The change has been too slow to call it a revolution – this growth and maturation of Arlington, Texas, over the past 6 decades – but there is no doubt that my city has made huge advancements since I first drank from the water well in the middle of a city street.
Today Arlington is internationally known as the Entertainment Capital of Texas, but I doubt that is a vision anyone could have imagined in the 1840s when Europeans opened a trading post in what was then Indian Territory, or even in 1876 when Arlington was officially founded as a city in the center of cotton farming.
I was a Ft. Worth girl and none of my family were associated with Arlington initially, but I do remember that in the 1940s my grandmother McAmis was married to a farmer in Dalworthington Gardens. When I visited her in about 1948, she took me downtown to see the mineral well at the intersection of Main and Center Street. Even at that young age, I could tell this was one of those towns that rolled up the sidewalks about sunset.
In 1954, my Dad went to work at the General Motors Plant that had been built on the east side of Arlington, and the following year our family moved there. I was distraught – leaving my familiar big city home in Ft. Worth, going to this hick town. I had just reached dating age and I was certain there were no boys in Arlington, or if so, they were oafs.
I was surprised to learn that Arlington was no longer a rural settlement and there were boys. Arlington was a small burg at this point; a lot of people commuted to Dallas and Ft. Worth for work. Later I went to college at what was then Arlington State, wrote for the Citizen-Journal, married, reared three sons. I was still a big city girl by nature and Arlington seemed in no hurry to grow, despite the addition of Six Flags Over Texas in 1961. Eventually I left the state in the late 1970s, pursuing a business career.
When I returned in late 2017, I found a city approaching a half million people, a maturing downtown flanked by the massive structures of the University of Texas (with their 60,000 students), and a sophisticated Entertainment District that includes the Texas Rangers stadium, the Dallas Cowboys stadium, Six Flags Over Texas, and much much more.
In mid-March I attended the dedication of the new Arlington City Council Chambers, nestled between our multi-story City Hall and the new multi-story Downtown Library. Construction had just begun on the Abram Street Rebuild, which will bring a large open downtown space for community events and festivals, and construction is well underway for Texas Live, the mixed use Entertainment District development that will include a new stadium for the Rangers, a larger Convention Center and Hotel, and upscale dining and entertainment opportunities.
And there is more to come. Nothing about Arlington leadership tells me they are ready to slow down. I do not know how all of these changes feel to the people who have lived in Arlington for decades. Perhaps the advances seem small and incremental, even inconsequential.
But from my view as I re-emigrate to the City, the changes are massive and visionary. How many other small cities have been swallowed by the encroachments of their gorilla-neighbors? I am not sure there is a city in the Houston SMSA that can lay claim to its own personality. But Arlington has risen above the norm, and it has to be thanks to some visionary leadership. It is exciting to be back in Arlington in this stage of their evolution . . . perhaps now, its revolution.
— Jonnie Martin