Pictured in these two images is the same spot in the world – just 66 years apart.
Many long time residents reading this have their own experiences with this once relatively simple intersection. Now its being transformed into one of the region’s most complex Interstate Highway interchanges.
Here’s some history. And a little personal perspective.
The aerial photo on the left was taken in 1957 at the opening of the Dallas-Fort Worth Turnpike that connected the two big cities across the expanse of the prairie that separated them.
None of Arlington had reached into its path at that time.
The previous route of travel between Dallas and Fort Worth was U.S. Highway 80. It often took as much as a couple of hours through congestion and more than 50 traffic lights. So, a round trip was pretty much a day long experience.
With the new toll road, the drive was reduced to 30 or 40 minutes and the cost was 50 cents. Exiting at the Highway 360 interchange was 35 cents.
The story I heard repeated a few times was of the visionary real estate developer, Angus Wynne Jr., who, upon completion of the Turnpike, believed Dallas and Fort Worth would grow together and meet right at the intersection seen in the 1957 photo.
So he and partners, including some New York Rockefeller brothers, began to acquire land and planned a large scale industrial park. However, its development got off to a slower start than anticipated.
That resulted in Angus deciding to try a small Disney-esque amusement park to provide some needed cash flow. It was something he declared at the time to be a “temporary” venture. However, that decision spawned an entire Six Flags industry of 27 parks across the US, Canada, and Mexico.
The original flagship here has just celebrated its 62nd anniversary.
Six Flags Over Texas debuted in 1961 and turned out to be the catalyst for what is now the largest entertainment and sports venues between the East and West coasts of the country. Arlington now welcomes some 15 million visitors each year and that number is growing.
That result is a major reason the Texas Department of Transportation knew that old 1957 intersection had to be replaced with what we see in the photo on the right. Although a number of deadlines for its completion have been missed, we now are told it will be finished by the end of this year.
Now, for the personal part of this story.
Sylvia and I were married just out of college in Monroe, Louisiana, in 1964. We looked at our available funds and had enough to get us to this “new” entertainment venue in its third year of operations.
So, it became the destination for our wedding trip. We exited at the intersection that looked very much like the 1957 photo here. The only difference was that Six Flags had been developed at its Southwest corner.
We paid the $2.95 entry fee, spent the entire day, and discovered all the wonders of the new attraction. The Speelunkers Cave made its debut that year.
Three years later, executives of the mortgage company I was working for had decided they needed a Texas branch office and asked me if I would be interested in managing it.
Not only did I quickly say “yes” but that I knew exactly where it should be located: right in the middle of the growing Dallas-Fort Worth market in the town of Arlington my wife and I discovered on our wedding trip.
A little confession, however, is needed to keep this accurate. When we arrived at Six Flags, like most people at the time, we thought it was in Dallas. A little mental adjustment realized its actual location.
Soon it will be 60 years since our wedding trip brought us to that intersection and the rest of the story is central to our personal history.