On 22 acres of White Rock Lake’s southeast shoreline, Alex and Roberta Camp’s 8,500-square-foot home, designed by famed Texas residential architect John Staub, is completed.
Everette and Nell DeGolyer take up residence in “Rancho Encinal,” a 21,000-square-foot, 13-room Spanish Colonial Revival designed by Schutt & Scott, the architects of Hotel Bel-Air in California. The house sits on 44 acres of the lake’s southeast shoreline, adjacent to the Camp estate.
Everette DeGolyer is named president of the Dallas Arboretum Foundation, whose goal is “a planting of trees, shrubs and flowers under scientific control and for the benefit of industry, commerce and public enjoyment.” The arboretum was to be incorporated into the city’s park system, part of a master plan for post World War II improvement.
Ralph Pinkus opens North Haven Gardens on what was then a country lane. In those days, when Pinkus was out watering plants, he could hear the traffic on Northwest Highway — two miles away.
Richard Howard, director of Harvard’s 400-acre Arnold Arboretum in Boston, travels to speak to the Dallas Garden Forum and encourages members to launch the first arboretum in Texas to try out plants. Even a single acre would be “of inestimable value to the whole city,” he says.
The Dreyfus Club, one of White Rock Lake’s last private clubs, is sold to the city’s Park and Recreation Department.
Nell DeGolyer dies and deeds the DeGolyers’ 44-acre estate to Southern Methodist University.
Roberta Camp dies and leaves the Camps’ 22-acre estate to several charities.
The Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Society, a joint venture of the Dallas North Garden Forum and the North Dallas Chamber of Commerce parks committee, becomes officially incorporated.
During a Designer Showhouse preview party in the DeGolyer Estate, co-chair and future arboretum president Mary Brinegar stations herself in the library and shows partygoers the hidden doors.
The City of Dallas purchases the DeGolyer estate from SMU for $1.076 million with bond money approved in 1975.
The Park Board approves “development of a $200,000 arboretum and botanical garden” at the city-owned DeGolyer estate, based on the recommendation of a 12-member committee that includes Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Society president Ralph Pinkus.
The DeGolyer house and gardens are listed on the National Historic Register.
The society purchases the 22-acre Camp estate, the DeGolyers’ neighbor to the northeast, for $550,000 with money loaned from society chairman Ralph Rogers.
The city and society sign a contract allowing the development of the arboretum on the combined DeGolyer and Camp estates.
Jones & Jones of Seattle complete their master plan for the arboretum, including a sculpted-hedge maze, a six-story conservatory, a festival marketplace, privately owned restaurants, an auditorium, an outdoor amphitheater, dormitories for research students and an observation tower with views of the grounds and the downtown skyline. The Park Board approves the $50 million plan with no public hearings, and the society agrees to come up with $20 million if the city comes up with the rest.
Billionaire Ross Perot pledges $8 million to the Dallas Arboretum, $2 million up front and $2 million each consecutive year as the arboretum meets certain demands, such as planting thousands of flowering and foliage trees along the White Rock Lake shoreline and giving the Perot family naming rights to the arboretum.
The society hosts the inaugural Dallas Blooms festival, with 130,000 tulips enticing 40,000 people to visit the property.
In response to flaring tensions between the arboretum and residents who live around White Rock Lake, East Dallas Councilman Craig Holcomb appoints a task force to find a resolution.
The 1984 master plan is toned down with a revised master plan that contains fewer buildings, more native plants and a lower price tag.
City council approves the arboretum’s Planned Development District 287 and the society’s 15-year master plan. Longtime Dallas Morning News architecture critic David Dillon calls the new plan “simpler, clearer and more reasonable” than the previous version, “which was so overdesigned that it would have sent the Arboretum sliding into White Rock Lake under the weight of its own architecture.”
Perot demands the return of the $2 million donated for expansion of the Dallas Arboretum, then later withdraws his demand, but says he won’t give the additional $6 million he pledged for the project.
The society opens its first designed garden, the Lay Ornamental Garden, funded by a $1.7 million gift from Amelia (Mimi) Lay Hodges, in memory of her late husband, Herman Lay, co-founder and chairman of the board of Frito-Lay Inc. “Mimi’s Garden,” as it became known, was the first of 17 new gardens proposed in the arboretum’s 1987 master plan.
The arboretum proposes to build a 6-foot-high 1,000-foot-long stucco wall with $500,000 in both private and public funds to shield the gardens from Garland Road traffic noise. Neighbors oppose, claiming that the wall would bounce noise into their neighborhoods, block views of the gardens from Garland Road, and would give the publicly funded arboretum “an exclusive, country club atmosphere.” The arboretum forgoes the wall and instead agrees to build a metal fence lined with shrubs.
Roger Clinton, brother of President Bill Clinton, is married at the arboretum, which by now hosts more than 100 weddings a year.
Robert L. “Bob” Thornton III, grandson of former Dallas Mayor R.L. Thornton, becomes chairman of the society board the same year his cousin, Mary Brinegar, another of the mayor’s grandchildren, is hired as arboretum president and CEO.
The first “Cool Thursdays” concert series launches on balmy summer evenings, and A Woman’s Garden opens in the fall.
The arboretum breaks ground on the $20 million Trammell Crow Visitor Education Pavilion at the Dallas Arboretum, funded partially with bond money approved in 1995. Brinegar calls it “the beginning of a new era in botanical education and enhanced visitor experiences at the arboretum.” Thornton, leading the private fundraising charge, agrees that “it ratchets the arboretum up to the next level.”
The arboretum debuts a pumpkin house at its renamed Autumn at the Arboretum festival, launching a new tradition that evolves into a pumpkin village with crowds that outnumber its visitors during Dallas Blooms.
White Rock Lake preservationists receive word of the arboretum’s plans to use the grass field of Winfrey Point, just northwest of the arboretum in White Rock Lake Park, for overflow parking during the Chihuly exhibit. They also acquire documents revealing the arboretum and park department’s conversations and preliminary plans to incorporate Winfrey Point into the arboretum property, with part of the field becoming a permanent parking lot. Protestors descend on Winfrey Point with picket signs, and plans for both temporary and permanent parking are scrapped.
The Chihuly blown-glass exhibit opens at the arboretum, attracting 300,000 visitors and increasing attendance by 42 percent from 2011.
The $63 million 8-acre Rory Meyers Children’s Adventure Garden opens on the last of the arboretum’s undeveloped land.
The arboretum opens a 1,150-space parking garage across Garland Road from the children’s garden.
The 31st annual Dallas Blooms festival featuring 500,000 tulips is expected to attract 140,000 visitors before the end of April. The redesigned Lay Family Garden will open as part of the festival.
Sources: Dallas Morning News historical archives, City of Dallas Municipal Archives, Dallas Arboretum, interviews