And many more. . .

Texarkana reaches a monumental milestone

April 24, 2023

From the birth


Kailyn Williams

The main road the stretches throught the heart of Downtown Texarkana.

Chick-Fil-A, Starbucks, Target, Cinemark, the mall and even Walmart.

These are just a few of the luxuries we live with today in our small town of Texarkana, Texas. A city that has developed over the years into a place to house your family, it hasn’t always been what it is today, with everything that it it holds. 

One hundred and fifty years ago, Texarkana was only just kicking up dust in East Texas. In 1873, Texarkana existed as nothing more than a single drug and grocery store opened on Dec. 8.

Founded on a railroad intersection downtown, Texarkana slowly migrated further and further away from Stateline Avenue, which was once the heart and soul of the city.

“When I was growing up here, most of the retail was downtown. It was before Central Mall opened in the late 1970s. Prior to that, most of our retail establishments were downtown,” Mayor Bruggeman said. “Your major stores such as JC Penny’s and Dillards were located downtown. In the end, when the mall opened a lot of that retail moved to the mall. Then our downtown kind of began to go down.”

 Though Texarkana has grown into a metropolitan area, its history still lives downtown in a forgotten sector of the city. 

“There are cities whose downtown districts grow and prosper, and then there are those that kind of decline over time,” Bruggeman said. “We were very prosperous downtown, and then we went through a period of time where [buildings became vacant], and some buildings that had to be torn down and that sort of thing.”

As the years pass, downtown Texarkana drifts further and further into the past, leaving behind some vital aspects of our history. Despite the time passing, there are steps being taken in trying to restore our downtown area to what it once was. 

Overtime, Downtown Texarkana has seen a few establishments pop up, springing more life into the forgotten sector of our city. Whether it be a new eatery, or a freshly painted mural, people are working to make our Downtown what it once was: alive.

“Right now we’ve got a lot of activity referencing the hotel ground projects. We have a lot of residential opportunities coming up and then also entertainment opportunities,” Bruggeman said. “We’re seeing a lot more social venues that are available, restaurants and that sort of thing. So it’s been a great enhancement to the downtown area.”

Grim Hotel is another prime example of this.  The historic hotel was built eight stories high back in 1925. 

“Grim served as a major hotel in the downtown area, keeping in mind back then we had a lot of passenger rail traffic coming through Texarkana,” Bruggeman said. “People would get off the train, and then they would stay overnight downtown. The Hotel Grim was one of the hotels that was heavily utilized [in our past].”

Since then, it has been abandoned, left behind like the majority of neighboring buildings and establishments throughout downtown. 

“Grim closed back in the early 1990s and was vacant for many years,” Bruggeman said. “As you know, when a building is vacant, it continues to deteriorate, the roof starts leaking, windows break out and things like that. So there was about a 10 year effort that was put forth to try to revitalize The Hotel Grim and that was led by our current city manager David Orr, he was instrumental in working on this.”

The building was bought on Jan. 30 of 2017 with intentions of being restored and turned into an apartment complex.

“There were some setbacks along the way,” Bruggeman said. “But it was approved and came to fruition and so we’re anticipating the reopening of Grim.”

The importance of restoration of the heart of our city isn’t being overlooked by city officials. 

“We’re seeing a resurgence in downtown and that’s complemented by the enhancement around the Federal Courthouse, the grounds around the courthouse,” Bruggeman said. “We’re seeing a lot of growth downtown, a lot of renovation of buildings downtown and that’s very important, very wanted and it’s very exciting.”

The historic, original, Grim Hotel sign still sits at the top of the building, painted to look as it did in its young days, as the revamped building parades itself as a sign of hope for all of downtown to be brought back to life. 

“I like the fact that they are renovating downtown, my friends and I used to hang around there a lot when we were younger,” long term Texarkana resident Rodrick Williams said. “Our city has changed so much over the years, and seeing them start restoration, I hope it will inspire new ideas for renovations across the downtown area.” 

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Go, shawty. . . it’s ya birthday


Allyson Arnold

Downtown lies Kress Gap, a wall full of murals attracting the public.

The clock strikes 12.

To everyone else in the world, it’s an annual celebration of the new year. To Texarkana, it’s the start of a remarkable year within its own history. 

Texarkana is celebrating the sesquicentennial anniversary since becoming a town in 1873. Through a long 150 year history, Texarkana experienced rampant growth away from downtown, leaving behind the city it used to be. 

Texarkana is one of few twin cities in the United States, emphasizing the importance of the 150th anniversary as many cities cannot survive the struggles twin cities endure. 

“When you think about the makeup of Texarkana [with both] the Arkansas and Texas [sides of the city], that is a milestone that a city can survive,” Texarkana Museum board president Velvet Cool said. “[There are both] nightmares and blessings that come with being a bi-state community, but probably way more headaches than blessings.”

In honor of Scott Joplin, a memorial downtown has been painted representing his life.

While the original birthday of Texarkana is on Dec. 8, the city has organized events throughout the year to celebrate the anniversary. The Texarkana Museum has four different locations, holding different events at each, with the exception of Discovery Place Children’s Museum due to renovations being made.

“The museum itself is [holding] various events throughout the year,” Cool said. “Every Saturday at one of our locations, we will do different things like the living history tours.”

The opening of the time capsule is one of the main events in the span of all of the 2023 celebrations. The capsule was buried by East Funeral Home in 1973, this year marking its 50th anniversary under the ground.

“We don’t really know a lot about the time capsule,” Cool said. “Our worst fear is that water has gotten into it and that nothing [will be] salvageable.”

In addition to the celebrations throughout the year, there has been an ongoing process to revamp the exterior of downtown in order to increase foot traffic. 

The Grim Hotel is one of the major aspects bringing people into downtown. The former five-star hotel has been renovated into an eight story apartment complex, bringing opportunity amongst the community to reside in the roots of Texarkana. 

“I think the [apartments] are all booked up for when the hotel opens,” superintendent Bob Bruggerman said. “That’s exciting as far as serving as an anchor for further development in the downtown area.”

Several murals have also been added to Kress Gap, attracting people to take pictures or providing the opportunity to rent out the area for them to host an event.

Downtown has experienced several demolitions to bring functionality and attract foot traffic.

“I always go downtown to take pictures at Kress Gap,” junior Mollie Fisher said. “It is nice to have somewhere downtown that looks nice and gives me the chance to hang out with friends and have fun.”

While downtown is being renovated, it is essential that the originality of the buildings are remembered due to the long history they have endured. 

“I think that there’s a wonderful balance between restoration and renovation,” Cool said. “The insides of buildings should be made where they’re efficient and usable because if they’re not being used, they’re not going to be preserved.”

The history of Texarkana runs deep, implying the significance of the sesquicentennial anniversary as it celebrates the success of the city throughout the years. 

“We went through a period of time where we had a lot of vacant buildings and some buildings that had to be torn down and that sort of thing,” Bruggerman said. “We’re seeing a lot of growth downtown, a lot of renovation of buildings downtown and that’s very important, very much wanted, and it’s very exciting.”

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