Where Past and Future Collide: Arlington Developer Working to Preserve One of North Texas' Oldest Settlements

For decades, it sat untouched and unwanted. Many said a developer would have to be crazy to try to do something with it.

Yet today, the 2,000 acres of land in North Arlington now home to the Viridian community are teaming with life, with more new houses going up seemingly everyday.

Developer Robert Kembel says he always believed the project would be successful. Instead, what surprised him most was when he learned that he'd be building one of North Texas' newest communities on the site of one of its oldest.

"This is the birthplace of North Texas," said Kembel. "And we didn't know that when we bought the property."

In the summer of 1841 -- several months before John Neely Bryan would found Dallas -- a group of settlers built a fort on the land, which became known as Bird's Fort.

According to an old historic marker on the site, it was built "in an effort to attract settlers to the region and to provide protection from Indian raids."

Although the fort itself was only around for a few years, historians say what makes it significant is that it was one of the first attempts at a settlement in the North Texas region.

Today, all that remains of Fort Bird is the base of a windmill, a small well head, and a trough. But that was enough to spark the interest of Kembel and his team.

After doing more research on the land, they came to the conclusion that they didn't want to build any houses on that specific site. Instead, they thought it would be an ideal site for a cultural center, celebrating that history -- and possibly even a recreation of the fort itself.

"I think we all want to be connected to a place and we want to know the history and the past means something to our future," said Kembel. "So to connect state-of-the-art development principles with the history and very beginning of all development in the State of Texas, I think that's really cool."

In order to pay for the project, Kembel says they'll need to develop more of the land around the site -- so it's still several years out. But he's hopeful they can begin work on the cultural center within the next five to seven years.

Contact Us