A Piece of Park Cities History

Before we begin…

Highland Park

Was started in 1887 by an early settler, Col. Henry Exall who mapped out two miles around Turtle Creek and Preston Road. In 1907, John S. Armstrong purchased the land but did not live to develop it. The firm of Flippen and Prather (Armstrong’s sons-in-law) carried out his plans by selling the first lots in 1909 and incorporating a town in 1913.

Turtle Creek

Was given its’ name by a weary band of Texas Rangers returning from battle with Indians near Oklahoma. They write about camping by a “creek with all the turtles”.

The settlers used to water their stock at Turtle Creek Springs. The lovely area on Lakeside Drive between beverly Drive and Lexington was originally known as Exall Lake. Built in 1890 by damming Turtle Creek, it was originally larger and was considered a choice family entertainment spot. People would drive out from downtown Dallas to spend the day. A small steamboat was also available for rides.

As the area developed as choice real estate, much of the lake was filled in. In 1855 – the year of the Big Frost – the settlers were able to ice skate on the local lakes such as Exall Lake.

Please click and print out the accompanying Historical Map (40k) so you can follow along as we start our historical walk of Park Cities!

  1. Lover’s Lane

    Was originally a very winding lane full of Bois D’Arc hedges. It was a true “Lovers Lane”.

  2. “The Thicket”

    Was an old name given to Curtis Park and the swimming pool. Two Daniel sisters lived there in a semi-log cabin and would walk from there to present day Culwells for their groceries and a 100 pound bag of chicken feed. If a grocery helper was not available, an SMU football player would be called upon to help them home. (Hyer’s former principal, Mr. Manning, was one of those grocery helpers!)

  3. Snider Plaza

    Was an open field and was purchased by Mr. Snider from Wichita Falls — 1000 acres at .80 cents an acre. He put in the fountain, paving, and street lights before there were many buildings. One rainy night a flock of Canadian geese looked down and evidently thought the area was a lake. Needless to say, many birds suffered broken bones from their hard landing on the shiny wet pavement.

  4. The Daniel Cemetery

    Was started about 1850. Frances Sims Daniel, daughter of a Revolutionary War soldier, was widowed in Alabama in 1848 when her preacher husband died.

    In 1849 (eight years after John Neely Bryan built his log cabin on the Trinity River Banks), Mrs. Daniel trekked to Texas with her sister, six children and several slaves. She bought a section (640 acres) of land at .50 cents an acre — today’s Snider Plaza!

    The cemetery was started in the newly planted orchard behind the house. Frank, one of the slaves was the first occupant. (Later four other slaves were buried in the Northwest corned in unmarked graves.) Her sister, Mrs. Harlan, was buried there in 1850. Her daughter, Isabella, was buried in the cemetery in 1851.

    Several soldiers are buried there ranging from the war with Mexico, the Civil War, and World War I. Frances Sims Daniel was only 57 when she, too, was buried there. The key to the cemetery is available from Max or Bill Daniel at the Daniel’s Cleaner across from SMU.

  5. Southern Methodist University

    Was granted their charter April 17, 1911. Dallas Hall was the first building and was complete in 1915. Atkins Hall, a girls’ dorm was also built that year. Dr. and Mrs. Robert S. Hyer, first President of SMU lived in a suite of rooms in Atkins Hall until suitable housing could be provided.

  6. The University Grocery

    Was the area’s only food store and was located where Culwell’s now stands. In 1925, Mr. Culwell ran a cleaning and pressing firm next door. He added a haberdashery (ties, socks, and shirts) and gradually the store grew to its present size.

  7. A railroad spur used to run up McFarlin from Central Express Way (the main track) to bring the building supplies for Dallas Hall.

  8. University Boulevard

    Was the first paved street in University Park.

  9. University Park

    Was officially Incorporated in 1924, although there were more than 380 homes already built in the area. The homes had been using SMU’s water services, but as SMU grew, they found they needed full use of their own facilities. The home owners tried to annex themselves to either Highland Park or Dallas, but were not able to do so. Thus, the community leaders decided to Incorporate so water, sewer, garbage, police, and fire-fighting facilities could be provided.

    The Town Hall was erected in 1925 as in the style of Old Williamsburg. The first official building permit was issued in 1925 for a $5,000 duplex at 3454 Shenandoah (near MMS).

  10. Hillcrest State Bank

    Is located on the home site of SMU’s first President, Robert S. Hyer. Family legend says that Mrs. Hyer once told her husband that he could never build a university on that hill because there was too much Johnson grass!

  11. McFarlin Boulevard was originally named Roberts Boulevard

    After a Mrs. Roberts who planned to give $100,000 to SMU. However, after McFarlin Auditorium was built, the street name changed. Very annoyed, Mrs. Roberts gave her money to Southwestern at Georgetown.

