Old City Park

By: Michael V. Hazel

Type: General Entry

Published: November 1, 1995

Updated: April 24, 2019

Old City Park is a museum of architectural and cultural history located on fourteen acres immediately south of downtown Dallas. Under the auspices of the Dallas County Heritage Society and the Dallas Park and Recreation Board, thirty-seven structures, dating between 1840 and 1910, have been moved into the park from throughout northern Central Texas. Residential structures include a simple dog-run house, a Greek Revival mansion, two Queen Anne houses, and a shotgun house. A bank, a print shop, and a general store represent turn-of-the-century commercial structures, and the park includes a church, a country school, a train depot, and a drummers' hotel. The Heritage Society offers guided tours of the park to the general public and special "Discovery Tours" to school children. It also operates Brent Place Restaurant, which features historic menus, and McCall's Store, the museum gift shop. Several historic crafts, including printing and pottery making, are demonstrated. The site of Old City Park was part of a larger tract purchased in the late 1840s by Lucy Jane Browder and her two sons, Edward and Isham. Mill Creek crossed the area, and nearby was a freshwater spring, soon known as Browder's Spring, which supplied water to neighboring residents into the twentieth century. The spring also played an important role in the development of Dallas. In 1871 the city's representative, John W. Lane, managed to attach to the bill granting right-of-way to the Texas and Pacific Railway a rider requiring the T&P to cross the Houston and Texas Central tracks "within one mile of Browder's Spring instead of fifty miles south of Dallas as originally planned." The legislature passed the bill without bothering to learn that Browder's Spring was located one mile southeast of the Dallas County courthouse.

Between 1876 and 1885 the city of Dallas acquired about nineteen acres around Browder's Spring and established the city's first public park, called City Park. In 1886 the park's natural beauty was enhanced by graded and paved walkways, bridges, flower beds, grass, new trees, and electric arc lights. In 1888 funds were allocated to purchase two deer and two mountain lions to be housed at the park, thus starting the city's first zoo. A bandstand and greenhouse were built in the late 1890s. Additional greenhouses were installed in the 1940s to furnish plants for parks throughout the city. Tennis courts and a swimming pool were added during the first half of the twentieth century but have since been removed. Construction of R. L. Thornton Freeway in the early 1960s took nearly five acres from the north side of the park. The remaining land was considerably altered in 1967, when the Dallas County Heritage Society was allowed to move the antebellum Millermore mansion, threatened with destruction on its original site, into the park. In 1971 the society requested that the city help to bring additional structures of historic value to the park and develop a museum of architectural and cultural history. This project became the city's first United States Bicentennial project, and the name of the park was officially changed to Old City Park in 1976. In 2005, the Old City Park changed its name to Dallas Heritage Village at Old City Park to aid the transition from an old park containing historic buildings to a modern and nationally-accredited history museum in a park. The city of Dallas owns the park and buildings, but a nonprofit organization called the Dallas County Heritage Society operates the museum. The Dallas Heritage Village is home to the largest and finest collection of 19th century pioneer and Victorian homes and commercial buildings in Texas.

Michael V. Hazel, "Old City Park," Texas Association of Museums Quarterly 9 (Fall 1984). Jackie McElhaney, "Another Time, Another Place: A History of City Park," Heritage News, Fall 1982. Paula and Ron Tyler, Texas Museums: A Guidebook (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1983).

  • Architecture
  • Other Structures
  • Museums, Libraries, and Archives
  • Museums
  • Cultural History Museums
  • Dallas/Fort Worth Region
  • Dallas
  • North Texas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Michael V. Hazel, “Old City Park,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 17, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/old-city-park.

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November 1, 1995
April 24, 2019

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