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History of Denton

There is a rich history behind the Square in Denton, TX. As the seat of Denton County and a thriving city, here are some of the highlights.


  • 1846-48 Pinckneyville established as the first county seat near the geographical center of the county in what is now the city of Denton
  • 1857 Auction of lots for the original township of Denton conducted by Sheriff C.A. Williams
  • 1857 First congregation, organized as the First United Methodist Episcopal Church South by the Rev. William E. Bates, later became the First United Methodist Church
  • 1858 First hotel built in Denton was the Lacy House, owned by Charles Christian Lacy
  • 1860 I.O.O.F. Cemetery established by Denton Lodge No. 82 of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and expanded to include land donated by James M. Smoot; maintained by the Lodge until 1933 when it was given to the City
  • 1867 City charter granted by State Legislature, providing for the election of a mayor and five aldermen     
  • 1868 First newspaper, the Denton Monitor, published and edited by C. W. Greers, appeared on May 30, 1868, and was discontinued in 1894
  • 1869 First Mayor was J.B. Sawyer
  • 1874 Denton Fire Department formed as a volunteer bucket brigade, located behind a blacksmith shop at the corner of Locust and McKinney Streets
  • 1876 First courthouse (in current location), was built in the center of the Square and demolished in 1895 after being struck by lightning
  • 1880 First Fire Chief, W. F. Austin, was a descendent of Stephen F. Austin
  • 1881 Railroad arrives, providing means for commerce and allowing Denton to flourish as a community     
  • 1882 First Fire Station completed on the northwest corner of Locust and McKinney Streets
  • 1890 Texas Normal College and Teacher Training Institute (UNT), opened in temporary quarters over a hardware store on the northwest corner of the Square after a group of Denton businessmen known as the “Syndicate” donated land to help establish a private college; first president was Joshua C. Chilton
  • 1892 Water and electric service begins
  • 1894 Original City Hall constructed. Located east of Bolivar Street and north of Oak Street, the building also served as a jailhouse and fire hall until the new city hall was built in 1928
  • 1896 Telephone service and streetcar lines open
  • 1897 Courthouse-on-the-Square completed
  • 1920 Denton Police Department established with a Chief of Police and six officers patrolling on foot and horseback
  • 1920 First paved street was Hickory Street at the Courthouse Square
  • 1925 First public hospital, the Denton Hospital and Clinic, was located on Locust Street and operated until 1956
  • 1929 Center for the Visual Arts, renovated and opened by the Greater Denton Arts Council in 1984 before being renamed as the Patterson-Appleton Arts Center in 2015, was originally built as a city maintenance and warehouse facility
  • 1933 First public library, located in the Courthouse, became the Emily Fowler Public Library and moved to its present location in 1949
  • 1935 Texas Theatre was the largest of the “theater row” movie houses run by Interstate Theaters; it was remodeled and renamed “The Fine Arts Theatre” in the 1950s
  • 1941 Little Chapel in the Woods, designed by renowned architects O’Neil Ford and Arch Swank and built by the National Youth Administration with labor and artwork contributed by TWO students, was dedicated by Eleanor Roosevelt in 1939 and completed in 1941
  • 1943 Garbage collection introduced
  • 1947 Denton Municipal Airport opens, providing aviation-related opportunities for businesses
  • 1947 Denton Independent School District formed when local voters chose to separate school matters from the operation of city government
  • 1949 Campus Theatre, host of movie premiere of Bonnie and Clyde in 1967, was open from 1949 to 1985; purchased by the Greater Denton Arts Council in 1990, after renovations, it reopened in 1995 as a performing arts center
  • 1959 First City Manager was Homer Bly
  • 1966 Civic Center, designed by O’Neil Ford, constructed
  • 1968 City Hall, designed by O’Neil Ford around a sunken interior courtyard, is surrounded by landscaped gardens in Civic Center Park
  • 1969 Denton Community Theatre, originally housed in the Old City Hall Fire Station, moved to its permanent home in the Campus Theatre in 1995
  • 1970 Greater Denton Arts Council formed to create awareness, participation, and support for the arts in Denton
  • 1979 Golden Triangle Mall, the first indoor shopping center in Denton, continues to attract national retailers
  • 1980 Denton Festival Foundation, Inc. produces first arts festival, Spring Fling, which grew to become the Denton Arts and Jazz Festival in 1991
  • 1985 Oak/Hickory Historical District, composed of private residences in a variety of architectural periods and styles, was officially designated as a historical district
  • 1989 Martin Luther King, Jr. Recreation Center, opened by the City of Denton Parks and Recreation Department, provides a variety of services to the Denton community
  • 1995 Eureka Playground, a unique project located in South Lakes Park, was planned and constructed by community volunteers using donated funds and labor. After 20 years, the original Eureka Playground was demolished, redesigned, and reconstructed from recycled materials in 2015 under the name Eureka 2.
  • 2003 Water Works Park/Natatorium Complex, the first water park and indoor public pool in Denton
  • 2004 C.H. Collins Athletic Complex, Denton ISD’s home field, was named for a former African American football coach at Fred Moore High School who was famous for his unique and successful coaching skills
  • 2016 Stoke is a coworking space and entrepreneur center established by CoDenton, a collaborative initiative in support of entrepreneurship and technological innovation in Denton