The National Society of The Colonial Dames of America (NSCDA) was born on an April afternoon in 1891 when thirty women came together in Philadelphia to discuss the formation of an organization that paid tribute to the struggles and successes of their Colonial American ancestors.
The group formally incorporated in 1892, and historic preservation quickly became one of the NSCDA’s primary focuses. The New York Society was founded in 1893 specifically to save Van Cortlandt House , the oldest building in the Bronx. When the property opened to the public in 1897 it became only the fourth historic home in the United States to be open to the public. Today, the NSCDA owns 41 historic properties nationwide and is involved in the operations of an additional 43 historic sites.
The Texas Society of the NSCDA incorporated in 1898, one year after Van Cortlandt House opened to the public. In its early years, the Texas members found themselves on the front line of state politics when they joined the debate over the selection of a State Flower. The Dames took the part of the Bluebonnet, placing jars of the Texas wildflower on each legislator’s table, and carrying a painting by a local artist onto the floor of the legislature, on the day of the vote. The painting, Bluebonnets and Evening Primrose (c.1900) by Austin artist Mode Walker, today welcomes visitors to the Neill-Cochran House Museum from its place in the front hall.
The story of the Neill-Cochran House intersects with the story of the NSCDA-TX in 1958 with the organization’s purchase of the property from Frankie Cochran Hill, daughter of Thomas and Bessie Cochran. The NSCDA-TX opened the house as a museum in 1962, and today the Dames continue to oversee the property and museum’s preservation, maintenance, and educational programming.