University Park, TX


By: Lisa C. Maxwell

Revised by: Taylor Armstrong

Type: General Entry

Published: 1952

Updated: November 23, 2021


University Park is on Dallas North Tollway, U.S. Highway 75, and Loop 12 five miles north of downtown Dallas in central Dallas County, bordered by the city of Dallas on the north and east and Highland Park to the south. Together, University Park and Highland Park are known as the Park Cities. While each city has its own police and fire departments, they share the Highland Park Independent School District, headquartered in the more populous University Park. University Park has an area of 3.69 square miles. As of 2020 it had a population density of more than 6,800 persons per square mile, making it one of the most densely populated cities in the state. The median age in 2010 was twenty-nine.

 Its name originated because of its location adjacent to Southern Methodist University, which was attracted to the area by donations of land from Alice Armstrong and W. W. Caruth, Sr. SMU officially opened in 1915, and homes were built around the campus to house teachers and staff of the university. Water came from the university’s artesian wells, and sewage lines were connected to Dallas's lines in Oak Lawn. By 1924, with more than 380 homes in the area, the university could no longer afford to supply water and sewer lines to residential areas. The cities of Dallas and Highland Park refused to annex the University Park area because of the financial burden of laying new sewer lines and supplying garbage removal and police and fire protection. Therefore, in 1924 the city of University Park was incorporated with a population of 1,200. The first city government consisted of a mayor and five aldermen, but on April 6, 1926, residents voted to adopt a commission form of city government, which the city still retained in 2021. On August 16, 1924, a $150,000 bond election was held to set up fire protection and to finance water and street improvements. The town organized its own garbage-disposal system in 1925. Snider Plaza, a popular shopping center, opened in 1927, although it remained largely undeveloped throughout the Great Depression. A zoning board was appointed in 1929 and a planning commission in 1932. Leonard Volk, a prominent Dallas merchant, had already purchased a large tract of land in 1924, south of Lovers Lane along Turtle Creek, and began developing a neighborhood that would include some of the most expensive homes in the Dallas area. It was originally called Brookside but was later known as Volk Estates. After World War II, University Park experienced a residential building boom.  

The population of University Park grew rapidly, mirroring the growth of Southern Methodist University and the nearby cities of Dallas and Highland Park. By 1945 University Park had an estimated population of 18,000 and 120 businesses. In that year the city of Dallas attempted to annex Highland Park and University Park but was turned down by a narrow margin. After their refusal of a merger, Dallas used its home rule powers to annex territory adjacent to University Park, cutting off all land for expansion. University Park still relied on the city of Dallas for such services as water and sewage treatment, but in 1947 the Park Cities set up their own Water Control and Improvement District to take over these functions. A water-purification plant, reservoir, and pressure tank were completed in 1950. Because it was surrounded by Dallas, University Park was prevented from annexing land for growth as most communities in Dallas County did, and its area remained 3.7 square miles. Few lots were left vacant on which to build new homes. In 1987 University Park began developing a master plan. One of its major recommendations was the creation of a public library, which the city lacked. The Friends of the Library (later the Friends of the University Park Public Library) nonprofit was formed to seek grants and raise money. The library, which opened in 2001, rented space in a bank building in Snider Plaza for one dollar per year. In 2011 an agreement was reached between the city and The Plaza at Preston Center, providing the library with more than 19,000 square feet of space in a proposed office building. Operating costs for the library were split between the city and the Friends of the University Park Public Library. The new University Park Public Library opened on January 26, 2013.

In 2021 University Park included approximately 640 acres of open space (not including the campus of SMU), representing parks, schools, parkways, and lawns. As of 2019 University Park, with a median annual household income in excess of $200,000 and an average home price of $1.3 million, was among the most affluent cities in the United States.  

The population rose from 4,200 in 1930 to 14,458 in 1940 and 23,823 in 1950. Between 1950 and 1990 it fluctuated moderately, reaching an estimated 28,500 in 1956. In that year University Park had eleven churches and seven parks. In 1990 the population was 22,259, and in 2020, it was 24,401.

Diane Galloway and Kathy Matthews, The Park Cities: A Walker's Guide and Brief History (Dallas: Southern Methodist University Press, 1988). Ralph E. Hamman, The Story of the City of University Park (Dallas: City of University Park, 1957; rev. eds., 1962, 1967). Virginia Savage McAlester, Willis Cecil Winters, and Prudence Mackintosh, Great American Suburbs: The Homes of the Park Cities, Dallas, Texas (New York: Abbeville Press Publishers, 2008). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

Places:
  • Communities
  • Dallas/Fort Worth Region
  • North Texas

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

Lisa C. Maxwell Revised by Taylor Armstrong, “University Park, TX,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 16, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/university-park-tx.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

1952
November 23, 2021

This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects:


Place
University Park
Currently Exists
Yes
Place Type
Town
USGS ID
2412135
Town Fields
  • Has post office: No
  • Is Incorporated: Yes
Belongs to
  • Dallas County
Coordinates
  • Latitude: 32.85066460°
  • Longitude: -96.79371700°
Population Counts
People Year
22,259 1990
23,324 2000
23,068 2010
25,458 2019