A Historical Sketch of Irving 

By Jan Hart, Senior Archivist

Small farming communities dotted the rolling prairies and wooded hills between the Elm Fork and the West Fork of the Trinity River during the last half of the 1800s. Settlers had come into the region in the l850s, and by 1857, Hezekiah Lucas had established a post office at Buck and Breck, a hamlet between Dallas and the Tarrant County town of Birdville. The new town of Irving, founded in 1903 by J.O. Schulze and Otis Brown, eventually swallowed most of the small settlements that had survived past the turn of the century. These included Kit, Sowers, Hackberry, Union Bower, Finley, Estelle, and Elm School. The last community that Irving annexed was Bear Creek in 1968.

While Schulze and Brown, two young midwesterners employed by the Chicago, Rock Island, and Gulf Railway, were surveying for a railroad line from Fort Worth to Dallas, they decided the area was an ideal town site. They bought eighty acres from the Britain family in 1902 and sold the first town lots on December 19, 1903. The Post Office at nearby Kit was moved to Irving in 1904.

Irving progressed rapidly, as the Texas legislature created the Irving Independent School District in 1909 for a student population of about 190. The next year a privately owned telephone service came to town, and Lone Star Gas opened an Irving station in 1911. The fledgling town officially came of age on April 14, 1914, when its citizens voted 27 to 16 to incorporate. They elected the town’s co-founder, Otis Brown, as their first mayor.

By 1920, the population had grown to 357. During the 1920s, Irving obtained electric service, installed a water system, and organized a volunteer fire department. Although the Great Depression hit Irving as it did the rest of the United States in the 1930s, the town continued to grow. Regular bus service replaced the privately run jitney service that had run from Irving to Dallas, and in 1939, Irving hired its first full-time employee, Town Secretary C.C. Anderson.

By 1940, Irving’s first paid patrolman joined the elected constable in keeping the peace. The opening of the first public library the next year brought new opportunities for learning to residents of Irving. By the mid-1940s, the School District had 42 teachers and 1,500 students.

As mid-century dawned, Irving, with a population of 2,615, was poised for unprecedented growth and development that would forever change the little town. In an effort to push the population to the 5,000 inhabitants required to hold a home rule charter election, City Commissioners began annexing adjacent areas.

On October 25, 1952, voters accepted the proposed charter by a vote of 377 to 96. The Charter added four commissioners, provided for a city manager, and gave Irving a greater degree of self-government.

During this decade, Irving welcomed the University of Dallas and hired its first paid fireman. Businesses continued to move to the city. When Plymouth Park Shopping Center opened in 1955, it was one of the largest shopping centers between Dallas and Fort Worth. Home-building grew apace, and by 1960, Irving’s population had skyrocketed to 45, 895.

Irving Community Hospital opened its doors in 1964. That same year, the world’s largest trucking terminal was built in Irving. Late in that decade, city leaders met with the owner of the Dallas Cowboys football team, who was interested in moving the team to a stadium in Irving. The City financed the stadium with revenue bonds and in 1971 opened the facility, Texas Stadium, still the home of the Dallas Cowboys.

Construction of Dallas/Fort Worth Regional Airport, lying partially within the boundaries of Irving, also began in the late 1960s. When it opened in 1974, it was the country’s largest airport. The facility, now known as Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, continues to contribute to Irving’s economy.

The population of Irving reached almost 100,000 by 1970. Three years later, Irving landowner Ben Carpenter saw his dream come true with the opening of Las Colinas, a privately funded, master-planned community of 7,000 acres, which has grown to include more than a thousand corporations, as well as homes, schools, shopping areas, and recreation facilities. Later in the 1970s, the Dallas County Community College District opened North Lake College in Irving.

In the 1980s, Irving built an arts center and a new central library and achieved a coveted Triple A bond rating. At this writing, the city has over 8,000 businesses and a population of approximately 180,000. Irving will celebrate its centennial in 2003.

Bibliography

  • Irving, Texas. Board of Commissioners of the Town of Irving. Minute Book 1, April 14, 1914 - November 29, 1930.
  • Irving, Texas. Department of Community Development.
  • Ramos, Mary G., ed. 1998-1999 Texas Almanac and State Industrial Guide. Dallas: The Dallas Morning News, Inc., 1997.
  • Rice, Joseph. Irving: A Texas Odyssey. N.p.: Windsor Publications, Inc., 1989.
  • Sykes, Karen, and Jeffery S. Covington. Irving: The Spirit and Dreams of Tomorrow. Atlanta: Longstreet Press, 1994.
  • Tyler, Ron, et al., eds. The New Handbook of Texas. Austin, Texas: Texas State Historical Association, 1996.
  • U.S. General Services Administration. National Archives and Records Service. Post Office Department: Reports of Site Locations, 1837–1950. Washington, D.C., 1980. Microfilm.

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