Dallas, Texas
United States of America

Introduction

Dallas (Texas), city in north central Texas. Located on the Trinity River, Dallas is the seat of Dallas County and also lies partly in Collin, Denton, and Kaufman counties. The second largest city in Texas (after Houston) and the eighth largest city in the United States at the time of the 2000 census, Dallas is the center of the largest consolidated metropolitan area in the state. Historically, Dallas has been the transportation and marketing center for the north Texas area. It has evolved into a major center of finance, commerce, trade, and manufacturing for the southwestern United States and Mexico. The terrain is mostly flat and drains into the Trinity River. The climate is continental, with hot summers and moderately cold winters. The city was probably named for George Mifflin Dallas, vice president of the United States (1845-1849), although the exact origin of the name is undetermined and historians have also suggested his brother, Commodore Alexander J. Dallas of the United States Navy, and Joseph Dallas, who settled in the area in 1842, as possible namesakes for the city.

Dallas and Its Metropolitan Area

The city of Dallas extends over a land area of 885.5 sq km (341.9 sq mi). The Dallas metropolitan area is made up of the counties of Collin, Dallas, Denton, Ellis, Henderson, Hunt, Kaufman, and Rockwall. In addition to Dallas, cities with more than 100,000 in population in the area are Garland, Irving, Mesquite, and Plano. Dallas is also part of the Dallas/Fort Worth Consolidated Metropolitan Statistical Area, also known as the Metroplex. In addition to Dallas and Fort Worth, the Metroplex includes Arlington and more than 80 other towns and communities.

The city of Dallas has sprawled into nearby counties, growing primarily to the north and west. The downtown is known for its distinctive contemporary architecture. Near the commercial center of the city is the West End Historic District, a group of 19th-century warehouses converted into shops and restaurants. Also nearby is the Deep Ellum (Elm) area, which was a thriving center of businesses owned by black Americans from the time of the Civil War (1861-1865) until the 1930s. This neighborhood now contains clubs, restaurants, and galleries.

The city’s historic sites include Fair Park, the largest art deco art and architecture district in the world and a National Historic Landmark, located east of downtown; and Dealey Plaza, the site of the assassination in 1963 of President John F. Kennedy and a National Historic Landmark District, located downtown. Other sites are the John F. Kennedy Memorial, designed by American architect Philip C. Johnson; the former county courthouse, designed in the Romanesque architectural style; the present courthouse and downtown library, designed by Chinese American architect I. M. Pei; the Sixth Floor of the former Texas School Book Depository, from which Lee Harvey Oswald allegedly shot Kennedy; and Old City Park, the site of Dallas’s oldest public park and now a museum of the architectural and cultural history of the city and region.

Economy

The Dallas area suffered an economic downturn in the 1980s, but it rebounded in the 1990s, posting the strongest employment growth in the state in 1994. The city has a diversified economic base. Service industries, including trade, make up the city’s most important economic sector, followed by manufacturing. Dallas remains an important distribution, financial, and insurance center of the Southwest. It is the site of a district Federal Reserve bank and the headquarters of a number of federal regional offices and large insurance and oil companies. Among the area’s most important manufactures are technology-related products, including computers, biomedical products, and electronics. Dallas has the largest concentration of trade facilities in the South and Southwest. Its location in the north central part of the state and its dense network of railroads and highways enable it to serve as the shipping center for the agricultural and mineral products of the surrounding region, including cotton, cereals, livestock, fruit, petroleum, and natural gas.

The passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1994 was expected to bring increased trade with Mexico. Scheduled air service is through two airports, including the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, which is one of the busiest in the United States.

Population

Dallas’s population was 1,006,877 in 1990; by 2000 it had reached 1,188,580. According to the 2000 census, whites constitute 50.8 percent of the population of Dallas; blacks, 25.9 percent; Asians, 2.7 percent; and Native Americans, 0.5 percent. Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders numbered 590. People of mixed heritage or not reporting race were 20 percent of the population; Hispanics, who may be of any race, represent 35.6 percent.

The dominant demographic factor in Dallas, as in the state as a whole, has been the rapid growth of the Hispanic population. The Dallas metropolitan area grew from 2,055,000 in 1980 to 3,519,176 in 2000, with the number of Hispanics nearly tripling to 21.5 percent of the 2000 population. Whites, at 69.5 percent, and blacks, at 13.8 percent, are the two largest racial groups in the metropolitan region.

Education and Culture

Dallas has long prided itself on being the center of culture in northern Texas. Institutions of higher learning include Southern Methodist University (founded in 1911); Paul Quinn College (1872), a historically black private institution that moved from Waco in 1990; the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas (1943); Baylor College of Dentistry (1905); Baylor School of Nursing (1909); Dallas Baptist University (1965); Dallas Christian College (1950); Dallas Theological Seminary (1924); and several campuses of Dallas County Community College (1965). Located in the surrounding metropolitan area are more than a dozen other universities and colleges, including the University of Texas at Dallas (1969), in Richardson, the University of Dallas (1956), in Irving, and the University of North Texas (1890), in Denton.

