As long-time readers may recall, I currently live in Garland, which happens to be the tenth largest city in Texas (no, really). As such, it actually has a lot of good stuff going on, though by no means as much as Dallas, Fort Worth, or even, say, Plano or Arlington. Much of its cultural wealth is concentrated in old downtown Garland, which has existed as such since 1887, when the local post office was created midway between two rival towns, Duck Creek and Embree; the new post office was called Garland Station after the U.S. Attorney General of the time, Augustus Hill Garland. That’s him down there. Please note that I didn’t take this picture; I’m not quite that old. It was probably taken by the famous Mathew Brady, though no one’s sure.
Neither Duck Creek nor Embree exist anymore, because they were combined in 1891 to become the city of Garland. Clearly, then, the city celebrated Centennial in 1991. They even buried a time capsule to be dug up be the people living in 2041, at the sesquicentennial. I wonder what’s in there?
In the past, I’ve discussed a few of Garland’s more popular cultural institutions, including the Garland Opry and the Saturday night bluegrass jam session known as “Pickin’ on the Square.” But there’s more to be had. Consider, for instance, Garland’s own Heritage Park, which is like a miniature version of Dallas’ Heritage Village (of which I will write next week). Among other things, you’ll find two homes dating from the early years of the city, including the Lyles and Pace Houses. I like the latter best, and here’s what it looks like.
The Heritage Park also includes the lovingly restored 1901 city train depot, along with a restored Pullman car, which is starting to look a little weather-beaten (though who can blame it, given the weather extremes of the last few years). Sadly, the depot (which includes the Heritage Park gift shop) is open only on Saturdays from 10 AM-2 PM, due to lack of funds, and you can’t get inside the Pullman car anyway (darn it). But at least you can look and enjoy. It’s free, after all.
Moving west down Sixth Street (which is nowhere near as exciting or rowdy as the Austin street of the same name), you’ve got the Patty Granville Arts Center, which is where a great many events are held — from plays (and they do have a lot of them) to small arts gatherings, conferences, and other get-togethers. It features more than 900 seats in two theatres, along with computerized lighting and sound systems. It also has a 6,500 square foot ballroom (“The Atrium”) that can handle up to 450 people. They stay pretty busy, and they have a huge parking lot that’s mostly used, frankly, as overflow parking for the DART Rail train right next door. Nothing wrong with that. You can learn more about the Granville Arts Center ‘s hours of operation and performance schedules by visiting them on the Web at http://www.ci.garland.tx.us/Home/Departments/Recreation+and+Cultural+Services/Garland+Arts/.
On the corner of State and Seventh Streets (one block from my old bookstore) is the Plaza Theater, an elegant Garland landmark since the 1940s. This Art Deco structure (complete with lots of neon!) overlooks the city square and offers competition to the Granville Arts Center, the Opry, and the Pickers.
The Plaza offers several attractions every weekend, from blues bands to plays to (as you can see from the above picture) beauty pageants. It handles 350 people and offers the same computerized light and sound systems as the Granville, in a cozier setting. Oh, and let’s not forget that cool motorized “waterfall” curtain. The Plaza is often used for conferences and company get-togethers, too. You can also find more info on this one at the City of Garland site, at http://www.ci.garland.tx.us/Home/Departments/Recreation+and+Cultural+Services/Garland+Arts/PA4+Plaza_landing.htm.
Unlike Dallas, most of Garland’s cultural institutions are located right downtown, where they’re easy to get to. And while much of the city’s commercial attention has turned to Firewheel Town Center several miles away, the only culture you’ll find there is a Cineplex and a Barnes and Noble bookstore. Not that I’m complaining about either, mind you — they too have their charms — but they’re just not the same.