Downtown Garland is on State highways 66 and 78, fifteen miles northeast of downtown Dallas in northeastern Dallas County. Duck Creek runs through the city, and Lake Ray Hubbard lies on its eastern border.
Garland got its start as a neutral location between the two rival communities of Duck Creek and Embree. One of the original settlements of the Peters Colony, Duck Creek acquired a post office in 1854. In 1886 both the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe and the Dallas and Greenville railways bypassed Duck Creek. Two new communities were established near the junction of the railroads: Embree, a mile to the east of Duck Creek along the Santa Fe line, and another community named Duck Creek, a mile northeast along the Dallas and Greenville line, soon to be sold to the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railway. In early 1887 much of the business district of “Old” Duck Creek was consumed by fire, and the post office was moved to Embree. Embree then set out to incorporate but was accused of illegally counting a portion of Duck Creek’s population in order to meet the minimum population required for incorporation. The fight escalated into the courts. In late 1887 Congressman Joseph Abbott settled the issue by creating the town of Garland between the two cities and establishing the post office there. The new town was named for Augustus H. Garland, U. S. attorney general under Grover Cleveland. Local legend holds that the residents of Duck Creek and Embree agreed to the new name because the attorney general had never been to Texas, and nobody knew who he was.
During the 1880s the town received gas lighting, and in 1888 a new high school, called Garland College, was built. By 1890 Garland had a population of 478, four churches, three gristmills, three steam cotton gins, a roller flour mill, and several hotels, in addition to other businesses. Garland was incorporated on April 21, 1891. The first mayor was M. Davis Williams, a local merchant, and the town marshal was Tobe Ethridge. The first bank, Citizens Bank, was chartered in 1895. The town had Baptist, Methodist, Christian, and Cumberland Presbyterian congregations, and by 1892 the Masons, Odd Fellows, and Knights of Honor each had a hall. In 1899 a fire destroyed twenty-eight of the thirty businesses in Garland, including the offices of the newspaper, the Garland Daily News. After the destruction of the business section, Garland rebuilt around a town square. Eventually, plank sidewalks and a fountain for watering horses were added. In 1904 the population was 819.
By 1914 the community had two banks, three cotton gins, telephone and telegraph connections, three restaurants, an undertaker, and many stores, including those selling jewelry, drugs, and harness. By 1920 the population of Garland was more than 1,400. In 1915 Texas Power and Light was granted a fifty-year franchise to operate in Garland. In 1923 a group of Garland citizens bought a generator and set up a city utility, Garland Power and Light Company, which grew to be the fourth largest municipal utility in Texas. The first electric lights installed in Garland were four streetlights around the courthouse square in 1915, making it one of the few places where the “new” electricity was used. A $100,000 bond was voted in the early 1920s to finance a 2,300-foot well and an overhead storage tank so homes and businesses could have running water. Previously each house had its own well and outhouse. The first car dealerships opened in the 1920s. On May 9, 1927, a tornado destroyed much of the city and killed seventeen people, including a former mayor, S. E. Nicholson. Six years later the Nicholson Memorial Library opened in his honor.
In the late 1930s the Craddock food company, which manufactured pickles, and the Byer-Rolnick hat factory, which made Resistol hats, moved to town. The pickle factory, located on West Walnut Street, was eventually demolished and replaced by Garland’s main post office. Byer-Rolnick eventually became Hatco. Due to the location of Hatco, as well as other hat manufacturers, in Garland, the city was named the Cowboy Hat Capital of Texas by the Texas legislature in 2013.
In 1937 the KRLD (Dallas) radio tower was constructed in Garland. In 1940 the population of Garland was 2,233. During World War II several aircraft plants operated in the Garland area. After the war Kraft Foods bought the Continental Motors Plant to retool for its manufacture. The first park in Garland, Central Park, was purchased in 1948, and Carver School for Negroes was built the same year. As a station on two railroads, Garland was a major onion-shipping point in the 1940s.
