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RUTH MOORE CHENOWETH - Preservationist was champion of Oak Cliff district

Dallas Morning News, The (TX) - Saturday, September 2, 2006
Author: JOE SIMNACHER, Staff Writer
Ruth Moore Chenoweth had always been an active volunteer - serving as a room mother and making costumes for the school play.

But in the 1970s, when a proposed street extension threatened her Oak Cliff home, she became an organizer of the Winnetka Heights Neighborhood Association.

"Somebody was going to try and extend Ninth Street, which was going to take their house, and she got all up in arms about that," said her daughter, Linda Strickland of Austin.

Mrs. Chenoweth and her husband, Samuel Joseph "Joe" Chenoweth, banded together with some of their neighbors and were able to not only block the extension, but win national, state and city historical designations for the 50-square block neighborhood.

Mrs. Chenoweth, 80, died July 15 of pneumonia at Methodist Dallas Medical Center.

A memorial will be at 2 p.m. Sept. 16 at the Turner House, 401 North Rosemont Ave.

Mrs. Chenoweth was the driving force behind the group, her daughter said. She later became a Realtor and champion of historic preservation.

"She went on to saving the whole neighborhood ... then others," Ms. Strickland said.

Those efforts won her honors including the Lantern Service Award from the Historic Preservation League, the Dorothy Savage Award for outstanding achievement in historic preservation, and a historic light and plaque in the Stemmons Plaza Park.

"She liked people, and she liked history," Ms. Strickland said. "She liked meeting people. She enjoyed educating people on the value of maintaining history."

Mrs. Chenoweth researched county records, oral histories and survey documents to build her case.

"You have to have people understand that there is a place there, that it has value. ... Then the history becomes important," she said in 2002.

Born and raised in Bristol, Texas, Mrs. Chenoweth was one of six children. Salutatorian of her high school class, she later attended Southern Methodist University and the Dallas County Community College District.

After graduating from high school, Mrs. Chenoweth lived in Oak Cliff, where she was a legal secretary. She met her husband-to-be at an ice cream shop. They were married in 1945. Mr. Chenoweth died in 1991.

The couple lived in Roswell, N.M., Dallas and Odessa before moving back to Oak Cliff in 1957.

Mrs. Chenoweth was a founding member of the Old Oak Cliff Conservation League and the Dallas Heritage Council, the Neighborhood Conservation Alliance, the Dallas Home Owners League and the Historic Preservation League, now Preservation Dallas.

At the 1994 dedication of the 87 lights in Stemmons Park, including one for her and her husband, Mrs. Chenoweth said the lamps were a symbol of Winnetka Heights.

"It is one of the very best neighborhoods in all of Dallas, and I think that will continue," she said.

In addition to her daughter, Mrs. Chenoweth is survived by a son, Jeff Chenoweth of Dallas; two sisters, Virginia Bate of Carthage, Texas, and Raye Fenter of Irving; and two grandchildren.

Memorials may be made to the Winnetka Heights Neighborhood Association, P.O. Box 5327, Dallas, Texas 75208.

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