Angus Wynne Jr. stood on the front porch
of his friend’s house watching the construction of the new turnpike and declared, “Dallas and Fort Worth are going to grow together, and they will meet right here.” His friend, looking all around at the expanse of grassland prairie, mesquite and oak trees for as far as the eye could see wondered if Angus was dreaming. And he was. Visionaries are known for dreaming and for seeing things others can’t imagine.
That house was located on a hill just south of Rangers Ballpark and is today the site of the Punch Wright Park and Pavilion. It’s one of the highest points in the county.
The conversation occurred a couple of years before the Dallas-Fort Worth Turnpike opened in 1957. What happened after that is the stuff legends are made of, and it’s one of the best stories in Arlington’s modern history.
Angus, a real estate developer,
was no stranger to innovation in a world of change during the post WWII years. With suburban sprawl characterizing urban growth, he was the builder of the first strip shopping center in Dallas – Wynnewood Village, still serving south Dallas today.
Next, he would turn his attention to commercial and industrial development that he was sure would be a success at the mid point along the new expressway between Dallas and Fort Worth. The fact that none of the land he wanted was part of any city and lacked the basic services and infrastructure essential to any development was something he would just have to work out.
The enthusiastic mayors of the small towns of Arlington and Grand Prairie quickly became his strongest supporters.
He proceeded to put together an investment group that would include John D. Rockefeller III and four other Rockefeller brothers and then consummated what news reports said was the largest real estate deal in the history of Tarrant County.
They would call their 5,000-acre venture the Great Southwest Industrial District, or GSID. Those two mayors would be seen with really big smiles on their faces in all the local newspapers as they celebrated the announcement of the coming economic bonanza for their cities.
Visionaries share a common characteristic
– they are often ahead of their times. It would seem that Angus would reconfirm that peculiar trait as he proceeded to build the first warehouses and offices in the development only to watch them remain empty as tenants in sufficient numbers were not to be found.
His partners became antsy, and bankers were worried. There was some talk about how the whole idea of an industrial park was just not going to work, and maybe it was time to sell the properties, recover whatever of the investment was possible and try to forget about a real estate development gone bad.
Such pessimism was unthinkable to Angus. He started looking for something that would produce a quick cash flow and shore up the finances of the fledgling development. After visiting with the iconic master of the new concept in an amusement park, he returned and began convincing his partners that something akin to Disneyland would work here and quickly generate some badly need cash.
He wouldn’t try to copy what Walt Disney had done,
but create a Texas themed experience. He would call the place Texas Under Six Flags, but his wife insisted that Texans would not like putting their beloved state “under” anything. So, it became Six Flags Over Texas.
Angus’ investors, holding their breath, said okay, and construction got underway at a cost that would top 10 million dollars before the grand opening in August of 1961. Visitors had to fork over $2.75 to enjoy all that the new theme park had to offer. They came in droves.
So successful was this “temporary solution” to the GSID’s financial problems that by the end of the 1964 season news reports were describing the arrival of 125 national, regional and local manufacturing and distribution companies now with addresses inside the Great Southwest Industrial District.
The next time you approach the entrance to Highway 360, take note that the road is officially named the Angus G. Wynne, Jr. Freeway. Honors like that are bestowed upon the dreamers and the visionaries who didn’t give up when the going got rough.