DENISON, TX - We continue our "My Home Town" series tonight with a stop in what's known as the "Gateway city of Texas." Join us on a historical journey through the streets of Denison's past, present, and future.
Founded in 1872, Denison was named after Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad Vice-President George Denison. The MKT railroad was the engine behind a socioeconomic boom that shaped Denison into a thriving hub for business and agriculture.
"Trains came through and in the first hundred days the population grew to 3 thousand people," said historian and psychologist Dr. Mavis Anne Bryant.
Located at the intersection of the Red River and the railroad, Denison grew at a rapid pace. In 1873 they opened the first free, public grade school in the state. At the the turn of the century Denison was actually larger than Dallas.
"The railroad created the town," said Dr. Bryant. "They also advertised Denison and Grayson County as a kind of agricultural wonderland where people who had been poor or who had horrible experiences in the civil war or who were immigrants from Europe could come south an get land and make a better life for themselves.
During the 1940's, Denison established Perrin Air Force Base which brought hundreds of jobs to the area. The city is also the birthplace of many influential people. Renown horticulturist T.V. Munson grew up here. He's known worldwide for pioneering methods in creating disease resistant grape vines.
"T.V. Munson who was noted for saving the vineyards in France," said Denison Chamber of Commerce President Anna Mckinney. "And so that's a very historical thing for us."
Dwight D. Eisenhower was born in this white house in east Denison.
He would go on to be one of the only Five-Star Generals to ever serve in the U.S. Military and become our country's 34th president.
"Dwight D. Eisenhower," Mckinney said. "We're so fortunate that he was born here in Denison and that really puts us on the national and international map."
And most recently, Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger. The airline pilot captured the hearts of people all over the world when his plane lost power and he successfully landed it on the Hudson River in New York, saving the lives of all 155 people on board.
These are just some of the highlight the last 140 years of life in this small Town.
"Then when you tie in all of our downtown historical district," Mckinney said, "we have fantastic buildings and a lot of work is being done to renovate those."
But not all of Denison's historic buildings have been saved. In 2007 the city gained national attention over controversy surrounding the destruction of it's beloved high school.
"We lose some buildings that ought not to be lost," said Dr. Bryant, "but then there are other's buildings that will have new life."
Today Denison has nearly 25 thousand residents and is known for it's revitalized downtown, and it's art festivals that have visitors lining the streets on the weekends.
"That is something that set's us apart from a lot of communities," said Mckinney, "and this started back in the late 80's when we had some artists select Denison to come because it was a very quit laid back community and they could do their work. And, then we started capitalizing on that."
And although Denison has such rich history, with additions like the new Texoma Medical Center spurring growth along highway 75, there is much attention being given to it's future as well.
"We're looking for young professional and businesses to locate here," said Denison Mayer Rober Brady. "We've got a great economic development program, we've got a great incentive package, so give us a chance."