    The reason McFarlin is so bumpy is that it was originally paved by wheelbarrow loads!

  12. Standing since 1918, the two story red brick home on the corner of Shenandoah & Hillcrest was the home of SMU’s second and third Presidents — Dr. Boas and Dr. Selecman.

  13. Many “Garage Houses” were build on the back of a lot for a family to live in while the “big house” was being built. In fact, many of SMU’s early faculty lived in garage houses for some time (see 1921 Rotunda).

  14. The first football field at SMU was located where the permanent track is now. The first coach, Ray Morrison, was signed on to be head of the YMCA as SMU’s President wasn’t sure he wanted to emphasize football that much.

    Many football players lived at the U.P. Fire Station and moonlighted as firemen.

  15. Highland Park Methodist Church

    The world’s largest Methodist church, got its start in a shack in the grove of trees near Perkins Theology School. Dr. Umphrey Lee was the first Pastor.

  16. First Dairy

    Was run by S.A. Mowat on Mockingbird, now occupied by Tom Thumb, near the Expressway.

  17. The Katy Railroad

    Had a train station at Knox and Abbot from July 1, 1922 to November 27, 1968 (46 Years). Many Park Cities’ kids went off to college from the station, while many SMU students arrived there.

  18. Highland Park Pharmacy

    Has been in business for 67 years. It was started by Mr. H.S. Foreman in 1912 when Knox Street was still unpaved. Their soda fountain is popular for lunch. A few of the employees have been there for 50 years.

    SMU students used to ride the trolley, or “Dinkie” down Abbot Avenue to Euclid where they would get off and go over the railroad tracks for a “soda date”. (The trolley out from downtown Dallas came up Cole Avenue and ended at Knox.)

  19. Dr. John Cole, Dallas’ First Physician

    Came to Dallas in 1843, and had a farm from old Jesuit to Mockingbird Lane and from Abbot to Lomo Alto. He planted an orchard and herb garden on the site of the Strickland Place.

    They ran stock in old Highland Park (mostly blooded Morgan Horses) which during Indian scares they hid in the deep thicket that is now the Highland Park swimming pool.

  20. “Old Gill Well”

    Is the name of a sulfur water well that used to flow where Lexington meets lakeside (just below the dam for Exall Lake). People came from miles around to “drink the water for their vapors”, despite its smell of rotten eggs. The water was supposed to have been beneficial for your health.

  21. The “Old Wishing Well

    At the foot of Laurel Street on Lakeside was a spring accidentally discovered in May of 1851. A Mr. Edmonson was hiding from Indians down near Turtle Creek and found this water source. It was a lucky find as it had been very dry and the settlers were in need of water.

  22. The Giant Pecan Tree

    That is decorated with Christmas lights at the entrance of Armstrong Parkway is 114 years old [remember: this was written in 1979].

    Late in 1865, Joe Cole, a 23 year old returned Confederate Soldier, was breaking his father’s land with oxen for corn. He was the seventh son of Dr. Cole. He unintentionally plowed under a small pecan shoot about the size of a pencil, probably dropped by a crow from the trees on nearby Turtle Creek. Sick to death with the killing he’d seen in the Civil War, he stopped, straightened the shoot and braced it with a nearby fence rail. It grew slowly as pecan trees do, but his daughter was able to have a playhouse beneath it.

    When he sold the land in 1888, it was with the understanding that the new owner would protect the tree. So it has continued and today the tree is over 60 feet wide and 65 feet high. It takes four men several days to put on the 1250 lights.

  23. Highland Park Village

    Was the second planned shopping village in the United States. It was started in 1930. Its Spanish decor was inspired by a visit to Barcelona, Spain.

  24. The Dallas Country Club (DCC)

    Is the oldest country club in Texas. It was started in 1897 near Oak Lawn and Cedar Springs. It later moved to its present site.

  25. Preston Road was named for Fort Preston

    that was built in 1841 at the best ford on the upper Red River (Preston Bend).

    The Republic of Texas staked out a military highway from Austin to this fort, following a Pre-Columbian Indian Trace or Trail. Later, Indians used it as a train from St. Louis to the Santa Fe Trail.

    Still later, Preston Road served as a cattle trail from the ford of the Trinity River to the Oklahoma Border. To commemorate this historic trail, a group of riders and wagons annually come down Preston Road, arriving the Friday before the State Fair opens. As all the Hyer school children know, this colorful group always pauses for their final rest stop at Smith Park, across from Hyer School and the University Park Methodist Church.

  26. Preston Center Shopping Village

    Was once the site of Col. Henry Exall’s private race track. He raised blooded race horses that were quite in demand. It was called the Lomo Alto Horse Farm.