The first project of the Dallas Bar Foundation was to raise money for the purchase and restoration of the historic Belo Mansion on Ross Avenue as headquarters for the Dallas Bar Association and the Dallas Bar Foundation. Now considered a jewel of the Dallas Arts District, the Belo Mansion has an interesting history. The mansion was built in the late 1890’s by the founder of the Dallas Morning News, Colonel A.H. Belo, as a tribute to his wife Nettie Ennis Belo. The mansion, patterned after Belo’s Neo-Classical family home in Salem, North Carolina, was the first home in Dallas to have electricity and indoor plumbing. Ross Avenue was the first paved street in Dallas and was known as the “Silk Stocking” District.
The home was completed in time to host the wedding of A.H. Belo, Jr. and his bride Helen Ponder. The home was considered a city showplace due to the many civic and cultural activities of the family. Colonel Belo, a civil war hero, died in 1901 and his son died 6 years later. Nettie Belo lived in the mansion with her daughter-in-law and granddaughters until her death in 1913. In 1922, Helen Ponder Belo moved back to the east coast with her daughters. In 1927 the family leased the mansion to George Loudermilk and Will Sparkman, who operated it as a funeral home for fifty years. One of the most infamous events during that time was the 1934 funeral of Clyde Barrow of the Bonnie and Clyde gang.
In 1977 when the 50 year lease expired, Helen Belo Morrison agreed to sell the property to the Dallas Bar Association. Ms. Morrison had been born in the house in 1902 and believed the Dallas Bar’s plan to restore the home as the Dallas Legal Education Center was in accordance with the family’s principles and feelings.
The first capital campaign of the Dallas Bar raised $1,000,000 for the purchase and restoration of the Belo Mansion. In 2001, the Dallas Bar started raising revenue for the expansion and renovation of the historic Belo Mansion. The Dallas Bar Foundation made the lead gift of $1.5 million dollars. On August 28, 2003, a ribbon cutting ceremony celebrated the opening of the new Pavilion and renovated historic Belo Mansion. This succesful capital campaign raised $14 million from 1,000 donors. In 2014-2015 the final phase of the mansion expansion campaign was introduced allowing additional donors to make a contribution for the purpose of retiring the remaining debt on the construction loan.