Academic journal article The Geographical Review

Ambidextrous Dallas

Academic journal article The Geographical Review

Ambidextrous Dallas

Article excerpt

For a century and more, Dallas, Texas has been a right-hander--and a powerful one, hitting balls farther and farther as the years have gone by. Herman Brosius's 1872 bird's-eye view of Dallas shows a toddler, population 3,000, along the east bank of the Trinity River. The city's streets consist of two misaligned grids. The larger one is approximately cardinal and aligned with the river. The smaller one, to the north, is rotated 45[degrees] counterclockwise. Together the grids measure only a dozen blocks by a dozen blocks. Most have only scattered buildings, and although a few at the more crowded center appear to be brick, the great majority are wood. None exceeds two stories, and the county courthouse, alone in its square, still lacks a roof. Brosius puts pedestrians here and there, along with a few people on horseback and a few driving wagons. He shows a couple waiting for one of the horse-drawn streetcars that will actually begin service the following year, when they will start to roll back and forth on Main Street between a western terminus near the Trinity and an eastern one at the station of the Houston and Texas Central Railway, newly arrived from Corsicana. Two blocks to the north, Brosius shows "the Central," as the railroad will be familiarly called, crossing the line of the Texas and Pacific Railway, "the Pacific." It is another anticipation, because this line, too, will not come into service for another year. That does not stop Brosius from putting a train on the duly named "Pacific Avenue," which happens to be the seam separating the town's two street grids. Trailing smoke, the locomotive heads toward a wooden trestle across the Trinity. Three blocks south of that bridge a wagon road crosses a fancier bridge, a privately owned toll bridge built with two bowstring trusses shipped from Saint Louis. They rest on masonry piers, perhaps the most solid objects anywhere in the infant city. Despite the inclusion of a dozen people on or near the bridge, the silence is audible (Brosius 1872; McElhaney and Hazel 2008).

The Dallas of 1942

Seventy years later, Dallas in 1942 is no longer quiet. The Bekins Van & Storage Company--telephone Riverside 1335--distributes a map of a Dallas that now has 300,000 people (Ashburn 1942). Seen as a giant clock face, the city extends 4 miles in almost every direction from one o'clock around to ten. The exceptions are two wedges at five and ten o'clock, where empty land flanks the Trinity River, which had been a flood hazard until levees tamed it in 1932. Between ten and one, however, the town is booming. Money has chosen to make the north side its Dallas home. It did so first with the nineteenth-century mansions built along Ross Avenue, in the diagonally oriented grid north of the Pacific, and it confirmed that decision with the development and incorporation in 1913 of the enclave of Highland Park, 2 miles farther north. The built-up area on the city's north side in 1942 reaches 6 miles from downtown. It extends just beyond Love Field and, east of that airport, to Preston Hollow, a prestigious neighborhood north of Highland Park and the place to which President George W. Bush retired from the White House in 2009 (Ashburn 1942; Carter and others 2006, 1:110).

Texas is not a public-land state, but the map shows grids of cardinally oriented arterial streets at l-mile intervals, especially on Dallas's north side. The grid there starts 4 miles north of downtown with a baseline along Mockingbird Lane and a meridian along Preston Road. By 1942, builders have filled up most of the land south of Mockingbird, most of the land between Mockingbird and Lover's Lane, a mile to the north, and most of the ground between Lover's Lane and the next arterial, Northwest Highway.

National chains such as Safeway and Piggly Wiggly are popping up along these arterials, especially near the arterial intersections. Shopping centers have arrived, too. Highland Park Shopping Village is the first, opening in 1931 at the nodal corner of Mockingbird and Preston (Figure 1). …

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