Every city has a community that houses leaders, and Highland Park is it. Residents are usually the civic leaders, movers, and shakers in Dallas. And this is proximity with a capital “P”: located only two miles from the downtown Dallas Arts District, Highland Park boasts block after block of the most beautiful homes in Dallas, from original prairie styles, Dilbecks, to new stone and stucco mansions. The area is also famous for its top-rated school system, security, friendly and hard-working law enforcement, and spirit where the sun never sets on the Fourth of July without a huge parade and fireworks.
Highland Park is NOT a suburb of Dallas, but a municipality within the city. The original land was bought by a group of Philadelphia, PA, investors, known as the Philadelphia Place Land Association, for the whopping price of $377 an acre. An entrepreneur named Henry Exall tried to develop homes along Turtle Creek, naming it Philadelphia Place, after an exclusive, high-end neighborhoods in his native Philadelphia. Exall laid gravel roads, and dammed up Turtle Creek, forming a lake that bears his name. An economic crisis forced Exall to put his grand plans on major hold.
Flash forward to 1906. Developer John S. Armstrong snapped up a portion of the Philadelphia Place land, and developed it as Highland Park. Talk about a prize, the property was on wooded, elevated terrain overlooking downtown Dallas. Armstrong brought in the best — Wilbur David Cook, the landscape designer who had planned Beverly Hills, and George E. Kessler, who had previously planned Fair Park and most of downtown Dallas, to create a refuge-like community with twenty percent of the original land set aside for parks.
In what would later become a tremendous irony, Highland Park petitioned Dallas for annexation in 1913 to seek city services, but was refused. The town incorporated with 500 residents in 1913, and by the time the incorporation was granted in 1915, the population was 1,100. In 1919, the city of Dallas sought to annex Highland Park, thus beginning a lengthy controversy that stretched until 1945 as the community firmly resisted. In 1931, Highland Park Village, a luxury shopping mecca for North Texas, was built. The Moorish architectural style designed by Marion Fresenius Fooshee and James B. Cheek, evolved after the developers travelled to Barcelona and Seville, Spain, as well as Mexico and California for architectural inspiration. Highland Park Village was reported to be the first high-end shopping center of its kind in the United States. It has had four owners, the last having purchased it the middle of the 2009 recession, for $170 million.
Fun facts: You can correctly address mail to Highland Park, Texas. Highland Park Village became somewhat famous in the early 1980s when the popular television show Dallas used to shoot on location there.
Highland Park Independent School District (HPISD) is a school district serving both Highland Park and University Park residents. HPISD contains four elementary schools, one middle school, one intermediate school, and Highland Park High School. This award-winning school district is consistently ranked among the best school districts in Texas, as well as the nation. Highland Park athletics are stellar: students consistently win top placements in national athletic competitions. Teachers are now required to either have their master’s degree or must attain a master’s degree within five years after being hired. Over 95 percent of the students attend college after graduation, many to top tier and Ivy League schools.