The Trinity River Corridor’s Rich History
The Trinity River Corridor Project will play a significant role in Dallas’s history. Once complete, it will make the city safer and provide development, recreation opportunities, and a boost for native ecology. But the river’s history within Dallas stretches goes much deeper than the Trinity River Corridor Project. The river has provided challenges, as well as opportunities, for the city; it’s been at times a danger, and at other times a boon for economic development.
This is the fourth of a five-part series about the Trinity River Corridor Project. We’ll be featuring a new post on the BIG RED Blog about the Trinity River Corridor Project each week during June.
Dallas has always been intertwined with the river. In 1841 John Neely Bryan, the founder of Dallas, settled on the East bank of the Trinity River and began operating a ferry across it. By the late 1800’s, steamships were navigating the Trinity, going as far as Galveston by the end of the century.
In 1908 the “Great Flood” wiped out thousands of homes and caused $2.5 million in property damage. The flooding prompted calls for a levee project. By 1926, the City of Dallas and Dallas County had formed the Dallas Levee Improvement District, and by 1930, the levee project was complete.
Starting in the 1940’s, proposals for parkways and recreation areas around the river began to take shape. Economic development also started booming on the banks of the Trinity.
Trammell Crow, founder of commercial real estate firm Trammell Crow Company and Dallas native, would become the largest commercial builder in the Trinity River Industrial District by the time the 1950’s drew to a close. Trammell Crow, along with various partners, built more than 50 warehouses with more than 2 million square feet of space in that district in the 1940’s and 1950’s.
Crow went on to develop major Dallas landmarks, including merchandise marts like the Dallas Design District, Dallas Trade Mart, Dallas Market Hall, Dallas Apparel Mart and World Trade Center, and the Anatole Hotel, Medical City, Bryan Tower, and Pioneer Plaza.
By the 1970’s, Dallas officials began considering a “town lake” that would take shape in the Dallas Floodway and development and recreation opportunities. Meanwhile, in 1983, the state approved a portion of the river below the levee system as a State Park, although the funding was not in place to build it.
The town lake idea advanced and grew in the 1980’s, and voters approved a bond. After flooding in 1989 and 1990, Dallas asked the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to reevaluate the Dallas Floodway Extension. In 1996 Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk expanded on that and brought together several state and national agencies to discuss improvements within the corridor.
Out of those meetings, the current Trinity River Corridor Project began to take shape. In 1998 Dallas voters approved a $246 million Capital Bond Program to kick off the project. Since then, as the project has progressed, Dallas has continued to grow alongside its parks, bridges, and habitats.