RICHARDSON, TEXAS. Richardson, a residential and electronic manufacturing suburb of Dallas, is on U.S. Highway 75 and the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe, the Southern Pacific, and the St. Louis and Southwestern railroads, ten miles north of downtown Dallas in northern Dallas and southern Collin counties. The twenty-eight-square-mile area of Richardson has an uneven boundary surrounded by other communities, including Dallas to the northwest and south, Garland to the east and south, Plano to the north, and Murphy and Sachse to the east. The 159-acre city of Buckingham is entirely within the city limits of Richardson. Spring and Duck creeks and Cottonwood Branch run through the community. The area of Richardson was settled by the Peters colony in the 1840s and 1850s. The area of waving grass and numerous springs was popular with early settlers, who formed the community of Breckinridge in the 1840s and 1850s. Breckinridge flourished until 1873, when the Houston and Texas Central Railroad bypassed it. Richardson was founded on the Houston and Texas Central Railway tracks. After it was built, the residents of Breckinridge moved to Richardson. William J. Wheeler, a local ginner, and Bernard Reilly donated 101 acres of land for the townsite and right-of-way for the railroad on June 23, 1873. Wheeler refused to have the community named after him, so it was called Richardson when it received a post office in 1874. There are several suggestions for the origin of the name. One is A. S. Richardson, a secretary on the H&TC. Most likely the town was named for E. H. Richardson, a contractor who built the Houston and Texas from Dallas to Denton. By 1881 Richardson was a thriving community with several stores, including general stores, groceries, and drugstores, four doctors, several cotton gins, and churches. In 1886 a train accident in the community killed one man, and when the sugar car overturned, spilling sugar on the tracks, residents took it home in buckets.
In the early years of the twentieth century Richardson grew rapidly. It had a population of 147 in 1904, but by 1925 it had more than doubled to 400. By 1901 the community had its first newspaper, the Richardson Register. Transportation improved in Richardson with the arrival of the Interurban, an electric railroad, on its way from Sherman to Dallas. In 1909 the community's streets were gravelled, and Dallas County built a gravel road in that decade from Dallas to the Collin county line. Around the same time telephones were available in the community, and electric lights were in use. By 1914 there were four churches, a bank, a weekly paper, the Richardson Echo, and a number of stores. Schools continued to improve in Richardson, and in 1914 a new eight-room brick school was built to replace the four-room frame school. In 1915 Richardson had its own community brass band, and the practices and concerts were an important social event. The band disbanded in 1917, when many of its members left to fight in World War I. After the upheaval of the war, the community continued to prosper in the 1920s. In 1922 the first official Richardson fair was held to promote interest in agriculture and livestock. It began as a purely agricultural fair, but eventually special events were scheduled at fair time and local businesses had exhibits. The fair continued to grow and prosper and still took place in the 1970s. In 1924 a tornado in the community killed one man, injured thirteen, and destroyed nine houses, a school, and several barns and shacks. That same year more traffic was generated, the population grew, and property values began to rise, when the Red Brick Road, later called Greenville Avenue, was completed. In 1925 Richardson incorporated and elected T. F. McKamy as the first mayor under a commission form of city government. The community continued its improvements with a public waterworks and the formation of a volunteer fire department in 1926. The next year the Richardson and Addison High schools were consolidated, and all the students attended school in Richardson. The population of Richardson continued to slowly rise from 400 in 1925, before the Great Depression, to 720 shortly before World War II, when the community had thirty-five businesses. After World War II the area began to expand. Nearby communities, such as Northern Hills, were annexed. In spite of improvements Richardson remained a sleepy farming community until the 1950s.
In 1952 Richardson had a population of 1,288 and forty-five businesses, and by 1961 the population was 16,810. Technological industries, such as Collins Radio in 1951, began moving into Richardson, and later in the decade Texas Instruments opened near Richardson's border. The community began to be known as the "electronic suburb." Other improvements in the 1950s included the formation of a police department, Terrace Park, and a community center. The arrival of Central Expressway (U.S. Highway 75) in 1954 allowed Richardson to become a suburb of Dallas, with shopping centers replacing the cotton fields. In 1956 a home rule charter and a council-manager form of government was adopted. Mail was delivered door-to-door. During the 1960s land along the northern border was annexed, and industrial parks were developed. A number of businesses opened, including twenty-two manufacturing firms, making such things as machine parts, space tracking systems, and television cameras. The population of Richardson was 43,900 in 1970. Richardson was a popular suburb for upper income college-educated professionals. Education was a focus for the community, and the Southwest Center for Advanced Studies opened there in 1964. It became the University of Texas at Dallas in 1969. By 1966 there were seventeen elementary, five junior high, and three senior high schools. Community services included four banks, a hospital, thirty-one churches of fourteen denominations, and nine parks. Richardson experienced another boom in the early 1980s, which slowed before business again expanded in 1989 with the influx of telecommunication firms. Because of this its nickname, the "electronic city," was replaced by "Telecom Corridor." The racial makeup in 1980 was 95 percent white, with the rest primarily Hispanic. The city was protected by 139 police officers and 134 firemen. It had twelve banks and sixteen religious denominations. The Richardson Independent School District operated thirty-seven elementary, nine middle or junior high, and four high schools, with a total student population of 32,695. There were two schools of higher learning, the University of Texas at Dallas and Richland Community College. In addition to all the entertainment in the Dallas area Richardson had its own symphony orchestra, and the Christmas Parade was an annual event. Dining was popular in Richardson's 400 restaurants. Several museums were located in the community, including Owens Spring Creek Farm, a showcase farm with vintage sausage-making equipment, and the University of Texas at Dallas Aviation Collection. By 1990 Richardson had 102 manufacturing firms, with an emphasis on electronics and telecommunications. Seven publications were prepared in Richardson, including five related to the petroleum industry, one English and Polish language literary journal, and the Richardson News, a daily community newspaper founded in 1958, with a 1990 circulation of 8,000. The population in 1990 was 74,840. In 2000 the population was 91,802.
Barbara Braithwaite, comp., A History of Richardson (Richardson, Texas: Richardson Historical Society, 1973). Historical Marker Files, Texas Historical Commission, Austin.
Image Use Disclaimer
All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.
For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml
If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.Lisa C. Maxwell, "RICHARDSON, TX," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hdr01), accessed November 30, 2015. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Get Texas history everyday,
with day by day
Each day's email tells a little bit more of the story of Texas and links to our collection of more than 27,000 articles