Arlington History

Fifteen U.S. cities, towns and villages across the nation bear the name "Arlington," the largest of which (in both area and population) resides in the Lone Star state. Everything is bigger in Texas!

Arlington history is complex, and its identity is 150 years in the making. It has been a frontier outpost, an agricultural center, a site of Indian battles and a mecca for saloons, horse racing and gambling.

Arlington, Texas was originally called Johnson Station after Colonel Middleton Tate Johnson, because it was a regular stopping point on the westward trek for national politicians, stagecoaches and mail routes. The Texas and Pacific Railway set up rail transit through the area, making Johnson Station the epicenter of smaller settlements that were nearby. This area is now called Tarrant County after General E.H. Tarrant, who opened the territory to settlers. Eventually, Johnson Station was renamed “Arlington” after General Robert E. Lee’s hometown in Virginia. Arlington’s town charter was approved in 1884, one year after its first newspaper was established.

In 1893 a mineral well was drilled in the center of what is now the downtown area, and they were renowned for “healing” properties. In 1895, Arlington College was founded, eventually becoming a military academy and part of the Texas A&M system in 1917. In 1965, it became part of the University of Texas system, and it is now the University of Texas at Arlington.

The face of Arlington would change forever in the 1960s under the 25-year leadership of the visionary mayor, Jude Tom Vandergriff. Inspired by the early growth of the Disney Corporation, Vandergriff was fascinated with the idea of theme park. Because of Arlington’s central location, the original Six Flags theme park, aptly named Six Flags Over Texas, opened to the public in 1961. This beloved family destination just celebrated its Golden Anniversary and draws more than three million visitors per year.

The success of Six Flags Over Texas sparked Wet ‘n Wild water parks to select Arlington for one of its original locations. In 1996, Wet ‘n Wild became part of the Six Flags family and was renamed Six Flags Hurricane Harbor. It is now the largest water park in the southwestern United States.

When the Washington Senators sought a new home in the 1970s, Arlington stepped up to the plate and the Texas Rangers were born. The team played 22 seasons in Arlington Stadium, then in 1994, the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington opened. Its classic architecture pays tribute to baseball’s greatest ballparks. In 2010, former player Nolan Ryan purchased the team from businessman Tom Hicks, and ushered in a new era of success for the franchise, including two ALCS titles.

Also in 1994, NFL Dallas Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones mentioned plans to expand his Texas Stadium in Irving by 40,000 seats and talks began with Arlington to build a new home for the Dallas Cowboys. In July of 2004, the Cowboys and Arlington announced negotiations to build a stadium near Rangers Ballpark. In August, the Arlington City Council agreed unanimously to put before voters a tax increase that would fund the city's $325 million portion of the project. Voters approved the tax increase on November 2, 2004. 5 years and $1.3 billion later, the new Cowboys Stadium is one of the most remarkable and technologically-sophisticated sports complexes ever built. In 2011, Cowboys Stadium added another line to its impressive resume, hosting the NFL and Super Bowl XLV.

In 2010, the Arlington Entertainment District expanded yet again with the move of the International Bowling Museum & Hall of Fame, 2 years after the Board of Trustees voted unanimously to relocate from St. Louis. Visitors can now enjoy 5,000 years of history for one of the largest participatory sports in the world. The Museum &Hall of Fame also house bowling’s two national entities: United States Bowling Congress and Bowling Proprietors Association of America.

Located in the heart of the entertainment supercenter is the Experience Arlington Visitors Information Center, which offers area visitors guides, maps, coupons, brochures, interactive game displays and more.

The continued evolution of the Arlington Entertainment District over 50+ years has made the area a vibrant and bustling destination for events, group tours, conventions and family vacations. Tourism is one of the most important industries for the city, and 6.8 million visitors experience Arlington annually, spending approximately $396 million.