, an organization that helps terminally ill children whose families lack health insurance.
"Many friendships between neighbors" have been the result of these efforts, says Suzanne Palmlund, guild president and founder.