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In and Around, Out and About Dallas: A Preview of Field Sessions at Main Street Now 2020

November 19, 2019 | In and Around, Out and About Dallas: A Preview of Field Sessions at Main Street Now 2020 | By Debra Drescher, Texas Main Street Program Coordinator, Texas Historical Commission, and Rob Hodges, Communications Project Coordinator, Texas Historical Commission |

Students engaging with art in the Dallas Arts District. Courtesy of ADEX Dallas Architecture and Design Foundation.

The 2020 Main Street Now Conference will be held in Dallas from May 18–20, with the opening reception occurring the night of May 17. Register here to take advantage of early bird rates through Feb. 18! The Texas Main Street Program, Texas Historical Commission, and Friends of the Texas Historical Commission will co-host the conference. Get to know our host city, state, and Main Street communities through this special blog series.

Did you know?
  • The largest urban arts district in the U.S. is in Dallas. It features several African American cultural and historic sites, including the Dallas Black Dance Theatre, Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, and St. Paul United Methodist Church. Learn more in our African American heritage travel guide and mobile tour.
  • Dallas’ birthplace—the West End—is near the host hotel.
  • John F. Kennedy’s legacy is remembered at the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza, within a few blocks of the hotel.
  • Fair Park—a National Historic Landmark that’s home to the State Fair of Texas—has one of the most intact collections of Art Deco and Moderne buildings in the U.S.
  • Henry Ford constructed one of the first plants to assemble his Model T in a dynamic commercial neighborhood at downtown’s edge.
  • The Metroplex has a high concentration of exceptional Main Street communities, including seven that will be visited during the conference: Denton, Grapevine, Denison, McKinney, Hillsboro, Ennis, and Waxahachie.

The 2020 Main Street Now Conference will feature 17 field sessions that explore these sites and more! Mark your calendar for December 4, when you’ll be able to register for the conference and reserve your spot in these sessions.

Honoring Legacies and Saving Places

The Tenth Street Historic District is on the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places for 2019. On this bus tour, you’ll learn about this freedman’s town settled by formerly enslaved people after the Civil War, as well as ongoing efforts to save the neighborhood and its remaining historic structures. In addition to this district, Deep Ellum, and the above-listed sites in the Dallas Arts District, the Texas Historical Commission’s African Americans in Texas: A Lasting Legacy heritage travel guidebook and companion mobile tour provide info about several sites in and around the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. Learn more and download your free copies at the Texas Time Travel website.

RGB_dallas_10th_st_06.jpgThe Tenth Street Historic District’s culture and heritage reflected at a bus stop. Courtesy of Texas Historical Commission.

On the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza tour, you’ll walk to where John F. Kennedy, the 35th president of the United States, was assassinated on November 22, 1963. Less than a half-mile from the host hotel, the Sixth Floor Museum is located within the former Texas School Book Depository building from which the fatal shots were fired.

Walking Tours in Downtown Dallas

Numerous walking tours will explore downtown Dallas’ renaissance. Historic tax credit experts from the Texas Historical Commission and Preservation Dallas will lead a two-mile tax-credit walking tour, where you’ll learn about projects making up $1 billion invested in historic rehabilitation in Dallas in the last decade.

The Statler, the largest certified tax credit project in Texas to date, will be featured on the tax credit tour. Courtesy of Texas Historical Commission. 

Downtown’s notable architecture, parks, and arts district will be explored in three separate walking tours. The downtown architecture tour will examine a wide variety of styles that are part of Dallas’ iconic skyline, while the tour of the Dallas Arts District—the largest in the country—will focus on the district’s buildings and developments from the 1890s to the present. During the urban parks tour, you’ll learn how three new, signature parks have transformed downtown over the last decade, and how they have been guided by park-planning efforts. On the West End tour, you’ll discover how the earliest plots of settled land in Dallas today serve as a juxtaposition of past and present.

Food, Fairs, and Neighborhoods

If you’re a fan of the Art Deco and Moderne architectural styles, you won’t want to miss the (bus and walking) tour to Fair Park and the Dallas Farmer’s Market. The Fair Park Texas Centennial Buildings feature stunning art and architecture, are collectively designated a National Historic Landmark, and continue to serve as the location for the State Fair of Texas. Later, you’ll head back downtown to the Dallas’ Farmer’s Market for exploration on your own.

