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Dallas History

As a frontier post of the Wild West, Dallas established its reputation as a place for entrepreneurs and go-getters.

Dallas County was named after US Vice President George Mifflin Dallas. The little settlement along the river grew from 430 people in 1850 to 2,000 a decade later. Though the Civil War years of 1861-1865 brought difficult times, Dallas grew during reconstruction, drawing Southerners in search of rich farmland.

In the 1870s, two major railroads met at Dallas and inspired the city's rapid development as a trade centre. In 1907 the Neiman Marcus store put Dallas on the fashion map. The Federal Reserve Bank was established in 1911, and WWI established Love Field for aviation training, while the Army trained soldiers at Camp Dick, on Fair Park.

While the whole of America was sinking with the Great Depression, a prospector named Columbus Marion “Dad” Joiner struck oil in 1930 about 100 miles east of the city. Businesses formed or moved to Dallas, banks made loans for oilfield development and the Big D was the financial hub for the oil boom across Texas and Oklahoma.

Dallas, though, will always be remembered for one, if not two, shootings. The first and most shocking occurred on 22 November 1963, when President J F Kennedy was assassinated in downtown Dallas. The second shooting may only have been fictional but, when JR Ewing was shot by an unknown killer in the TV series Dallas, fans across the world were devastated.

Visitors coming to the very modern city today can’t help but be intrigued with the possibilities of star sightings, too: Dallas has been home to actors Luke and Owen Wilson; singers Norah Jones, Erykah Badu and Jessica Simpson; and Dancing with the Stars celebrity, billionaire Mark Cuban. Star-struck film fans can also locations for Hollywood films that were made here, including Silkwood, Places in the Heart, RoboCop, and Born on the Fourth of July.

Today’s Dallas is a glittering, cosmopolitan city – little like the humble camp John Neely Bryan started in 1841. Big fun, though, awaits on most every corner today in Big D.

Did you know?
• The integrated circuit computer chip was invented in Dallas in 1958. It would later become the microchip.
• The Highland Park Village Shopping Center in Dallas became America’s first shopping centre when it opened in 1931.
• Bonnie and Clyde are buried in Dallas after being killed by police in Louisiana in 1934.

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The Joule

Set in a lovely 1920s art deco skyscraper, The Joule is Dallas at its most patrician and boasts a lobby crammed with art – all themed around local moneyspinners, oil and gas. Rooms are slickly decorated and come with enormous ensuite bathrooms, and there's an enormous, well-appointed gym.

Hotel ZaZa

As you'd expect from a hotel named for movie icon Zsa-Zsa Gabor, Hotel ZaZa specializes in luxury details – think Frette bed linen, rainforest showers and enormous swagged curtains in every suite. The building itself is an old-fashioned colonial-style affair and comes complete with a chic bar and an expensive restaurant.

Hotel Lumen

Unusually minimalist by Dallas standards, Hotel Lumen is an oasis of soothing colors and ergonomic furniture. The hotel also has a heated outdoor pool, a hosted wine reception every evening and an on-site fitness centre. Off the lobby, the Front Room is a casual-chic restaurant serving three meals daily.

The Highland Dallas

Ultra-modern and possessed of a lobby decked out with gold seating and blinging chandeliers, The Highland does Dynasty chic reworked for the 21st Century. Rooms are large and the beds supremely comfortable, while bathrooms come stocked with Diptyque toiletries.

Hyatt House Uptown

On the northern edge of downtown, the Hyatt House Uptown sits amidst a bustling business district very close to Cedar Springs and Maple, an area dense in art galleries and antiques stores, as well as dozens of good restaurants. Rooms are a businesslike affair but there is a complimentary breakfast.

Hilton Garden Inn Downtown Dallas

Just around the corner from City Hall, the Hilton Garden Inn Downtown couldn't be more central. A stone's throw from city center attractions, rooms are comfortable and clean, if fairly uninspiring. No matter – there's a pool onsite, guest parking and you get a free buffet breakfast in the morning.