What were you doing 100 years ago? Probably the only one who could answer that is Margaret McDermott, who just celebrated her 105th birthday on February 18. It was when she was a five-year old living in Dallas that two totally different undertakings launched.
First, a stately mansion joined the other grand residences along Swiss Avenue. Taking two years to build by Dallasite Willie (Newberry) and her West Texas rancher husband William J. Lewis, the English Georgian/French Renaissance residence was designed by architects Hal Thomson and Marion Fooshee. Four years later the home was purchased by Rena (Munger) and her husband/banker George N. Aldredge, resulting in the residence being called “The Aldredge House.”
Remember, at this time the population of Dallas was less than 158,000. The Park Cities was just a development in progress and considered by many to be a suburb of Dallas. The Highland Park Village wouldn’t open for 14 more years. Since there was no such thing as air conditioning, these showplaces that fronted Swiss had large windows that would allow the air to flow and fireplaces to warm the rooms with their tall ceilings. Word has it that Swiss Avenue was one of the first to be paved.
Ironically, the same year that the Lewises moved into their home, the Woman’s Auxiliary to the Dallas County Medical Society was established. What most folks don’t know is that it “was the very first permanent woman’s county medical auxiliary in the nation, organized by a group of Dallas doctor’s wives. Mrs. John McReynolds was elected president and the group voted to support Red Cross work.”
Other auxiliaries sprung up throughout the country using the Dallas organization as the model. Over the years, the Dallas auxiliary grew both in membership and mission of supporting the Dallas County medical community. Eventually the name was changed to Dallas County Medical Society Alliance Foundation (DCMSAF).
It was in the early 1970s that Rena and the Foundation found each other. The 80ish widow of George Aldredge had decided to give her mansion to a nonprofit to “preserve her home and to maintain it as a welcoming part of the Dallas community.” It just so happened that DCMSAF President/historical preservationist Lindalyn Adams was seeking a permanent home for the Auxiliary at the same time. The match was made!
The grand lady on Swiss entered a new phase of life. In addition to serving as home base for the Foundation, it was also the Kappa Alpha Theta show house and provided interior scenes for the TV show “Dallas,” as well as serving as a meeting place for the Auxiliary. In 1982, the House was recognized as a Record Texas Historic Landmark.
But over the years, the old gal needed updating and upkeep and that required funding. So after various efforts, the Auxiliary realized that they had a perfect opportunity to fund-raise coming up — the Double Centennial Celebrations of the Auxiliary and the House!
Such a momentous celebration deserved more than just one event to raise monies and awareness.
According to Foundation President Barenda Hino, “The DCMSA Foundation is seeking community support, so they can continue to preserve the rich heritage of this magnificent house.”
To kick the double centennial activities off, the official Texas Historical Marker will be dedicated at Aldredge House on Wednesday, April 5, with city, county and Medical Society leaders taking part.
The second event will be a luncheon taking place on Tuesday, May 16, at the Dallas County Club.
Barenda has arranged for Sharon and Mike McCullough to serve as co-chairs of the luncheon’s Advisory Host Committee “because of their belief in historic preservation, its importance in an ever-changing society and their great respect for the outstanding preservation of the Aldredge House by the Medical Alliance.”
Lindalyn, who arranged for the Foundation’s acquisition of Aldredge House, and noted author/White House historian Dr. William Seale will be co-chairing the luncheon. Serving as honor co-chairs will be Ruth Altshuler and Margaret McDermott.
Tickets to the luncheon are available by calling 214.521.4108. If you can’t make it to the fundraiser, you can still donate to The Aldredge House Preservation Fund.
* Photo courtesy of Dallas County Medical Society Auxiliary Foundation