Arlington Highlands grew from a vision formed in 1950.
Today, it's a place built to create experiences that capture the spirit of Arlington embodied in you.
We'll capture your experiences and display them throughout the seasons in this our Arlington Highlands "experience gallery."
As the name conveys, Arlington Highlands carries a dual heritage. The "Highlands" refers to a region of Scotland known for its stark beauty and for the stone-hewn character of its people. Highlanders adhere to the ancient values - faith, family, the land, hard work, perseverance, craftsmanship. The North Texas prairie on which Arlington Highland sits may bear little resemblance to the topography of the Scottish Highlands, but Arlington Highlands carries, in every detail of its conception and construction, many of those enduring Highlands values.
The Mathes family arrived in Arlington in the 1940s, carrying their Scottish heritage along with the rest of their treasured belongings. They immediately put their Highland values to work because in 1947 Curtis Mathes Sr. bought the Circle R ranch "lock, stock, and barrel." Mathes Sr., however, had little intention of farming. He bought the land with a developer's vision and an entrepreneur's foresight, because if ever Opportunity pointed bold people to a time and place then post-war Arlington was it.
Arlington when the Mathes arrived was about to embark on a period of rapid growth. Though it had been incorporated in 1884, its population in 1940 included only 4,500 people. Arlington's first century had seen it evolve from a frontier fort to a Ranger Station and from a stop on the Overland Stage route to a Texas & Pacific Railroad depot. By 1940 it was still not much different from or bigger than the small farming community that had congregated around the "mineral well" on cotton sales days twenty years earlier. By 1950, Arlington was home to 7,686 souls, but by 1960, the soul-count had risen to 44,775, and by 1970 it had passed 90,000.
That extraordinary growth did not just happen. Great minds, great energy, and great vision drove it.
Judge Tom Vandergriff, Arlington's mayor for 25 years, and the chief architect of its vision, attended the University of Southern California at the time Walt Disney was building Disneyland. Vandergriff recognized that Arlington's location put it at the locus of the main North Central Texas population centers and made it an ideal venue for family-based entertainment along the lines of what Disney had created for Southern California.
During the 1950s, Vandergriff, together with the Mathes, Wynne, and Mayfield families conceived a master plan for Arlington's future within the huge quadrangle of land bounded by what is now I-30 in the north and I-20 in the south and by Highway 360 to the east and what is now South Cooper to the west.
People conjure up visions, but populations and economic activity propel them. The first huge impetus to the Arlington master vision came when General Motors bought land on the west side of Highway 360 on which to build a manufacturing plan. The first car rolled off that assembly line in 1954 and Arlington's growth became irreversible.
General Motors' plant, Arlington Stadium, and the Parks Mall all stood on land originally owned by the Mathes family - land earmarked for development within the Vandergriff-inspired master plan.
Arlington Highlands is but the latest addition to that early and stupendously successful master plan. Arlington Highlands, too, stands on what was part of the original Mathes land purchase of 1947. Its architecture takes shoppers back to Main Street America as it looked in the between 1910 and 1940, and what Arlington looked like through much of the 1950s.
Arlington Historical Society publishes photographs depicting how the face of the city, especially its downtown, changed from the 1940s through the next half-century. Photographs of high school football crowds illustrate a growing sense of community, a sense heightened by the local teaming winning the 1951 Class 2 State Championship.
Shots of steam locomotives pulling into the Texas and Pacific train depot indicate how the city cultivated its infrastructure and understood how essential it was to hook into the region's transportation system.
Commercial shots of businessmen showing off the latest manufactured goods reveal consumer demand in a market growing quickly beyond its farming base. A shot of a gleaming new 1948 Buick in a gleaming new car showroom foretells how closely linked Arlington's future would be to the evolving road systems, especially that of the interstate highways.
Today, interstate highways 30 and 20 deliver consumer and commercial traffic to Arlington. The City of Arlington has evolved into a regional destination where, by 2011 (and the addition of The Dallas Cowboys' new stadium) 8 million people from all over the Southwest will come to play, shop, dine, and of course stay every year. It is no accident that Arlington Highlands looks out over Interstate-20 because that axis between Dallas and Fort Worth had been designated and zoned in the original master plan as a regional retail, business, commercial, and medical corridor. Today, it attracts the region's shoppers, because Arlington Highlands has taken the city's heritage to the next stage of convenience by providing its visitors easy access to a single, extraordinary location to shop, dine, play, stay and, now, work.
In a very real sense, therefore, Arlington Highlands carries forward Arlington's history and is the latest expression of a vision conceived more than a half-century ago. Through its Scottish Highlands values, moreover, it carries a heritage centuries in the making, but of great relevance today. This dual heritage may, in fact, be what gives Arlington Highlands its indescribable quality - that certain something that must be experienced to be understood. We invite you here to experience it for yourself.
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