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Paris City

Paris City Hall is located at 135 SE 1st Street, Paris, TX 75460; phone: 903-784-9202.

Paris is the county seat of Lamar County.

Location [1]

Paris is located in northeast Texas, 20 miles south of the Oklahoma border and the Red River. The town is situated on the dividing line between the Piney Woods region of northeastern Texas and the vast Blackland Prairie that extends to the southwest, equally dividing the county into prairie and timbered lands with a variety of oaks, pecan, hickory, ash and walnut. The city is dense with trees, which create an almost continuous canopy. Over the years residents have planted crape myrtles throughout the city, a practice which has earned it the name "Crape Myrtle City".

The land around Paris is rich and fertile. It produces large amounts of cotton, corn, oats, wheat, barley, vegetables and fruit. The gently rolling hills of the region gradually build to a natural ridge between the watersheds of the Red River to the north and the Sulphur River to the south. The ridge reaches 620 feet above mean sea level. Paris is near the head of many small streams of the Red and Sulphur rivers. Many swales and creek beds are noticeable, although few creeks in Paris have continuous water flow all year.

Like most cities Paris is a social and cultural mosaic, affected by numerous forces that have shaped it over 140 years. It has maintained some of its historical character, and continues to evolve. The town has experienced many architectural, socio-cultural and technological eras which have affected the type and quality of buildings erected. Demolition, neglect, alteration and fire have destroyed a significant number of the city's historic buildings.

Beginnings [1]

The Wright family from Tennessee settled in the vicinity of present-day Lamar County in 1816, becoming one of the first Anglo families in the region. George Washington Wright provided the formal nucleus of Paris when he designated 50 acres, out of his original 1,000 acre purchase, for the town site. Like most towns west of the Mississippi, Paris was surveyed in a grid pattern with Wright's store on the center square. The square briefly would provide the setting for the new county courthouse and for the merchants who clustered around the center where most of the trade took place and most roads converged.

A main thoroughfare was the Central National Road of the Republic of Texas. It is now Bonham St., west of downtown, and Pine Bluff St. as it continues east of the town's center. The two rights-of-way are 60 feet wide, although the width of Pine Bluff varies because of former streetcar sidings. Most of the secondary streets are 40 feet wide to allow for the minimum turning radius of horse-drawn vehicles.

The town's location on the Central National Road and the ridge line between the Red and Sulphur rivers provided it symbolic prominence, prevailing breezes, flood protection, good drainage, a minimum of swamp related diseases and few topographic disruptions in the alignment of roads.

Growth was slow until after the Civil War when the town grew to about 700 to 800 settlers. Little evidence remains of the nature of the architecture before the Civil War. However, certain assumptions can be made based on historic precedents. The original structures were by necessity hand-hewn and made of wood. Some were covered with siding. Most were vernacular structures, although a few probably showed Greek Revival detailing. Only early parts of the original Johnston-McCuistion House remain from this early period.

As the original 50-acre grid filled, the need arose to expand the boundaries of the city. The logical points of expansion were along the major roads which tied Paris to the adjacent rural areas and points of trade beyond. Via North Main, Pine Bluff, Lamar, Clarksville, South Main, Church and Bonham streets, Paris was connected to Indian Territory, the Red River and the Texas cities of Jefferson, Galveston, Dallas and Bonham.

A cruciform pattern of roads extended outwards from the commercial district. Consequently important residences and neighborhoods formed to the south, east and west until new town limits were created. The cardinally-oriented street grid was retained. By the 1870s the principal streets were Division which is now 7th, NW and SW, High which is now 8th NE and SE, Sherman/Washington and Booth/Cherry streets.

During the 1864-1884 period, Paris grew to about 8,200 residents as a result of the booming cotton industry and the arrival of the railroads. By 1885 the town had spread up to and around the railroad yards and depots. Trolley lines connected the Central Square with areas along South Main, Kaufman and Pine Bluff streets. The first major additions and subdivisions for residential and commercial development were formed in these years.

The most prominent homes were built along South Main and Church streets, Bonham Street, Clarksville/Lamar Streets and Birmingham or 6th Street SE.

  1. Architexas, Katherine Livingston, AIA and Staff of the Texas Historical Commission, Historic Resources of Paris, Texas, nomination document, 1987, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.
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