I realized I’ve never written about where I currently live, so I’m dedicating the next few posts to Dallas and its enjoyable and historic landmarks. Today I’d like to share with you the lovely Reverchon Park, where I frequently come to run, play with my dogs, do yoga, read in the hammock, sketch and paint.
During the Pandemic I made a video series about my apartment and neighborhood, to share with my family members far and wide. I wanted to include a little bit of information about Reverchon Park, so I started doing some research on its history. I was surprised at how interesting it was! Most Dallasites have heard of Reverchon, but I’d guess that very few of them know anything about it.
The park was named for noted French botanist Julien Reverchon. The land that is now Reverchon was once home to a Utopian socialist farming commune called La Reunion. It was founded by French and Belgian colonists in the 1850’s, but existed for only 18 months before dying of financial insolvency. In 1860 the land was incorporated into the city of Dallas. Today the Reunion Tower is named in memory of the commune.
The park was initially popular for mythical healing powers associated with water from the Gill Well. Though today it is buried and largely forgotten, the Gill well used to be a pretty big deal in Dallas. The plan was to use this hot spring water in order to turn Dallas into the Hot Springs of Texas.
The well was named for the city water commissioner who drilled it in 1902. According to a 1902 edition of the Dallas Morning News, City council’s goal was to create the deepest well in the state, in order to settle once and for all the question as to whether or not an underground sea lay beneath the earth.
The drilling was slow-going and went on for two years until it finally reached a depth of more than 2,500 feet. They indeed discovered an underground reservoir, and from its depths flowed natural mineral water which had the power to naturally heal every malady… or so they believed.
At first the mineral water was made available to Dallas citizens free of charge: just show up at the fountain with a bucket! Unfortunately for them, the water was quite pungent-smelling.
Eventually Dallas realized that this was a financial opportunity! There was good money to be made from this miraculous water. They opened the Gill Well Sanitarium and Bath House on the land that is now Reverchon. Parkland hospital, right down the street, got its share of curative water pumped directly into the hospital for patient use.
Business at the new Sanitarium was very good, and the public fountains at both the Sanitarium and the city hospital continued to be popular with residents who needed a boost or a cure, and they could stop by whenever they wanted for their free pail. In 1912, the city even added a Natatorium (swimming pool).
Although the waters are no longer here, Reverchon Park maintains its mystical healing properties today. All one has to do to experience its magic is walk along its beautifully manicured paths, cross beneath its towering bridges, explore its forested trails and gaze upon its stunning city views.
The Missouri-Kansas-Texas railroad (abbreviated as M-K-T and later shortened to “Katy”) decided to move its tracks right through Reverchon’s special land. For some reason the city of Dallas was not only unable to stop it, but forced to move Maple Avenue to avoid the train route.
The railroad was eventually abandoned, after which the Reverchon land essentially fell into disuse and neglect. By the 1980’s it was notoriously crime-ridden. But a rejuvenation project in 1998 helped turn it into what it is today: Dallas’s own Central Park.
The MKT route was converted into a paved trail for jogging and biking, now known as The Katy Trail. It traverses Dallas diagonally through several popular neighborhoods and is one of the most iconic destinations in the city. Every year it brings over 1 million visitors to enjoy the beautiful scenery and well-maintained paths.
A second paved trail runs through the park, flanked by the Turtle Creek Trail. “Turtle Creek” is actually the original riverbed of the Trinity River, before it was diverted underground for flood control.
Every season is beautiful on the trail, but November in Dallas is a wonderland of color. We may get our fall foliage later than the rest of the country, but the trees are beautiful when they finally change.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about this little piece of Dallas history. For more historic details, I highly recommend following Flashback: Dallas, a fellow WordPress account that digs up extraordinary tidbits about this city’s mysterious past.