Rockwall, Texas, (population 40,448) named for an interesting geological formation, is the county seat of Rockwall County, the smallest county in the state. The town rests 25 miles northeast of Dallas on the Blackland prairies adjacent to man-made Lake Ray Hubbard. Though traditionally inhabited by Native Americans belonging to the Caddoan language family, displaced Native Americans from the southeastern United States also settled in the area during the 19th century. The construction of the National Road of the Republic of Texas in the 1840s brought settlers from Dallas, and Rockwall was officially founded in 1854.
Initially, cattle-raising was the town’s principal industry, and the city remained a small farming village until the arrival of the Missouri, Kansas, and Texas Railroad line in the late 1880s. The train allowed exportation of cotton crops, and the city’s economic focus shifted to raising agricultural crops for the next few decades. Though the railroad and cash-crop economy caused an initial population boom, including a sizable African American community, the town experienced economic decline during the Great Depression and World War II.
The completion of Interstate Highway 30 and the opening of the Southwest’s first aluminum plant within Rockwall in the 1950s and 1960s helped transform rural Rockwall into part of the greater Dallas metropolitan area, reviving the town’s economy. With the creation of Lake Ray Hubbard and nearby man-made Lake Lavon, recreation and tourism began to be important economic drivers.
Rockwall, a Texas Main Street Community since 2009, celebrates its local history through its Façade Grants Program, a partnership between the City of Rockwall, North Star (formerly Community) Bank, downtown business owners, and other community organizations. The grant program assists with repairs and restoration of storefronts within the Old Town Historic District, and funds projects which preserve the historic character of Rockwall’s downtown. The City, in addition to sponsoring the annual Founder’s Day Festival, also maintains a comprehensive database of historic properties.
One of these historic properties is the Manson-La Moreaux-Hartman House, which contains a museum administered by the Rockwall County Historical Foundation. The foundation’s efforts to preserve local history also include an ongoing oral history project, which reflects the diversity of the community; a digital photo archive; and production and distribution of history-focused educational materials. The foundation, in partnership with the Rockwall County Alliance for the Arts, also developed the city’s Historic Downtown Walking Tour, which features 22 historic buildings.
Designated a Preserve America Community in July 2015.
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