On the fast-paced Dynamic Neighborhoods tour (another bus and walking combo), you’ll visit and learn about three historic commercial neighborhoods at the edge of Dallas’ core: East Quarter, Deep Ellum, and the Cedars.

Deep Ellum, one of Dallas’ most historically significant neighborhoods at downtown’s edge has always been a hotbed for music. Courtesy of Deep Ellum Foundation.

The Great Outdoors

The all-day North Texas Horse Country Tour is hosted by Denton, a Great American Main Street Award-winner and an accredited program since the 1990s. North Texas has one of the largest concentrations of horse farms in the U.S., and this tour will showcase several breeds and facilities. It ends on the beautiful Denton courthouse square before returning to Dallas.

The North Texas Horse Country Tour. Courtesy of Denton Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Since you’ll be in Texas, you may want to see Texas Longhorns (the cattle breed, not the University of Texas football team!). The Fort Worth Stockyards tour will include wrangler-led herd demonstrations, the daily Longhorn cattle drive, and admission to the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame—all in a National Register district. Yee-Haw! See the Longhorns in action in our first blog post.

Texas Main Streets Matter

In addition to Denton, six other Texas Main Street communities in the Metroplex look forward to hosting you. Each tour combines bus and walking.

McKinney, a town of 180,000, has a downtown that attracts more than 700,000 visitors annually. The city has built an impressive entrepreneurial ecosystem within its Main Street district. This tour will showcase local entrepreneurs who will share replicable business concepts, as well as ideas on effective public-private partnerships and policies, strategies, and practices that say ”yes” to creative small businesses.

Aerial view of downtown McKinney. Courtesy of McKinney Main Street.

Grapevine, a 35-year Main Street community and a World Festival and Event City Award-winner, is a renowned destination estimated to be visited annually by 19 million people. On this tour, you’ll hear how the Main Street Four Point Approach™ has been a constant in the city’s forward movement. Staff will share tips for successfully combining diverse and successful retailing, creative entrepreneurship, sustainable events, and commitment to historic preservation.

No one knows teamwork like Waxahachie, a Main Street community since 2002 (and previously from 1983 to 1990). Through unique collaboration and partnerships, Waxahachie has been able to create a robust environment of retail, restaurants, art, entertainment, and residential units in the Main Street district. It is also home to the most-photographed historic courthouse in Texas, and was named one of Five Romantic Main Streets You’ll Adore by the National Trust in 2017.

Thirty-year-old Main Street city Denison will showcase its new ways of doing retail, its art focus as one of Texas’ first officially designated Cultural Districts, and the transformation of upper floors downtown. The owner of a restaurant incubator will share how he’s helping restauranteurs grow their businesses in a downtown food hall. You’ll also visit Texas’ first ”brewinery” and President Dwight Eisenhower’s birthplace.
05__Denison_Sunrise5115_3200x2400_by_Natalie_Popplewell.jpgDenison Main Street at sunrise. Courtesy of Natalie Popplewell.

The tornado that ripped through downtown Ennis in 2013 sparked not only an eventual Main Street application, but also a downtown master plan that has resulted in $57 million invested or appropriated in this charming, eight-block National Register district.

For those of you in long-time Main Street programs, you’ll find inspiration in Hillsboro’s story about remaining vital and vibrant through the years. It was one of Texas’ first Main Street communities in 1981.

There’s a lot to learn from these districts, so we hope you’ll be able to visit them through field sessions or own your own time when you’re in Dallas for the 2020 Main Street Now Conference in May!

About the authors:
Debra Drescher has been state coordinator of the Texas Historical Commission’s Texas Main Street Program since 2006. She spends most of her work hours traveling the Lone Star State working with its 90 Main Street communities.

Rob Hodges joined the Texas Historical Commission in 2009 and has worked in the Communications Division as the brochure development coordinator, media relations coordinator, social media coordinator, and now is a communications project coordinator.