From Hayter to The Hill: Tour Historic Downtown Arlington (part 1)

I wrote this walking tour for the Arlington Historical Society newsletter. Part 1 appeared in the February/March 2021 edition, with part 2 in the April/May 2021 edition. It was my first time being published in the newsletter! 

Be sure to check out the Arlington Historical Society’s website and Facebook page. If you’re in the area, visit our Fielder House Museum in Arlington.

Fielder House Museum
1616 W. Abram Street
Arlington, Texas 76013

Fielder House Museum

I wanted to post this with an interactive map, but that didn’t work out.

From Hayter to The Hill: Tour Historic Downtown Arlington (part 1)

by Jason Sullivan

This article first appeared in the February/March 2021 edition of the Arlington Historical Society newsletter.

History comes alive in Downtown Arlington! A short trek up Center Street offers a unique look at the city’s past. Much of Downtown Arlington is pedestrian-friendly. This tour would be a great way to explore the area on foot.

Part 1 explores some of the city’s founders and early history. Part 2 takes us through historic neighborhoods that are still thriving today. Along the way, there are historical markers, local landmarks, people, places, and events.

From Hayter to The Hill, let’s begin the Historic Tour of Downtown Arlington!

Part 1 highlights – 

  • Founders Plaza
  • City of Arlington historical marker
  • George W. Hawkes downtown library branch
  • Knapp Heritage Park
  • Bankhead Highway through Arlington historical marker

To start the tour, head to Founders Plaza. It’s located at the Levitt Pavilion near Center and Abram Streets. The first stop is the Andrew Hayter bronze bust and historical marker. Originally from Tennessee, Reverend Hayter (1818-1900) was one of the early settlers in the area. He is known to many as the “Father of Arlington.” A pioneer preacher, as well as a surveyor, his skills proved helpful to railroad developers. His half-mile-square settlement, known as “Hayter” or “Hayterville,” would soon become Arlington.

Andrew Hayter – bronze bust and historical marker

Founders Plaza also has plaques for six of the founding families of Arlington. These plaques provide information, stories, and photographs of the families and the town’s early days. Take a few minutes to read about the Rose, Rankin, Cooper, Collins, Ditto, and Rogers families. These families helped lay the foundation of modern-day Arlington.

Next, head north on Center Street to the City Center Plaza and visit the World War II Memorial. There’s a historical marker and a life-sized bronze statue of Colonel Neel E. Kearby. Colonel Kearby (1911-1944) graduated from Arlington High School in 1928 and studied at what is now UTA. He joined the U.S. Army Air Corps and was a highly decorated fighter pilot of World War II. His awards include two Silver Stars, four Distinguished Flying Crosses, five Air Medals, and a Purple Heart. Notably, he was awarded the Medal of Honor in 1944, a few months before being killed in action.

Also in the area are three other historical plaques. The first plaque pays tribute to heroes from Arlington who gave the ultimate sacrifice in World War II. The second plaque explains how the North Texas Agricultural College (1923-1949), now UTA, got involved with the wartime efforts and their impact. The third plaque, “In Memoriam – Lest We Forget,” pays tribute to the service and sacrifice of the men and women of Arlington who entered the Armed Forces.

Near City Hall is the City of Arlington historical marker, which gives a brief overview of our city. Slightly to the west — across from the Arlington Museum of Art — is Worthington National Bank. It’s a City of Arlington Local Landmark, built in 1939. Serving as the City of Arlington Post Office until 1964, the building was restored in 2001 and became a bank.

City of Arlington – Texas Historical Marker
Worthington National Bank

Before leaving City Center Plaza, a worthy detour is the Arlington Public Library’s downtown branch. They have an entire room dedicated to Genealogy and Local History, with books, special collections, maps, newspapers, databases, and many more resources.

Wow! All of that, and we’ve barely started the tour. Let’s keep going. The next stop is one of the Arlington Historical Society’s venues: Knapp Heritage Park.

Knapp Heritage Park contains three of the oldest structures in Arlington. You can tour cabins from the mid-1800s and a 1910 schoolhouse. Also on display are a blacksmith shop, a general store, a water storage tank, a windmill, and even James Knapp’s former law office.

Knapp Heritage Park

Part 1 of the tour is not over yet. Let’s head back to Center Street and stop by Arlington Music Hall.

Arlington Music Hall opened in 1950 as a movie theatre. The marque sign outside still looks as it did back then. Today, this City of Arlington Local Landmark is a performance venue. This intimate theater is a great place to see concerts.

Arlington Music Hall

The last stop on Part 1 of the tour is nearby at Division Street. Check out the “Bankhead Highway through Arlington” historical marker. The name of this east-west route has changed over the years, but it helped make Arlington what it is today. Known today as Division Street, this route helped transform Arlington from a small town to a thriving community. Tourism, commerce, and travel all benefited, and so did the city.

Bankhead Highway Through Arlington – Texas Historical Marker

Across the street from the marker is the historic Vandergriff Building. The Vandergriffs were an influential family in Arlington’s history. The building starts Part 2 of the tour, which will be in the newsletter’s next issue (April/May 2021). We’ll also visit the residential areas of the Old Town Historic District and The Hill.

Blog and photos by Jason S. Sullivan, 05-25-21

This article first appeared in the February/March 2021 edition of the Arlington Historical Society newsletter.

4 thoughts on “From Hayter to The Hill: Tour Historic Downtown Arlington (part 1)

  1. I have lived near downtown Arlington over 34 years and feel I did not know my city until now. Thank you for the informative, well-written article. You have a new fan!


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