Welcome To the Historic West End
The History of the West End
The Historic West End of Dallas is where it all began.
Caddo Indians settled in the area now known as the West End during the early 1800s. By the mid-1800s John Neely Bryan, a Tennessee lawyer purchased their land and opened the first trading post along the Trinity River. A replica of his cabin is now located in the Founder’s Plaza on Elm Street at Market Street.
In July 1872, the Houston & Texas Central Railroad arrived in downtown, attracting manufacturing companies whose warehouses would come to define the architecture of the West End. This railroad crossing made Dallas a major distribution center that led to the development of the downtown business district. The historically preserved buildings in the West End today were once used to support storage and distribution activities for the railroads.
In 1892, the Courthouse, now known as “Old Red,” was built by Dallas County. Newly renovated, the Old Red Museum is a celebration of Dallas history and a premier event facility.
In 1906, the City of Dallas built its first jail in a West End building. Still standing today at 703 Ross Avenue, the original iron bars of the jail cells can still be seen on the windows.
Across the street from the old jail sits the Y.O. Ranch Steakhouse, which itself is steeped in the rich cattle ranching history of Texas.
From these humble beginnings, Dallas would later flourish. While Ft. Worth would be known as “Cowtown,” in Dallas, cotton would become the king only later to give way to the booming Texas oil business.
The Start of the West End
Designated and zoned by the City of Dallas as a Historic District in 1975, The West End was the first area of the city to have height limiting zoning. This was significant in preventing the older buildings from being demolished and replaced with modern skyscrapers. The new zoning specifications meant the historic significance of the area would be preserved for years to come.
As Downtown Dallas’ skyline was changing and history was being demolished. In June of 1976, local developer Preston Carter Jr., revitalized the West End Historic District to preserve its history.
Old warehouses and other brick buildings were converted into restaurants and shops. The original Spaghetti Warehouse opened in the West End warehouse district in 1972 and is still one of the most popular restaurants in the West End today.
Development of the West End
Following the Spaghetti Warehouse example, Blackland Properties (now ECOM) purchased the Sunshine Biscuit Company building in 1983 and renovated the building into the West End MarketPlace.
The MarketPlace spurred further re-development of the area filled with diverse, one-of-a-kind restaurants and nightclubs. Horse-drawn carriages filled the streets, and outdoor concerts were daily occurrences.
From this expansion, the famous “Dallas Alley,” as it would come to be known, would emerge as the premier location in Dallas for local nightlife; and, over seven million people visited the West End annually.
The West End has also become the home-away-from-home for fans of legendary sporting events such as the famous “Red River Rivalry” college football classic between the University of Texas Longhorns and the Sooners of Oklahoma University. Other great traditions such as The Cotton Bowl and the annual Prairie View vs. Grambling Universities also call the West End home when they come to Dallas.
Today’s West End
Through the efforts of The West End Association, along with area businesses and property owners, an estimated three million people visit the West End annually.
The 20-block area employs approximately 10,000 people and generates approximately $200 million in total annual sales.
The West End has seen increased competition with the development of numerous multi-use and entertainment districts in Dallas and Fort Worth yet re-energizes its membership and tirelessly works to re-introduce the West End to the public.
The totally volunteer staff is working hard to bring more entertainment to the area and put more events on the streets, while keeping the area the safest entertainment area in all of DFW.
We are THE entertainment destination for DFW.
The West End is also the premier destination of many different annual conventions in the Dallas area. Throughout the year, convention goers and tourists from across the globe come to the West End to experience the rich history that Dallas has to offer. As we say in the West End, “Come for the History, Stay for the Fun!”
Sites of the West End
Welcome to Dallas’ historic West End, offering visitors a window to the past, with beautifully preserved and masterfully renovated historical buildings on tree-lined streets with brick-paved sidewalks. The West End is the heartbeat of Downtown Dallas, and only a short train ride away from the Dallas Convention Center. The West End is where visitors, from across the nation and around the world, choose to be entertained while in Dallas.
Locals enjoy people watching from our many sidewalk patios, shaded by tall live oak trees. It is like taking a mini-vacation during your workday. Order a glass of iced tea and the daily lunch special; then sit back, feel the warm breezes as the stresses of the day drift away.
As Dallas’ oldest entertainment area, the West End is still Dallas’ premier destination for special events such as street festivals like the West End Block Party series, or your own special occasions such as birthdays and anniversaries, or just a fun time out on the town with good friends.
Known for our nightlife, the West End is where the Dixie Chicks became famous playing on the steps of the old MarketPlace along with music legends like Van Halen and Eddie Money. The West End is now home to the House of Blues and internationally known Hard Rock Cafe. Lunch, dinner or late night, you’re sure to find surprising local entertainers and musicians performing on the street to the delight of visitors.
Adults and kids alike will not want to miss the Dallas World Aquarium (a world-class experience). History buffs can lose themselves in the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza, the Dallas Holocaust Museum, and the Old Red Courthouse and Museum.
If shopping is part of your plans, the West End has some unique shops. Stop by Wild Bill’s Western Store for custom-made boots, a Stetson steamed to fit, or that special trinket to commemorate your time in Dallas. Kokopelli’s Chocolates is your chance to stock up on hand-made chocolates, old time candies, or a souvenir for that special someone.
Treat your entourage to a horse-drawn carriage ride, take a Segway tour, visit the many historical sights of Downtown Dallas, or simply spend your time walking the brick streets or relaxing with a cocktail on one of our many outdoor patios. At the end of the day, unwind in one of our wonderful hotels, ready and waiting to pamper you.
The Dallas West End has come a long way since the days of the old warehouses and railroad stations. We invite you to experience the reasons why locals and visitors alike love this historical area. Enjoy the award winning restaurants, bars, and pubs. See the uniqueness of some of the best places to shop in Texas and Dallas’ most popular attractions.
About The West End Association
Your West End experience is supported by the West End Association (WEA). WEA is a non-profit member organization made up of property owners, merchants, and tenants in the West End Historic District. WEA has been active in the West End since the late 1980s. Its purpose is the promotion and avocation for the West End Historic District. Current members of WEA work on a volunteer basis marketing the West End to locals and tourists alike; producing events in the West End; attracting events to be held in the West End: lobbying the City of Dallas on behalf of the West End and its residents, merchants and property owners; and is an advocate for a safe friendly entertainment destination for our great city of Dallas.