I was born and raised in Waxahachie during the 1940’s and ‘50’s. Except for a few years in the early and mid ‘60’s I have also been a lifetime resident.
The mid and late ‘60’s/early ‘70’s were the period when Waxahachie residents finally began to realize just how unique and important the historic architecture and infrastructure of this city was. This period saw the beginning of the annual “Gingerbread Trail ” tour of the many homes.
The importance of the historically unique Ellis County Courthouse and the dozens of fine homes built with cotton and cattle money in the 1800’s and early 1900’s were being recognized along with the unusual (for a small town) and numerous wide avenues and boulevards throughout the city. The city government and it’s residents were both beginning to understand not only the importance of preserving these truly unique one of a kind features but also of the attraction and value which was bringing visitors to this city from not just the DFW area but from all over the state and indeed the U.S.
Not only are wide avenues such as Marvin, North College, Brown, Sycamore, Grand and University attractive and the location of many elaborate and grand homes in those neighborhoods. Many of those streets have also played unique roles in the development of Waxahachie.
North College was the route of the Interurban electric train from Waco to Dallas and on to Greenville. The route crossed Waxahachie Creek on its bridge south on the south end of College Street crossing the east side of the square and on to North College and an elongated “S” curve across the northwest corner of the of the North College, East Marvin and Brown intersection. That route then continued north and out of town to Dallas.
West Marvin and University were also part of the mule drawn trolley route between downtown and Trinity University.
Much was lost before “restoration and preservation” became “important and popular.” However during the 50 or so years since that time, “Historic (old) Waxahachie” has become recognized wildly as both a great place to visit and as a exceptional place to live. As it has grown the city has actually become two cities. Old and historic Waxahachie.(south of the U.S. 287 Bypass and east of Interstate 35E) and “new Waxahachie” which is largely north of the 287 Bypass.
But I am writing because of my deep concern about what is currently proposed for West Marvin Avenue. The proposal in this week’s Daily Light details a total redesign of the avenue and “squeeze down of traffic lanes using a combination of curb line “bulb outs” plus plus a 19 feet wide grassed parkway on both sides of the street. This traffic squeeze is being justified to reduce a speed problem. Which in all my years in Waxahachie has never before been identified as a major problem on West Marvin. After two meetings at city hall with both city staff and then the city council. I see this proposal wrong on so many levels.
It’s wrong on the historical level for destroying more than 100, maybe 150 years of history involving around this grand avenue. Its wrong on the financial part by taking much needed funds for redesign engineering and construction dollars that should be spent on repair and paving of the north south connector streets between west Marvin and Sycamore streets. Those streets are currently In the worst shape I think I’ve ever seen. It’s also wrong when you consider the already rapid growth of both the city and it’s city wide traffic increase that is already here today. Much less what’s coming in the next few years.
There is no question we are going to see more of these “old Waxahachie” and “new Waxahachie” issues in the coming months and years.
As a start on dealing with such issues I suggest that the city adopt a street policy guide for old Waxahachie as “repair, restore, preserve and maintain” and street policy for new Waxahachie of “design, engineer, build, maintain and repair.”
Don A. Wilson is a resident of Waxahachie and active in a number of civic and community organizations.