Dallas is the home of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra (founded in 1900) and the Dallas Opera (1957). The symphony performs in the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center, designed by I. M. Pei. The building is in the Dallas Arts District, also the location of the Dallas Museum of Art (1984), which was designed by American architect Edward Larrabee Barnes. Among the numerous other museums in the city are the Dallas Museum of Natural History (1936) and the African American Museum (1974), both in Fair Park.

Besides the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, other cultural organizations in the city include the Dallas Jazz Orchestra, the Classical Guitar Society, the Dallas Shakespeare Festival, the Dallas Chamber Orchestra, and the Dallas Black Dance Theater. The Dallas Theater Center was founded in 1955 and contains two venues: The Kalita Humphreys Theater, which is housed in a building designed by American architect Frank Lloyd Wright, and the Arts District Theater. Other important theatrical venues include Theater Three, Teatro Dallas, and the Dallas Children’s Theater. The Starplex Amphitheatre is the site of concerts.

Recreation

Dallas contains more than 400 parks that cover a total of about 20,000 hectares (about 50,000 acres). Notable parks include Marsalis Park, which contains the Dallas Zoo, and the parks surrounding White Rock Lake, Bachman Lake, and Lake Cliff. City-owned greenbelts parallel White Rock Creek, Turtle Creek, and the Trinity River. Fair Park contains a number of museums, the city aquarium, and the Cotton Bowl stadium (the site of the annual Cotton Bowl college football game), as well as the fairgrounds and exposition halls that are the site of the annual State Fair of Texas. The Dallas Cowboys professional football team plays at Texas Stadium in Irving; the Dallas Mavericks professional basketball team and the Dallas Stars professional hockey team play at the American Airlines Center; and the Texas Rangers major league baseball team plays at the nearby Ballpark in Arlington.

Government

Dallas’s council-manager form of government consists of a 14-person council elected from single districts for two-year terms, a mayor elected in citywide elections for a four-year term, and a manager hired by the council to administer the government.

History

French traders had contact with the Anadarko people in the area around Dallas in the 1700s. In 1841 John Neely Bryan founded a trading post on the east bank of the Trinity River, near the junction of two Native American trails. Bryan was unaware that he had settled on land granted by the Texas republic to an immigration company, but he eventually legalized his claim. The extensive promotion efforts of the company brought settlers to the area, and in 1844 a townsite was laid out. The town was incorporated in 1856, and in the late 1850s, the collapse of a nearby cooperative community, La Réunion, augmented the population and added skilled European craftspeople to the workforce. In March 1861 Texas seceded from the Union and joined the Confederate States of America. During the American Civil War (1861-1865), Dallas served as a supply and storage post for the state. After the war ended, freed slaves flocked to Texas and founded a freedmen’s town on the outskirts of Dallas. By 1870, the year Texas was readmitted to the Union, Dallas had a population of about 3,000.

Dallas grew steadily for the next 30 years. The successful lobbying for two railroads, the Houston and Texas Central in 1872 and the Texas and Pacific in 1873, initiated this growth. As a rail crossroads, Dallas became a regional transport center for products headed to Northern and Eastern manufacturing centers. Cotton became the principal source of income, but the city also attracted merchants and banking and insurance companies eager to exploit available transportation and communication facilities. Throughout this period, business and political leaders forged close ties, thus shaping the character of the city and guiding its economic direction. By 1890 Dallas had 38,067 residents and was the largest city in the state.

The Panic of 1893, a national economic crisis, slowed the city’s business development. Dallas recovered with the increase in agricultural prices in the early 20th century, and doubled its size with the annexation of Oak Cliff and other areas. In the century’s second decade, Dallas began implementing an urban design plan created by George Kessler, a city engineer. The Kessler Plan connected Oak Cliff and Dallas, established greenbelts, and attempted to chart and direct urban growth. Control of the Trinity River also took a high priority. The city built levees and steel viaducts, and in a massive engineering project, the river channel was moved, straightened, and confined for flood control. The Great Depression of the 1930s had a severe impact on Dallas, but the crisis was partially alleviated by the discovery of the East Texas oil fields, which made Dallas a center of the petroleum business. Oil and the booming defense industry during World War II (1939-1945) stimulated growth and helped Dallas to diversify its economy.

Dallas won a reputation as a politically ultraconservative city in the 1950s. The assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dealey Plaza was a shock to the residents of Dallas and moderated somewhat the city’s politics. Nevertheless segregation continued in the city, and the flight of white residents from the inner city intensified racial animosities. The city prospered economically with the rising oil prices of the 1970s and the resulting construction boom. The collapse of oil prices in the 1980s, the failure of many local savings and loan institutions, and the resulting collapse in real estate prices caused the city to tumble into an economic depression. Dallas civic leaders launched an economic program that included renovating part of the downtown area and attracting new industries. The city leadership also worked hard at smoothing racial tensions, which remained despite sizable growth in minority populations and improved sensitivity on the part of white leaders. Although Dallas was one of the last major cities to recover from Texas’s mid-1980s economic collapse, the strength of its basic economy, its geographic location, and the recovery of the state economy ultimately combined to slow the economic decline in the Dallas region.