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The Bankhead Highway Gets Name Changes

08/16/09

Permalink 07:23:00 am, by Douglas Email , 1168 words   English (US)
Categories: Transportation, Development, History

The Bankhead Highway Gets Name Changes

In the final installment (of four) of Jerry Flook's research on the Bankhead Highway in Garland, Mr Flook details why the Bankhead Highway is now just a memory, but an important element of Garland's past that very much influences how we grew to the Garland of today. Mr Flook concludes his narrative with a description of the route the Bankhead took through Garland. A local map is available here.
 
The first installment was posted here, the second here, and the third here.
 
A complete copy of Mr Flook's Bankhead Highway paper is downloadable here PDF. The paper is supplemented with source notes and a bibliography.
 
It has been a pleasure for me to be able to present Mr Flook's research efforts that illustrate the richness of Garland's history. His efforts and that of others are how we remember our past and treasure the unique character of Garland. My heartfelt thanks to Mr Flook for graciously allowing me this honor. Also, my appreciation to the Garland Landmark Society that has made the photos I have used available to everyone on their website.
 

By Jerry Flook:

HISTORY OF THE BANKHEAD HIGHWAY

PRESENTED IN THE CONTEXT OF EXPERIENCE OF GARLAND, TEXAS, A CITY ON ITS ROUTE

 

The Bankhead Highway Gets Name Changes

 

Bankhead Highway

By the time the Bankhead Highway was completed America’s network of named “auto trails” had become quite complex and confusing to the traveler. Several of the named highways had branch routes. The Bankhead Highway had at least three branch routes. Many of these named trails shared portions of their route with other named highways. In fact, the Bankhead Highway and the Dixie Overland Highway shared the same route between Dallas and San Diego. Many of the named routes also had segments with state highway numbers, as did the Bankhead Highway, which was also Texas State Highway 1. Each named auto trail did, however, have its official identifying signage. The Bankhead Highway sign was the black letters “BH” on a white background with wide yellow stripes across the sign’s top and bottom.
 
In an effort to standardize and simplify the identification of the nation’s major highways, the federal administration in 1926 officially discarded word names such as Bankhead, Dixie, Jefferson, Lincoln, etc., in favor of numbers. As a result, the Bankhead Highway’s new official federal designation became Texas Highway 1, but was also assigned U.S. Highway 67 between Texarkana and Dallas and U.S. Highway 80 from Dallas westward. It was, however, several years before local usage abandoned the Bankhead name. In Georgia the Bankhead Highway name is still attached to much of its original route through the state. In Texas the current visitors’ center in Mt. Vernon is named the Bankhead Highway Visitors’ Center, and many other Texas towns retain the name on surviving segments of its route. The name remained attached to Garland’s main street at least until the early 1950s, and there is still a bypassed one-block portion of the route which retains the Bankhead name.
 
In 1931 the portion of the Bankhead Highway route between Texarkana and Dallas (including Garland) was designated part of the “Broadway of America Highway,” a tourist highway extending from New York City to San Diego via such cities as Washington, D.C., Nashville, Texarkana, Dallas, Ft. Worth, Abilene, El Paso, Phoenix and Tucson. (It is interesting to note that the practice of giving word names to auto trails had not been totally abandoned.) At that time it was reported that some 93% of the route was paved and that all grade crossings would be replaced with overpasses. Also in 1931 the local paper noted that the heavy traffic on the Bankhead Highway through the area was demanding further improvements in the route. The stop signs on the local Square had to be replaced by the city’s first traffic lights. And because the Bankhead paving between Garland and Dallas was only 18 feet wide, right-of-way was being sought to widen it to 36 to 40 feet. It is generally accepted that the economic benefits deriving from the Bankhead and other such highway projects during the 1930s provided for many a buffer against the hardships of the Great Depression.
 
In 1936 a dramatic increase in tourist traffic through Garland over the Bankhead Highway en route to the Texas Centennial in Dallas created both new economic opportunities and demands for upgrading. The highway was widened through downtown and the city installed Centennial decorations for the highway and the Square. A local entrepreneur organized a room-rental bureau for accommodation of tourists. And the tourist cabin park on the west side of town was enlarged. The Memorial Fountain on the Square was refurbished and re-landscaped. The Chamber of Commerce erected on the Bankhead Highway at the city limits signs reading, “Entering Garland, the City of Beautiful Homes.”
 
Even though we have concentrated here on the growth in commercial development in Garland in conjunction with the Bankhead Highway, during the 1920s there was a significant residential development on its route as well. In fact, some six blocks on either side of the Bankhead Highway west of downtown became Garland’s “Silk Stocking Row,” boasting dramatic mostly Tudor-style brick homes of the town’s most prosperous businessmen. Even though now zoned for commercial use, a few of these beautiful houses survive, evincing the glory days of the Bankhead Highway.
 
In 1921, as the Bankhead Highway, extending some 3,000 miles from coast to coast, approached completion, it was estimated that its total cost would exceed $100,000,000. No later estimates have been seen. Nevertheless, the economic benefits it afforded from coast to coast during its lifetime are incalculable. Inevitably the usefulness of the Bankhead Highway, which in most places was but two lanes wide, diminished as traffic loads burgeoned in the 1940s and 1950s. With the passage of the Interstate Highway Act of 1956, drivers quickly opted for the wider, safer, and faster new interstates, which generally bypassed the downtowns once served by the Bankhead. The economies of these downtowns, until then so dependent on the traffic over the old highway, fell rapidly into decline. Garland was no exception, much of its Bankhead traffic diverting to Interstate Highway 30. Although there has been more than one effort at revitalization, its downtown has yet to fully recover the vitality of its Bankhead Highway days.
 
The old Bankhead Highway through downtown Garland is now named Main Street; from the west end of Main to I-635 it is South Garland Avenue; and thence to Gaston Avenue in Dallas it is Garland Road. From the east end of Main Street the route of the Bankhead continues a short distance eastward on Bankhead St.; thence eastward on East Avenue A; thence eastward on Hwy 66 to Commerce St.; thence to where Commerce St. ends at Mills Rd. The segment of the original route east of Mills Rd. across the Rowlett Creek bottoms has been abandoned, but the Bankhead route picks up again in Rowlett.
 
First Installment: The Good Roads Movement
Second Installment: Developing the Bankhead Highway
Third Installment: The Bankhead Highway Fulfills Economic Expectations

Posted with permission of Jerry Flook

 

 


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