The Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden was founded upon the dreams of a few visionaries with a passion for preserving both history and nature. Though the gardens themselves are comparatively young, the work that went into creating the current gardens began long ago.
In 1974, the Dallas Arboretum & Botanical Society (DABS) adopted bylaws, elected officers and incorporated as a nonprofit organization.
In 1977, the City of Dallas Park Board recommended that the grounds of the DeGolyer Estate, which the city purchased from Southern Methodist University, be the official location of the botanical garden. The city encouraged DABS to raise funds for the initial costs.
During 1978 and 1979, DABS membership and awareness increased. Both business and local citizens began to support of the Arboretum project.
By 1980, DABS had raised over one million dollars and purchased the 22-acre Alexander Camp House, which is adjacent to the DeGolyer Estate. Both houses are located on White Rock Lake.
In 1982, the City of Dallas and DABS signed a contract creating an arboretum and botanical garden on the combined 66 acres of the DeGolyer and Camp properties. The gardens opened to the public for the first time in 1984.
The home of Everett DeGolyer(1886-1956) and Nell Goodrich DeGolyer(1887-1972) was designed to look 100 years old when it was built in 1939. Mr. DeGolyer was a geologist who ushered the oil industry into the age of technology with the use of the seismograph to find oil. Both Mr. and Mrs. DeGolyer were very active in the city of Dallas. The 21,000-square-foot home is Latin Colonial Revival style with 13 rooms, seven baths, five fireplaces, seven chimneys and a 1,750-square-foot library. Architects Denman Scott and Burton Schutt also included central air conditioning and heating when building the house. When the DeGolyers originally purchased the property, called “Rancho Encinal” because of the many live oak trees, it was being used as a 44-acre dairy farm. The DeGolyer Estate is on the National Register of Historic Places as well as the Texas Register of Historic Places. The house was recently renovated to re-create the look of the 1940s.
The Alexander Camp House is an 8,500-square-foot home, which sits atop a gently sloping hill providing a stunning view of White Rock Lake. It was designed and built by well-known architect John Staub, and was completed in 1938. Both Alex Camp and Roberta Coke Camp were from prominent Dallas families, and Roberta was a generous philanthropist who supported local civic and charitable organizations including the symphony, art museum, ballet and her church. The house is a harmonious combination of Latin Colonial, English Regency and Art Deco styles. It is one room deep throughout, creating three exposures for all living and bedrooms.