A question I get fairly often is to explain why a road is named the way it is. Who was Preston or R.L. Thornton? Why’d they name it Royal Lane, etc? I can’t tell you the answer for every street, but I’ve included the three most popular reasons for how streets in Dallas got their names. Plus a few other interesting back stories for certain streets.
Roads named after towns they went to. As in, “I’m headed out on the road that leads to Garland, Texas, you know, Garland Road.” Though many of those roads no longer connect to the towns they’re named for, they’ve still kept their namesake. So McKinney Ave. used to run to McKinney, Texas and Greenville Ave. to Greenville, Texas. Preston Road used to connect Dallas to a community on the Red River named after a camp of Texas Rangers under the command of man named Preston. It was a small trading community that currently sits below several billion gallons of water in Lake Texoma.
Roads named after the people who owned the land or developed the land. As in, “I’m headed to Col. Gaston’s place, along the road that leads to his place,” or Gaston Ave. So likewise, Ross Ave is named after the Ross family, and Munger is named after the Munger family. Armstrong in HP is named after HP’s developer J.S. Armstrong, Josey Lane is named after the Josey brothers and Royal lane is named after a man who’s ranch occupied sections of what is North Dallas, Royal Ferris.
Roads named in honor of civic leaders. Some of our larger roads, normally highways, are named after local civic and business leaders. R.L. Thornton FWY is named after our former mayor R.L. Thornton, Stemmons FWY after Leslie Stemmons an early developer who helped build much of the market center business development. John Carpenter FWY was named after John Carpenter, a leader in the Las Colinas development, Marvin D. Love was an Oak Cliff business leader. The list keeps going and going but I’ll stop here.
Leslie Stemmons circa 1900
Stemmons Freeway circa 2012
Leslie Stemmons Grave site circa sometime after October 15, 1939
Those are the three big reasons why streets were named as such. They’re named after towns they lead to, or once lead to; named after the men or families that owned/developed the land or named after some local leader, often a banker or businessman.
Some of the more interesting names
Nazi’s and Skillman – Skillman Street in Dallas is named after W.F. Skillman a Dallas banker, which is pretty boring. But it was originally named was originally named Lindbergh, for Charles Lindbergh. However during the later 30’s he was known as a Nazi sympathizer, and the road was ultimately renamed following a public outcry.
St. Paul Street and booze. St. Paul Street in downtown Dallas was named by Barnett Gibbs, a local businessman in the late 1800’s. A fine Baptist (or perhaps merely a Baptist) he named the street after St. Paul because of some advice St. Paul gave to Timothy. “Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake.” Gibbs was an anti-prohibitionists and had grown tired of his fellow Baptist insistence on making booze illegal, hence his fondness of St. Paul.
When you look closely at his eyes, you can tell he’s totally loaded
Camp Bowie and Texas Rangers – Much like the town of Preston was named after an encampment of Texas Rangers, Camp Bowie is named after a camp of Texas Rangers. But unlike Preston where the camp was named after the camp’s leader, Camp Bowie was named after the county where most of the men were from, Bowie County.
If we can’t decide just combine two names – Good-Latimer Expressway was named after two early pioneers of Dallas, John Good, a former Mayor and James “Weck” Latimer, publisher of the early paper the Dallas Herald
Ervay Street and Political Prisoners – Like most southern states during reconstruction (1865-1872) Texas had it’s share of problems with appointed/quasi elected governors. Henry Ervay was appointed mayor of Dallas in 1870 by the reconstruction era governor, and elect by the people the following year. Then, while he was still mayor, he was thrown in jail by the same reconstruction government in Austin and stayed there until the State Supreme court ordered his release. The city honored that jail time by naming a street after them.