a neighborhood blooms

new life flows into mill creek

the dallas morning news

March 1994


Dan Shine Staff Writer of The Dallas Morning News

 

HenriEtta Eidt still lives in the Swiss Avenue home her grandfather bought in 1908.

She remembers when the street was called White Rock Road and the milk was delivered in a cart pulled by
Mabel, a horse that wore a straw hat. And how neighborhood children would follow around the ice man and
hold their hands underneath a block of ice while he sawed off a chunk, letting them create their own snow
cones. But what Ms. Eidt remembers most is the pride that residents took in their homes. And she sees that
pride returning to the area, after years of decline.

"Within the last 10 years the neighborhood has begun to pick up again. Families are moving back in with
children," said Ms. Eidt, who will only say of her age, "I've been around a while."

Part of the youthful infusion in the neighborhood, known as Mill Creek, has been 25 year old
Braden Power and his brother, Craig, 28. The siblings both live in the neighborhood and have renovated several homes, duplexes and four plexes.

They are currently rehabbing neighboring apartment buildings on Swiss Avenue.

"It's a neat old property," Craig Power said of his 10 unit brick building. "People say it may not be the best area, but we get the best tenants, and we get good security. I think this will be a growing area."

Both Craig and Braden Power were born and reared in North Dallas.

"I lived in Dallas my entire life, and I didn't know this place existed," Braden Power said of the neighborhood.

Mill Creek is bounded by Fitzhugh Avenue, Live Oak Street, Columbia Avenue, Main Street and Haskell
Avenue. Gaston Avenue cuts through the center of the area, but residents say Swiss Avenue is the
neighborhood's heart.

It was first settled in 1855 by Capt. Jefferson Peak, whose namesake street also slices through the
neighborhood. The name Mill Creek came from the body of water that wound its way through the area. The
creek was larger than Turtle Creek and was second in size to the Trinity River, historians say.

The area was subdivided in 1897, and plots were available at 50 cents an acre. Many French, Belgian and
Swiss settlers moved to Mill Creek after the breakup of La Reunion, the utopian settlement near the banks of the Trinity.

The neighborhood got its name from the grist mills that located on the creek's banks. The mills are long gone. So is the creek. It was paved over in the 1930s.

Trudy O'Reilly, chairwoman of the Landmark Commission and a resident of Mill Creek, said Dallas has a lot of wonderful houses "but not a lot of wonderful neighborhoods."  She said Mill Creek is an exception.

"The people that live in that neighborhood are a wonderful group," Ms. O'Reilly said. "These are people who choose to live in the inner city. They enjoy the urban lifestyle, they enjoy diversity."

She has lived on Swiss Avenue for 15 years and said it's like living in a small town. She said residents on her block have progressive dinners, and she's planning an ice cream social in her back yard this spring. 

"It's a real mix of people," Ms. O'Reilly said. "It's mixed in terms of ages, it's mixed ethnically and economically. It's how life really is, but it all works."

Don Orgeron wasn't sure of that when his wife suggested that they move to Mill Creek five years ago. They were living in a Richardson condo, but his wife, Maryann Lynch, a New York native, disliked the suburbs.

"We went looking for houses and bumped into this neighborhood," Mr. Orgeron said. "My first reaction was that there's no way I'm living down here."

And now?

"I can't imagine living in another part of town," Mr. Orgeron said.

Braden Power said that when he bought his first property in the area, some of the houses on the street were graffiti covered crack dens. But that, he said, was part of the challenge. He said he liked to clean up one house and see whether it positively affected the rest of the block, like planting a flower in a field of weeds to see whether more flowers would grow.

"People will say you're crazy to go in, but you make it work, and that's very satisfying," Braden Power said.
He said he used to see prostitution and drug dealing in the middle of the day. But police have stepped up
patrols, and that has helped put a stop to such crimes, Mr. Power said.

"The city's doing something about it," he said. "You don't see the drug dealers, you don't see the hookers."
Mr. Orgeron said his friends who live in North Dallas told him and his wife they were crazy to live so close to downtown.

"But my friends in North Dallas have more problems than I do here," he said.

Sharron Sadacca used to live on Lennox Lane, in Ross Perot's North Dallas neighborhood. About a year ago,
she moved into a six unit apartment building on Worth Avenue. She refurbished it and cut the number of
apartments in half.

She said that she and her daughter, Corley, a senior at The Hockaday School, are getting used to nearby
drug houses, the loud music and occasional gunshots.

"Every male friend I know and my own brother were horrified that I would even consider living over here," Ms. Sadacca said. "But I would have never dreamed I could love a home as much as I love this one."

The homes and apartment buildings are what distinguishes Mill Creek from most Dallas neighborhoods.

The area developed over a 40 year period, so many styles of architecture are represented from Victorian and prairie to carpenter and Gothic. But what really sets the neighborhood apart, residents say, are the people who live in those homes.

"That's the neat thing about this area," Braden Power said. "You have rich people and poor people and
they're all living together."

Ms. Sadacca said her neighbors have been wonderful, including the one who fixed her broken car window for free. She said her friends are amazed at the racial makeup of the block.

"They say, `Golly, look at this. You see every type of person, and they all get along,' " Ms. Sadacca said.

That's why Ms. Eidt remains in her Swiss Avenue home with the 12 foot high ceilings, wood floors, the old fashioned doorbell that visitors twist to ring and a doormat that reads, "Oh No, Not You Again."

"There's always somebody who's the last around to be the caretaker," Ms. Eidt said with a laugh. "My friends say I should move to a retirement center. But I say, `What for? All my friends are here.' "


PHOTO(S): Brothers Braden (left) and Craig Power stand
in front of apartment buildings they're rehabilitating on Swiss
Avenue. Cleaning up the neighborhoodwas part of the challenge, they
say. (The Dallas Morning News: Louis DeLuca). MAP(S): Mill Creek
neighborhood. (DMN) ; PHOTO LOCATION: Disk 32b / NB_PowerBros4 (cf
68515).
Copyright 1994 The Dallas Morning News Company