Longform

Swiss Misses

Page 4 of 9

Novorr nods her head in agreement and, in the most sincere of voices, adds that the Avenue's once-distant neighbors are now friends who can depend upon each other in times of need. "When bad things happen, we're there. And when good things happen, we're there."

Good things do indeed define the activities of the Guild, which has adopted the magnolia as its emblem because it is a "symbol of Southern beauty and strength."

In its two years of existence, the Guild has entertained numerous prominent personalities, one of the first of whom was Dr. Fritz E. Barton, Jr., a professor of plastic surgery.

The Guild's 67 members were also invited to a "Holiday High Tea" at the Adolphus Hotel in 1995 and a subsequent book signing party at Barbara McDaniel's house, where the Guild entertained the Beverly Drive Book Club of Highland Park.

Of course, few could forget the private cooking class with Baroness Anna Mosesson, "The Swedish Chef" who has catered many a big-time wingding, including Placido Domingo's 40th birthday party and a gala ballet reception with Princess Diana.

Although men are strictly prohibited from joining the Guild, its social activities inevitably include the husbands. Throughout the year, the Guild families gather to celebrate holidays and special occasions.

There's the annual Fourth of July barbecue and the getaway at Ed and Nan Creel's Longhorn ranch. The Guild has gone to considerable lengths to document the fun had by all at these family-like events in its newsletter, the Guild Gazette.

In one issue of the Gazette, color snapshots captured Guild children gnawing on ears of corn in Palmlund's back yard on the Fourth. Men and women dressed in full cowboy gear, right down to the fringes on their vests, are also pictured hoisting bottles of Shiner Bock at the Creel ranch.

Of course, there are also many eerily identical pictures of Guild women posing for the camera with large smiles planted on their faces as they sip tea or champagne at the various Guild teas. Instead of name tags, the women pin large color photographs of their homes to their chests.

But life in the Guild hasn't been all fun and games, the women say. With much sweat and toil, they've produced several items designed to promote Swiss Avenue.

"We're an inner-city neighborhood. When you drive a family through here that just showed up today and you drive them through the inner city to get here, which is the way you have to go to get here, many families think this is not a wonderful place to live," Novorr explains. "The only way to show that this is a wonderful place to live is to publicize yourself."

Last year, the Guild finished work on a glossy brochure that includes snapshots of various homes in the District and is distributed to real estate agents and businesses whose clients may be relocating to Dallas. The Guild also produced an audiotape tour of Swiss Avenue homes and has plans to complete a similar videotape tour, which WFAA-Channel 8 has agreed to produce, Novorr says.

In addition, the Guild has designed and manufactured refrigerator magnets and coffee mugs, each of which features one of a few select Swiss Avenue homes, which have an average value of $350,000. As a special touch, the mugs come with a packet of "Swiss Chocolate," the Guild's very own blend of coffee.

Only a Guild critic would point out that the items focus on Swiss Avenue homes and barely mention the more modest dwellings on Bryan Parkway and La Vista. But it is the exclusion of those "fringe" areas that is making the Guild a loathsome entity elsewhere in the District.

The giggling trio on Palmlund's back porch swears that they limited the Guild's membership to Swiss Avenue only because they needed to limit the size of the club, and not because they've got a bias against people who live in the smaller houses of Bryan Parkway and La Vista.

"Anybody who is upset about [us] excluding anybody, we excluded 100 percent of the men," Palmlund says, stopping as the three women laugh uncontrollably at the joke. "I mean, pleeaasse. You know? I mean, please!"

"Not only that, we drag them around and put them in tuxedos," Novorr adds. "And you know what? At first there was a little bit of resistance in the men. And now, they can't wait to go to parties."

Not everyone who lives in the Swiss Avenue Historic District loves a party, especially if it's thrown by the Guild.

One afternoon in late September, the residents of Bryan Parkway were stunned to discover that an unusual invitation had been placed in their mailboxes.

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Rose Farley
Contact: Rose Farley