The freeway era in North Texas began on August 19, 19491 when a crowd estimated at 7000 celebrated the opening of the first section of Central Expressway. just three years earlier the path of the freeway was the Houston & Texas Central Railroad, the first railroad to be built through Dallas. It was a symbolic moment of triumph for the private automobile as it displaced the railroad for personal transportation.
Widespread ownership of automobiles and newly built freeways were poised to transform cities all across the United States. In North Texas, Central Expressway would lead the way into the freeway era. becoming the focus of freeway-inspired innovations and quickly developing into the modern-day main street of Dallas.
Many of the defining attributes of modern-day North Texas were pioneered along Central Expressway. The Meadows Building, opened in 1955 alongside Central Expressway near Lovers Lane1 was the first large office building outside downtown and paved the way for the expansion of business into the suburbs. The explosive growth of high-tech industry and the rise of the suburban techno/ou campus began along the Central Expressway corridor in 1958 when Texas Instruments opened the first building of its Central Expressway campus and Collins Radio opened a microwave engineering center in Richardson. Families flocked to the new upscale suburban neighborhoods along Central Expressway and young singles congregated in the large apartment complexes alongside the freeway near Lovers Lane. While it was influential in shaping modern Dallas, Central Expressway also became the first to experience freeway-related problems, including traffic congestion starting in 1953 and, in the 1970s and 1980s, tremendous controversy over how to improve the freeway.
This 1954 view looks northbound along Central Expressway at Mockingbird Lane on June 6, 1957. The Mockingbird intersection became one of the busiest along Central Expressway as development and redevelopment would continuously evolve and enhance the area. The vacant land to the left of the freeway would be filled with apartments and athletic facilities in the years after this photo, but everything was cleared around 2005 for the Bush Presidential Library.
The highly successful Mockingbird Station mixed-use development opened on the northeast corner of the intersection in 2001 following the opening of the DART rail station in January 1997. A Hilton hotel was built on the southeast corner of the intersection in 1967 and was redeveloped into the luxury Hotel Palomar in 2006. Just out of view of this photo on the southwest corner was the Mrs Baird’s bakery, opened in 1953 and demolished in 2011. Numerous office buildings were built along the freeway, following the lead of the Meadows Building, the first suburban office building in Dallas opened in 1955 and visible along side the freeway in the upper part of this photo.