By 1950 the population was 10,571. In 1951 Garland changed to a city-manager government, and L. E. Stark was the first city manager. The townsite comprised 6,832 acres in 1954 and 8,000 in 1957. By the late 1960s Garland had fifteen parks, eighty churches, two hospitals, four banks, and twenty-eight schools. In 1969 it had an estimated population of 72,000 and 1,000 businesses. The Garland Landmark Museum, a local history museum, was established in the city’s 1901 Santa Fe depot in 1974.
In 1990 Garland had a population of 180,650 and 2,227 businesses. That same year a council-city manager form of government was adopted. The city continued its significant population growth with a total of 215,768 with 6,085 businesses reported in 2000. Garland citizens voted to join the newly-created Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) system in 1983; a DART light-rail station opened in downtown Garland in 2002. Construction was completed on a transit-oriented development near the station in 2009. Firewheel Golf Park opened in 1983. Firewheel Town Center, an open-air shopping mall, opened nearby in 2005.
During the 2019–20 academic year, Garland Independent School District (GISD), which also serves part of Rowlett and Sachse, enrolled 55,848 students, making it the second largest school district in Dallas County and the fifteenth largest in Texas. The district had seventy-two schools, including seven high schools. In 2017 GISD opened the Gilbreath-Reed Career and Technical Center, offering advanced courses for junior and senior-level GISD students.
In 2017, thanks to the efforts of local historians Louis and Kay Moore, a two-block stretch of South 11th Street, with a collection of homes dating to 1913, was added to the National Register of Historic Places and became the first location in Garland to receive this honor. Later that year, the Garland Downtown Historic District was also added to the National Register.
In 2020 the population was 246,018, making Garland the thirteenth largest city in Texas. In 2022 the Garland Guzzler 0.5K Race & Oktoberfest and Christmas on the Square were yearly events. The city employed more than 675 police officers and firefighters, and the Garland Civic Theatre (founded in 1968) and Garland Summer Musicals (founded in 1983) provided live entertainment. Garland had more than 150 churches, a Veterans Administration hospital, two golf clubs, approximately 430 manufacturers, and a Hawaiian Falls water park. GISD owned the Curtis Culwell Center, and the city of Garland managed a central public library and three branch libraries, the Patty Granville Arts Center, the Spring Creek Forest Preserve Nature Trail, six community recreation centers, the Rick Owens Skate Park, a public dog park, two senior centers, and four outdoor aquatic facilities. In 2019 the city boasted thirty-four neighborhood parks, five community parks, two regional parks, seven special-use parks, and twenty-one nature areas and linear parks.
As of 2020 more than 6,700 businesses operated in Garland. The largest employers were GISD, the city of Garland, and Kraft Heinz Company. Garland manufacturers produced Stetson hats (Hatco), caulk and adhesives (DAP), sour cream (Daisy Brand), shipping containers (PCA), mine detectors (Garrett Metal Detectors), five billion plastic bottles a year (Plastipak), industrial coatings (Sherwin-Williams), bomb casings (General Dynamics), and parts for the Mars Rovers (Micropac).
In 2020 Garland was chosen by Better Homes and Gardens as one of the twenty-five best places to live in Texas; by SmartAsset.com as the number one city in Texas for first-time home buyers; and by WalletHub as one of the top 100 places in America to buy a home. A $30 million downtown redevelopment project began construction in late 2021.
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Richard Abshire, Garland: A Contemporary History (San Antonio: Historical Publishing Network, 2009). Ruth Buchholz, "Our Garland, Texas (Lovely and Lively)," Garland 1988 Magazine. Dallas Morning News, March 9, 2017; July 15, 2020; March 23, 2021. Garland Daily News and Times Reporter, July 31, 1962. Garland, Texas (https://www.garlandtx.gov/), accessed March 2, 2022. Memorial and Biographical History of Dallas County (Chicago: Lewis, 1892; rpt., Dallas: Walsworth, 1976).
Dallas/Fort Worth Region
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Lisa C. Maxwell
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed May 19, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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