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A History of the Belo Mansion & Dallas Bar Association


THE DALLAS BAR ASSOCIATION & THE BELO MANSION

The Dallas Bar Association purchased the Belo Mansion in 1977 and, over the next year, refurbished it to serve as its headquarters.  The home is on the State and National Historic registries and is located in the Dallas Arts District.  It is one of a few remaining original buildings along Ross Avenue, a premier residential street during the late 1800s.  By 1930, Ross Avenue had transformed into a largely commercial district of car dealerships, motels, and other businesses, eventually becoming a less desirable area of downtown Dallas.  Many of the homes along Ross Avenue were lost to new developments.  Construction of the Dallas Arts District resulted in Ross Avenue’s resurgence as a premier Dallas neighborhood and destination for art lovers around the world.  The area around the Belo Mansion now includes the Dallas Museum of Art, Nasher Sculpture Center, Meyerson Symphony Center, and Klyde Warren Park.  

In 2003, the Dallas Bar Association built an addition to the building called the Pavilion to accommodate the bar’s growth and need for a larger facility.  For over 40 years, the Dallas Bar Association and the Dallas Bar Foundation have preserved the historic Belo Mansion.  The headquarters has helped facilitate the Dallas Bar Association’s mission of service to attorneys, judges, and the community at large.  Some of the services the DBA provides include training and education to the legal community, educational opportunities for students in DISD and other area school districts, free legal aid to those who cannot afford an attorney, and scholarships for minority law students.  

BEFORE THE DALLAS BAR: HISTORY OF THE BELO MANSION

In 1888, Nettie Ennis Belo, wife of Colonel A.H. Belo, a civil war veteran and publisher of the Dallas Morning News, bought a brown frame house on Ross Avenue at the corner of Pearl Street for $27,500 from Mrs. Belo's "separate property and estate." The site was part of a ten-acre tract which Captain W.H. Gaston, a pioneer Dallas banker, had bought several years earlier for $100 an acre. Ross Avenue became the first elegant address in Dallas and its first paved street between Oleander (Ervay Street) and the H&TC Railroad (North Central Expressway).

Architect Herbert Miller Greene (1871-1932), who received his architecture degree in 1893, moved to Dallas in 1897 and was commissioned by Nettie Belo to design a stately mansion at Ross and Pearl patterned after the Belo family home in Salem, North Carolina. The contractor for the neo-classical revival home was Daniel Morgan, who, in 1893, completed the Dallas County courthouse now known as "Old Red."

Construction of the Belo home was believed to have been completed about 1900. Colonel Belo died in 1901, having inhabited the home for less than a year.  His son, Alfred Belo, Jr., succeeded his father as President of the Dallas Morning News until he died in 1906 at the age of 33 from meningitis.  Nettie Ennis Belo lived in the home with her daughter-in-law Helen Ponder Belo and Helen’s children until her death in 1913 at the age of 67.  Helen Ponder Belo and her children continued to live in the home until 1922 when they were forced to leave Dallas and move to North Carolina because of ill health.  The Belo family resided in the home for 21 years.  

In 1926, a 50-year lease was negotiated between Helen Belo Morrison (Nettie and A.H. Belo’s granddaughter), George Loudermilk, and Will Sparkman to use the property as the Loudermilk-Sparkman Funeral Home. Extensive remodeling occurred that year and, in 1936, an addition to the rear of the home was built as was a chapel on the eastern portion of the property.  
The Dallas Bar Association purchased the home in 1977 and refurbished it as its headquarters.  The home was placed on the State and National Historic registries.  In 2003, the Dallas Bar Association built an addition to the building called the Pavilion to accommodate the bar’s growth and need for a larger facility.  The Dallas Bar Association and the Dallas Bar Foundation preserved a piece of Dallas history in restoring and maintaining one of the few remaining original homes along Ross Avenue.