In 1875, settlers decided that there should be a stop for locomotives halfway between the two major hubs of Dallas and Fort Worth.
These settlers started planning and implementing several storefronts to bring life to the new location. This stop eventually became what is known today: Arlington, Texas.
Fast forward to today, and Arlington is the seventh-largest city in the state of Texas, home to the beloved Cowboys and Rangers, and an adventurous destination because of Six Flags.
So, how did the city go from a small stopping point to the big city it is now? Read more to get a brief history of Arlington, Texas.
The Beginning (1876-1900)
Pioneers arrived in what is now known as Arlington on Engine No. 20 in mid-July of 1876.
The Civil War settlers on this train arrived with high hopes and dreams of significant new development. They jumped at the opportunity to build their dream homes and pursue entrepreneurial ventures.
Deciding on a name led to much back and forth among the settlers. Two popular options were “Johnson” and “Hayterville” but the town ultimately decided to go with Arlington after Arlington House, Robert E. Lee’s home in Virginia.
The unofficial city name was popular and accepted by the townfolk, but the name didn’t become official until 1884. Small communities nearby began to flock to the new town to be closer to the train station.
Homes and storefronts were some of the first buildings in the new city.
In the 1890s, the town started to flourish. Residents found mineral water and used it for medicinal purposes, such as creating Epsom salts and crystals for use in spas. Arlington College (which is now called the University of Arlington) was created, and the city built an electric trolley that connected Dallas and Fort Worth.
This new connection made the city a hub for traveling businessmen.
The trolly also helped establish an easy way to commute, which opened up the possibility of working and living in different cities.
The people of this little community referred to their new home as the place “Where East Meets West.”
Like many pioneer towns, cotton and wheat agriculture were the top forms of revenue generation for the town.
The downtown Arlington area’s original location was a half-mile long — and this remains the same to this day.
By 1900, Arlington had five saloons, five cotton gins, many business and residential constructions, and 1,000 residents.
Gaining Momentum (1900-1950)
In the early-1900s, Arlington, Texas, began adopting the typical trends of big cities, like the introduction of water and sewer systems, electricity, sidewalks and paved roads, telephone services, and entertainment hotspots.
Around this time, automobile transportation started to become popular.
The city also remained a leader in agriculture and produce sales as well as a hub for railroad travelers.
The Texas and Pacific Railroad planners requested an odd addition to the city — that U.S. highway 80 (that stretched from Washington D.C. to San Diego, California) run straight through Arlington. This addition allowed for Arlington to have another source of revenue outside of agriculture.
The highway encouraged the establishment of Top O’ Hill Casino, located on Division Street in the late 1920s. It was an illegal gambling location that brought in tourists and customers from all around the country.
Although the casino didn’t last, it established Arlington as a destination for entertainment.
By 1950, the city was nearing a population of 8,000, but this number would soon rise significantly.
Modernizing Arlington (1950-Present)
Because of its location between Dallas and Fort Worth, pioneers started referring to Arlington as an “edge city” in the 1950s.
An edge city is most commonly referred to as a suburb — and the trend to move to suburbs boomed in the 1950s.
After WWII, many couples started families and settled down in cities like Arlington.
To add more fuel to this migratory trend, a new GM assembly plant was established in Arlington in 1954. This was soon followed by a boom of retail shops, shopping centers, and service providers for homeowners.
As with any up-and-coming city, Arlington would endure tough times as well.
The creation of two major interstates, I-30 and I-20, deflected traffic that once flowed through U.S. 80 and the downtown Arlington area.
Businesses moved their storefronts from the heart of the downtown area to be closer to the interstates and high traffic. This transition caused the city to focus on expanding the city’s entertainment district to reel people back in.
As a result of these initiatives, Six Flags Over Texas was born in 1961. The north side of the city saw a boom in new businesses and housing developments. As a result, most of the downtown area shrunk, and the train station got minimal use and eventually disappeared.
There was a revival of the downtown area that picked up in the 90s led by Lana Wolff, Tom Cravens, and Victor Vandergriff. This brought focus to urban areas in the center of the city.
Today, Arlington, Texas, is home to over 400,000 people and holds a spot in the nation’s most populous cities.
Downtown Arlington is lined with apartments, restaurants, townhomes, music venues, offices, and entertainment options.
The original plan for Arlington was to make the downtown area a place for entertainment, thriving businesses, and community. These plans were executed, as you can see by the mass amounts of restaurants, homes, and entertainment spots.
Arlington, Texas, is also the sports capital of the state. In 2009, the AT&T Stadium (home of the Dallas Cowboys) underwent a $650 million remodel. It is the third-largest NFL stadium and can host 80,000 patrons. The Texas Rangers baseball team also chose Arlington as their home base.
If you’re looking for a new place to call home in Texas, consider moving to Arlington. To find more fun things about the city and things to do, check out our activity list here.