Go, shawty. . . it’s ya birthday

Texarkana celebrates 150th birthday


Allyson Arnold

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

Story by Anna Bell Lee, Staff Writer

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.”