With a population of less than 10,000 and a bountiful per capita income, Highland Park is considered one of the wealthiest cities in Texas. Many of Highland Park’s residents live accordingly and pay more in real estate taxes than most people earn in a year. Some of Highland Park’s luxurious homes and tree-lined drives are now in the public eye as the backdrop for the new ABC television network series, GCB. While the stereotyped characters on GCB are totally fictitious, those stately mansions are very real.
Highland Park was first developed in the late nineteenth century as an exclusive residential area, “Philadelphia Place,” by Henry Exall. The Philadelphia Place Land Association purchased approximately 1300 acres for a mere half million in the late 1880s. As part of the area’s development, Exall was responsible for laying out the roads and dammed a portion of Turtle Creek to create the lake bearing his name. However, Exall suffered heavy financial loses in the Panic of 1893, and the development was brought to a standstill.
By 1907, John S. Armstrong, who had earlier partnered with Oak Cliff developer Thomas Marsalis, had sold his meatpacking business, the Armstrong Packing Company, and purchased the land. Renaming the development Highland Park, he employed George E. Kessler and Wilber David Cook to draw up the plans that devoted one fifth of the area to parks. Kessler had had a hand in planning much of Dallas’s downtown area. Cook was the visionary for the lavish California environs of Beverly Hills. Armstrong was also assisted in this venture by his daughters’ husbands, Edgar L. Flippen, and Hugh E. Prather, Sr. Flippen and Prather went on to build the Highland Park Village shopping center in 1931.
Many of the homes first built in Highland Park resembled those in equally exclusive Beverly Hills, integrating red-tiled roofs, stucco walls, sweeping front lawns, and grand, stepped entrances. The homes pictured in the accompanying postcard view are typical of Lakeside Drive overlooking Exall Lake in the forefront. Fine homes such as these were built between 1910 and 1930 and now have a seven-figure value in today’s market. Similar homes built in this neighborhood in recent decades are valued in excess of $10,000,000.
Although the residents of Highland Park petitioned the city of Dallas for annexation in 1913, they were rejected and so chose instead to incorporate as a city. Highland Parks' government offices are housed in structures built during the same era in the popular Spanish Colonial architectural style.