What does Highland Park, a town located in the heart of Dallas, Texas, have in common with Los Angeles’ Beverly Hills, besides some of the highest-dollar residential real estate in the nation?
Both cities were laid out by elitist city planner Wilbur David Clark as monuments to the Progressive Era. In Highland Park, magnificent two-story homes built by Gilded Age railroad, land baron, banking and industry fortunes line broad boulevards with all the imposing arrogance of turn-of-the-century new money.
When you tour Beverly Drive, the look of Highland Park is reminiscent of the more well-known Beverly Hills, with its majestic, sprawling residences, many hinting at Spanish heritage through tile roofs, stucco walls, stained glass windows and romantic open balconies. Quite a few homes are Greek revival, a nod to the Southern plantation home, and within the last decade newer homes are often Georgian-influenced, among the favorite home designs of the transplanted Northerner. What you will not find is any home with a postmodern or contemporary design.
In addition to meticulously landscaped lots, the city reserves 20 percent of available land for parks and green spaces, also beautifully maintained. Within the 2.2-mile city limits, there are more than 22 parks, eight tennis courts, three playgrounds, and a swimming facility serving approximately 35,000 residents.
Incorporated as its own township in 1913, Highland Park is a rich oasis and retreat, with all the advantages of the big city, and careful avoidance of the disadvantages. Urban blight is not possible in a town where the average home sells for well over $500,000. Or where the town can afford through its hefty tax base to finance its own police and fire department, whose response rates clock in under two and a half minutes on average. The HP police are legendary in other parts of Dallas. You had better not be caught speeding through town, especially if you are not a Highland Park resident. Crime here is one of the lowest rates in the country, and infractions are reported in its crusading journal, Park Cities People to the amusement of other Dallas residents who scoff at the reports of occasional stolen bicycles and acts of minor vandalism.
Highland Park schools are as carefully cultivated toward perfection as the town’s pristine environment. Among the most sought-after public school systems in the state of Texas, Highland Park boasts graduates who have earned the Nobel Prize, Olympic gold medals, the Oscar, an Emmy, a Heisman trophy, and the Pulitzer Prize. Graduates have been elected governor of Texas, served as one of the nation’s astronauts, commanded the first Trident-class submarine launched by the United States, and have distinguished themselves in the fields of law, medicine, fine arts, and journalism.
The tradition of excellence is epitomized in the system’s high school. Highland Park High School is a public four-year college preparatory school recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as a School of Excellence, winner of the blue ribbon designation. The high school has an enrollment of approximately 1,565, and the teacher-to-student ratio has been pruned to 1-to-14. SAT scores here set the pace for Texas school districts, with an average of 1153 posted in 1997, 158 points over the state average, with 89 percent of graduating seniors taking the test. Ninety-eight percent continue on to colleges or universities.
The Highlanders are as formidable on the playing field as in the academic arena. During the 1996-97 school year, the Scots won district or advanced to the playoffs in six of 17 University Interscholastic League Sports. One golfer was named “Best in the State,” and the varsity boys’ doubles tennis team won the State Championship.
Located only five minutes from Dallas’ downtown business district, the Arts District, and a number of other city attractions including Fair Park, an art deco-period exhibition center which has earned a place on the national historic register, Highland Park is centrally located to Dallas business and cultural opportunities.
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