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History

Swiss Avenue - The Evolution Of A Grand Experiment

At the turn of the last century, Robert S. Munger, a successful cotton-gin manufacturer and forward-thinking real-estate developer from an influential Dallas family, had a pioneering vision.  And a unique plan.  In a city where zoning had yet to be practiced, on any scale, Munger conceived the idea of building a planned, upscale residential community, just east of downtown.  His development, Munger Place, was the first deed-restricted neighborhood in Texas.  And at its heart, he would build an exclusive enclave of grand and stately homes along Swiss Avenue, stretching from Fitzhugh Avenue at the east, to La Vista Drive at the west.  
 
Swiss Avenue became the first paved street in the entire city of Dallas.  The surfacing material selected was Bois d’Arc block (Crabapple Tree wood), known for its extreme density and durability.  A trolley line was installed to provide residents with convenient transportation to the downtown business and shopping districts, and a railway spur track was laid in what is now the alleyway between Swiss and Gaston, allowing residents who were well-heeled enough to own private rail cars to simply board at the rear of their homes and travel to anyplace the rails could transport them.  

Munger’s building restrictions stipulated that the homes on Swiss Avenue had to be at least two stories in height, the exteriors constructed of brick or masonry, they were not permitted to face a side street, and each residence had to cost at least $10,000 to build, a hefty sum at the time.  No home could be constructed ‘on spec’, all houses had to be built and occupied by their intended residents.  
 
Prominent Dallas families embraced the concept, they hired nationally renowned architects to design and build their showplaces.  These included Bertram Hill, Lang & Witchell, Charles Bulger, Hal Thompson, Marion Fooshee, C.P. Sites, Marshall Barnett, and W.H. Reeves, among others.  
 
In 1973, Swiss Avenue was designated as Dallas’ first historic district.  On March 28, 1974, it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and is an official Dallas Landmark District.
 
Today, Swiss Avenue stands as the finest example of an early 20th Century neighborhood in the entire Southwest.  Its eclectic mix of homes, spanning its 2 ½ mile stretch, represent virtually every popular residential design style of the day, including Mediterranean, Spanish, Spanish Revival, Georgian, Mission, Prairie, Carftsman, Neoclassical, Italian Renaissance, Tudor and Colonial Revival.  It has evolved from one man’s unique experiment in planned urban development to become a living testament to America’s architectural diversity.
 

Distinguished Residents

Kay Bailey 
Hutchison
,
Former United       States Senator      (5020 Swiss)

Bishop Joseph 
Patrick Lynch
,
3rd Bishop of Dallas
1911-1954 
           (4946 Swiss)

W.W. Caruth
Dallas Pioneer, Landowner, and
Philanthropist       
(4949 Swiss)

W.A. Criswell
Pastor of the            First Baptist Church of Dallas                    (5901 Swiss)

Carrie Marcus
Neiman
, Founder
Neiman-Marcus  Department Store
(5803 Swiss)

J. Woodall 
Rogers

Mayor of Dallas,        1939-1947            (5750 Swiss)

 
Since its establishment, Historic Swiss Avenue and its surrounding streets have served as the home for many of Dallas’ most distinguished and well-known business, civic, social, religious and political leaders. In addition to the noted individuals mentioned above, other past (and current) residents of The Swiss Avenue Historic District include the following.
  • Rena Munger Aldredge (5500 Swiss), daughter of Munger Pl. developer, Robert Munger
  • Dr. Raliegh W. Baird (5303 Swiss), founder of Blue Cross & Blue Shield
  • Mary Ellen Bentsen (4949 Swiss), Dallas ingénue, model for Art Deco statues at Fair Park
  • Dr. John Bourland (4902 Swiss), inventor of the baby incubator
  • W.G. Breg (5650 Swiss), President of Dallas Trust & Savings Bank
  • E.R. Brown (5314 Swiss), founder of Magnolia Oil (later renamed Mobil Oil)
  • Carr P. Collins (6102 Swiss), founder of Bailey & Collins Insurance
  • James M. “Jim” Collins (6102 Swiss), former U.S. Congressman
  • Martin M. Crane (4937 Swiss), former Texas Lieutenant Governor
  • Harryette Ehrhardt (current, 5731 Swiss), former Texas State Representative
  • Shirley English (4926 Swiss), 1st president of The Postal Telegraph Corporation
  • G.C. Greer (5439 Swiss), president of Magnolia Oil (later renamed Mobil Oil)
  • H.H. Green (6119 Bryan Pkwy), son of W.A. Green Department Store founder, W.A. Green
  • W.A. Green (5125 Swiss), founder of W.A. Green Department Store
  • Will Harris, Sr. (5703 Swiss), prosecutor of impeached Texas Governor James Ferguson
  • Rufus W. Higginbotham (5002 Swiss), prominent Dallas merchant & banker
  • W.J. Lang (5640 Swiss), Lang & Witchell Architects
  • Fred Legg, Jr. (5302 Swiss),1st president of Magnolia Oil (later renamed Mobil Oil)
  • Virginia McAlester (current, 5703 Swiss), renowned author & architectural historian
  • Theodore Marcus (5731 Swiss), member of the Neiman-Marcus family
  • Curry McCutcheon (5439 Swiss), noted criminal attorney
  • Collett Munger (5400 Swiss), original co-developer & manager of Munger Place
  • Hamilton Munger (5405 Swiss), son of Munger Place developer, Robert Munger
  • A.L. Neiman (5803 Swiss), founder of Neiman-Marcus Department Store
  • Wallace Savage (5736 Swiss), Mayor of Dallas, 1949-1951
  • Joseph Schepp’s (4902 Swiss), founder of Schepp’s Dairy
  • Alfred F. Weir (6204 Bryan Pkwy), founder of Weir's Furniture Store

 

Old East Dallas Postcards