CAPT. W. H. GASTON, Plantation Becomes Town

13 November 2017 19:57 น. Dallas, Family Histories

Captain William H. Gaston, Confederate soldier, banker, financier, and empire builder, designed and constructed his own Greek Revival home in 1873 on the northeast corner of Swiss Avenue and St. Joseph Street. This elegant mansion, headquarters of the 400-acre plantation that became the town of East Dallas, was demolished in 1927 to construct the Dallas Theological Seminary at Swiss Ave. and St Joseph Ave.

W. H. Gaston Residence

W. H. Gaston Residence

Without question, the most important spur to the growth of East Dallas was the arrival of the railroads. Their intersection a mile east of the courthouse not only drew the entire city eastward, away from the river, but also established the primary focus for an alternate city, which began to grow in the otherwise vacant area. A small business district, composed of drummers’ hotels, restaurants, and dry goods stores which catered to the rail traveler, grew up around the Union Depot, forming, in effect, East Dallas’ downtown. In the 1870s, the cattle trade helped to make this depot area into a tenderloin district full of outlaws, prostitutes, and gamblers who plied their trades from shoddy little hotels and tent saloons. It was also a haven for displaced black people from all over the South who began erecting squatters’ shacks on railroad property; by the 1880s, the Houston & Texas Central Railroad had built a large switching yard there, the Texas & Pacific Railroad was constructing a huge roundhouse across Gaston from the Wilson Block, and the area began to take on the well worn look of Deep Ellum as many industrial concerns also located there to take advantage of both the rail junction and the cheap, readily available labor.

Until 1871, the land on which the Union Depot was built had been Dallas’ first fairgrounds, the site of the Dallas County Agricultural and Mechanical Association Fair. In 1871 Captain William H. Gaston purchased the site in anticipation of the railroad’s arrival and relocated the fairgrounds further east on land where Baylor Hospital is now situated.

Without question, the most important spur to the growth of East Dallas was the arrival of the railroads. Their intersection a mile east of the courthouse not only drew the entire city eastward, away from the river, but also established the primary focus for an alternate city, which began to grow in the otherwise vacant area. A small business district, composed of drummers’ hotels, restaurants, and dry goods stores which catered to the rail traveler, grew up around the Union Depot, forming, in effect, East Dallas’ downtown. In the 1870s, the cattle trade helped to make this depot area into a tenderloin district full of outlaws, prostitutes, and gamblers who plied their trades from shoddy little hotels and tent saloons. It was also a haven for displaced black people from all over the South who began erecting squatters’ shacks on railroad property; by the 1880s, the Houston & Texas Central Railroad had built a large switching yard there, the Texas & Pacific Railroad was constructing a huge roundhouse across Gaston from the Wilson Block, and the area began to take on the well worn look of Deep Ellum as many industrial concerns also located there to take advantage of both the rail junction and the cheap, readily available labor.

Until 1871, the land on which the Union Depot was built had been Dallas’ first fairgrounds, the site of the Dallas County Agricultural and Mechanical Association Fair. In 1871 Captain William H. Gaston purchased the site in anticipation of the railroad’s arrival and relocated the fairgrounds further east on land where Baylor Hospital is now situated.

Courtesy Dallas Rediscovered by William L. McDonald.  Additional Gaston information can be found here.