A GREEN SPACE FOR GATHERING SINCE 1892.

Oak Lawn Park: Dallas’ green destination for over 100 years.

These acres of nature in the heart of the city have provided a beautiful, serene retreat for generations, from Egrets to ducks and tadpoles to fishing poles. In the early days, people went swimming in the Blue Hole in Turtle Creek, to Sunday Fundays on the playing courts in Oak Lawn Park East. It is a gathering place to take in nature and nostalgic recreation. Dallas’ explosive urbanization calls on us all to preserve our natural and historical oasis and provide a sense of place and peace. All Dallas residents and visitors are invited for deserved respite, recreation and reflection in this urban setting.

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ROOTED:OUR THREEHISTORIES

THE HISTORY OF THE CONSERVANCY.

BOUGHT BY THE CITY OF DALLAS IN 1909, TODAY’S OAK LAWN PARK HAD BEEN IN USE AS A PARK SINCE AT LEAST 1892. BEFORE THAT TIME, THE UNTAMED LAND WAS USED AS A GATHERING SITE FOR THE TEXAS RANGERS, AMONG OTHERS, WHO WOULD AGREE TO MEET UP AT “THE CREEK WITH ALL THE TURTLES.”

IN THE BEGINNING...

Relics discovered in archaeological surveys confirm that Turtle Creek has been called home for thousands of years. Dart points and chips of flint from the making of stone tools date back 3,000 years to 1,000 B.C. Much later we know Native Americans camped here and enjoyed the outcropping of trees and spring water source. It is believed the creek came to be known as Turtle Creek when Texas Rangers camped beside it when they were fleeing attacking Indians in 1837. They referred to the water as the "creek with all the turtles.” Earliest records of land ownership date from 1845 when Texas was a Republic. A land grant consisting of a half-section of land (320 acres) was awarded to William Grigsby. A year later Grigsby sold the land at one dollar an acre to Calvin Cole. Dallas founder John Neely Bryan witnessed this transaction. Cole's son built a log home near the creek, but it was soon removed for fear of flooding. A significant development in the history of the neighborhood was the purchase of twenty acres in 1903 by The Dallas Consolidated Electric Street Railway Company. With further backing of land developers Oliver P. Bowser and Captain William H. Lemmon, Oak Lawn Park was founded. Just a five-cent streetcar ride from downtown, the developers hoped the park would attract weekend picnickers and prospective land buyers to Dallas' first northern suburbs. (Compiled by Conservancy Board member Jon Beasley)

OAK LAWN PARK HISTORY

Over $8,000,000 in private funds have been raised and invested so far in new gardens and other park amenities. One of the city’s first examples of public/private partnership that included fundraising, construction, maintenance, the Conservancy continues to raise funds for the thoughtful development of the park. Goals include increasing the walkability and connectivity of the park to make it easier to move between the Turtle Creek, Uptown and Oak Lawn neighborhoods. Oak Lawn Park was bought by the City of Dallas in 1909. In the 30s the New Deal Works Progress Administration (WPA) constructed a stone bridge, picnic table and benches that are still in use today. The park name was changed to Robert E. Park in 1936 after a six-ton bronze statue of Robert E. Lee was funded and commissioned by the Dallas Southern Memorial Association. It was unveiled by President Franklin D. Roosevelt at the corner of Hall Street and Turtle Creek Boulevard and stood for 81 years until a decision was made to remove it by the Dallas City Council. With the statue gone, the City of Dallas Park Board voted to restore the original name of Oak Lawn Park. The Conservancy continues to work with the Park & Recreation Department, Office of Cultural Affairs and Dallas Park Board on creating a beautiful, unifying space on that corner for all citizens of the community to enjoy. Through the years the park has been home to movie nights, picnics, and was a focal point of the 1970s Dallas hippie culture. It has been, and will continue to be, a greenspace for gathering.

Built in 1939, Arlington Hall was originally used as a “field house” that included lockers for recreation and housed USO Dances and Red Cross Blood Drives during wartime. Generations of weddings, receptions and other events were held in the Hall, however over time so much use and limited City funding and maintenance caught up with the building. For over thirty years, Arlington Hall, and its surrounding public park area had suffered significant neglect and decay. Several neighbors and five community organizations came together to create The Conservancy (formerly Lee Park & Arlington Hall Conservancy) so that initial funds could be raised, construction implemented, ongoing maintenance performed and revenue-generating events and programs executed so that the Hall could “save it’s own life” and not fall into disrepair again. The Conservancy raised $2,150,000 in private monies for the project. The city provided an additional $500,000 in bond money so the Hall could undergo a complete rehabilitation and major expansion, which was completed in December 2003. Noteworthy architect Mark Lemmon designed the Hall, inspired by the Custis-Lee Mansion in Arlington, Virginia. The Greek Revival style is found on many significant structures throughout history, including the British Museum and Second Bank of the United States in Philadelphia. “Arlington House” is now within Arlington National Cemetery, a revered and sacred place where our nation’s military heroes are buried.

THE HISTORY OF ARLINGTON HALL

WE CREATE AND MAINTAIN FORMAL, MANICURED SPACES FOR PEACEFUL PUBLIC ENJOYMENT AS WELL AS FOR PUBLIC AND PRIVATE EVENTS.

THE CONSERVANCY

After seeing the state of disrepair of the Hall and park, several neighbors and local organizations came together to take on saving the Hall and working to make the park as beautiful as it could be. In 1995 the, the Dallas Tavern Guild, Oak Lawn Forum, the Oak Lawn Committee, Turtle Creek Association and Dallas Southern Memorial Association formalized their coalition and created the Lee Park and Arlington Hall Conservancy, modeled after the Central Park Conservancy in New York. The nonprofit Conservancy assumed responsibility for the renovation, development, and conservation of the historic site and started by raising $3,000,000 for the renovation. The plans were sensitive to the Texas Historical Landmark status and approved by the Dallas Landmark Commission. After completion of the Hall, the Conservancy turned its attention to the surrounding parklands. The current project is designed by Armstrong Berger and includes new features to the portions of the park contiguous to Arlington Hall. We still work with John Armstrong today to thoughtfully develop and enhance areas of the park so that people can more comfortably connect with nature and each other.

EXPERIENCE ADALLAS TREASURE.

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