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In the second installment (of four) of Jerry Flook's research on the Bankhead Highway in Garland, Mr Flook details a series of events that marked the construction of the highway and its arrival in Garland. He draws heavily from old issues of the Garland News. The first installment was posted here.
As the highway was being planned, different routes were considered. One alternative considered would have located it in Oklahoma, missing Garland and most of Texas. This map of the route, by Steven Varner, shows the alternative. If the main route had changed, certainly the city wouldn't be as we know it today. Even locally, different routes were considered. There were a number of decisions that, had they been decided differently, would probably have resulted in Downtown not being where it now is. The details are here:
By Jerry Flook:
HISTORY OF THE BANKHEAD HIGHWAYPRESENTED IN THE CONTEXT OF EXPERIENCE OF GARLAND, TEXAS, A CITY ON ITS ROUTE
Developing the Bankhead Highway
In 1916 the federal government passed the Federal Aid Road Act, which supplied matching funds to the states for upgrading roads, especially those used as postal routes. The plan was authored by Logan Waller Page, director of the Office of Public Roads, and was sponsored in the U.S. Senate by John Hollis Bankhead, of Alabama. On 6 October 1916 the Bankhead Highway Association was formed in Birmingham, the route being named for Senator Bankhead, who came to be known as the “father of good roads in the U. S. Senate.”
The Bankhead Highway started at the so-called Zero Milestone, a monument erected near the White House in Washington, D.C., and ended in San Diego, California. Other major cities on its main route included Richmond, Virginia; Durham and Greensboro, North Carolina; Greenville, South Carolina; Athens, Decatur and Atlanta, Georgia; Birmingham, Alabama; Tupelo, Mississippi; Memphis, Tennessee; Little Rock and Hot Springs, Arkansas; Texarkana, Dallas, Ft. Worth, Midland, Odessa, and El Paso, Texas; Las Cruces, New Mexico; Tucson, Tempe, and Phoenix, Arizona; and El Centro, California. This southern route for the nation’s second transcontinental highway was viewed as having the advantages of being passable year-round and lying on a low grade without steep mountain climbs.
An item in the Garland News of 15 June 1917 suggests that Good Roads committees had already made considerable progress on an improved east-west route through the area. A brief mention on that date stated, “The ‘Sociability Run’ on the now well-connected highway from Texarkana to El Paso via Dallas and Ft. Worth should arrive at Garland about 5:30 p.m. Tuesday and stop here 30 minutes.” One week later the paper reported, “Jerry W. Debenport, vice-president and general manager of the Texarkana-Dallas Highway, and a party of 12 automobiles filled with Good Roads enthusiasts passed through Garland. They proceeded to Mineral Wells, where a Good Roads Convention is being held. The State Highway Commission is taking part in the convention.” Then a month or so later the editor announced that officials of the Texarkana-Dallas Highway were to pay another visit, and he editorialized, “This highway when fully connected and completed will be a good thing for the towns on its route. It will carry many hundreds of interstate auto travelers. It will mean some increase in certain lines of business…. And it means a fine opportunity to advertise our town, to show it to strangers as a good place to come, to invest, and to grow up with Texas.”
The improved route referred to here became Texas State Highway 1, a designation assigned in 1917 as one of the original 26 state highways. Texas Highway 1 was to become part of the Bankhead Highway in 1920.
A timeline of steps in the development of the Bankhead Highway in Texas, especially through the Garland, Texas, area follows:
Fall, 1917 The Bankhead Highway “pathfinders” established the first leg of the road from Washington to Memphis. 25 Oct 1918 “Scouts for the route of the Bankhead Highway will be here [Garland] November 6. This is probably the most important highway to be built in the South and will in all likelihood be designated a military road.”—Garland News. [This is the first instance of the use of the name “Bankhead Highway” in the local newspaper.] Apr 1919 The second leg of the highway, Memphis to El Paso, was established this month. Thus all of Texas State Highway 1 (Texarkana to El Paso) was incorporated into the Bankhead route. 11 Apr 1919 “Arthur P. Dyer, secretary of the Texas Bankhead Highway, addressed a meeting of Garland citizens Monday. He explained the importance of the highway as one of two year-round transcontinental routes. Twenty-one senators live on the highway route, which insures federal support. Dyer said Garland was the only town on the Texas route which had voluntarily organized and gone to work without asking for outside help and complimented the town’s live spirit.”—Garland News. 16 Jan 1920 “A desperate attempt is being made by Oklahoma to get the Bankhead Highway.”—Garland News. [This matter was settled somewhat later by the decision to keep the main route in Texas and a branch route through Oklahoma.] Apr 1920 The final leg of the Bankhead Highway was established between El Paso and San Diego. Jul 1920 The Dallas division of the Bankhead Highway Association was organized in a meeting at the Oriental Hotel. 20 Jul 1920 The War Department is proposing a “detour” route for military travel between Texarkana and Dallas by way of Paris, Sherman and McKinney. It would bypass the main route planned for the Bankhead Highway, “the greatest highway in the U.S.”—Garland News
In late 1920 and early 1921, as the Bankhead Highway approached completion, Dallas County labored over finalizing the highway’s route from Garland to Dallas. A new alignment of the Dallas-Garland road was chosen to parallel the SFRR between Reinhardt and present Miller Road, supplanting the old route of the “pike” over present Jupiter Road and Forest Lane. Then a major flap arose when it was proposed by the county to run the Bankhead through Garland along the route of present Avenue D, completely missing the Square by several blocks. Outcry from the downtown businessmen succeeded in returning the route to that portion of the “pike” (at that time Texas State 1, now Main Street) running through the Square.
First Installment: The Good Roads Movement
Third Installment: The Bankhead Highway Fulfills Economic ExpectationsPosted with permission of Jerry Flook
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