Proud of Our Past
Thousands of historically-significant events have happened in Denison over the past 150 years. Only a handful of these events are included on the timeline below and we encourage you to find a topic that interests you and learn more—at the library, at the Frontier Village & Museum, or by chatting with Mayor Pro Tem Brian Hander (who generously provided the information and photos for the timeline).
September 23, 1872
Town of Denison is surveyed, and streets are named for officials of MKT Railroad. First lots are auctioned, with the first sold at Main Street and Austin Avenue. First business established was a bar consisting of a wooden plank put up between two trees.
March 13, 1873
City of Denison is officially incorporated by the State of Texas. Gov. L. S. Owings is the first mayor, and the first meeting of the City Council is held.
October 12, 1874
Formal opening of Denison’s Educational Institute, the first free, graded public school in Texas. Trustees are Dr. Morris and Dr. Lawrence Washington, and Nat Summerville is first superintendent.
Vinita, the home of T.V. Munson, is completed. Munson establishes nurseries in Denison, soon gaining international fame through development of grapes and other fruit stock.
October 14, 1890
Dwight D. Eisenhower born in Denison. He will go on to attend West Point, become a 5-star General, and serve 2 terms as the34th U.S. president.
September 22, 1902
Denison Hotel formally opens in what was the National Commercial College. Accommodations are hailed as the finest around and comparable to those of St. Louis and New York City.
Third MKT Depot dedicated. Completed at a cost of $250,000 this remains the most architecturally significant building in Denison. At its peak, the station hosted 52 arriving and departing passenger trains every 24 hours.
Students begin first year in new Spanish Colonial Revival High School built on the site of the Educational Institute. The bell from Denison’s historic school is reused in this new structure.
October 4, 1920
Rialto Theatre opens, design is attributed to John Tulloch. With 900 seats, the Rialto was the largest movie house ever built in Denison.
Railroad Shopmen’s Strike of 1922 focuses on MKT Railroad. Martial law is declared, effective July 26 at 5 A.M. Texas National Guards arrive July 25, setting up camp in Forest Park. A total of 536 guardsmen would occupy Denison during the strike. As a result of strike, Katy’s locomotive shops will move to Waco. The impact on Denison will be devastating with population decreasing from 17,000 to 13, 500.
October 1, 1924
Hotel Simpson officially opens with a celebration from 12 noon to 12 midnight. Built with large support form the Chamber of Commerce and community stockholders, the hotel remained the tallest building in Denison for much of the 21st Century.
Terrell High School established. Named in honor of A. H. Terrell. W. R. Wims serves as the first principal.
November 22, 1935
Denison Public Library opens in the historic Munson Home on Gandy Street. The project is due in large part to the Alpha Junior Delphians who garnered community support to open with 1200 total volumes.
Perrin Air Force Base Opens. This was the first basic flying school put into operation following the Japanese bombing at Pearl Harbor. More than 10,000 flying students received their training before it was deactivated in November 1946.
Denison Dam is completed. This is the largest rolled-earth fill dam in the world with a spillway height of 640 feet. The subsequent creation of Lake Texoma will positively impact the surrounding communities for decades to come.
Classes begin at the new Denison High School on Mirick Avenue. The ultra-modern facility is hailed as the most up to date structure in the state.
Denison’s Memorial Hospital is opened to the community. Funded almost entirely with the support of the community this will eventually become known as Texoma Medical Center.
Classes begin at the new Grayson County College designed by Denison architect Donald Mayes. Initial enrollment is 1,479.
October 17, 1968
Formal dedication of Denison’s serpentine, a unique project where Main Street was changed from its historic grid pattern to a modern curvilinear design.
Denison celebrates its Centennial Year with activities held throughout the summer. A renewed sense of civic pride is fostered and Denison’s history is on display for all.
New wing is added to the public library with $200,000 from fed gov., $200,000 from Munson Foundation, $58,000 from Rose Knaur Estate, and $44,000 from a $1,000 club of citizens and businesses. Design is attributed to Ralph Covington.
Denison wins the Class 4A State Football Championship.
Texas Historical Commission names Denison a Main Street USA city. The first Main Street Director was Sharon Foster.
December 23, 1989
Disastrous fire in 300 block W. Main takes life of Denison fireman T. O. Fulce and destroys three buildings. This will become site of Heritage Park.
New Texoma Medical Center is completed at a cost of $135 million, marking the beginning of Denison as a regional healthcare center.
Classes begin in the new 360,000 square foot Denison High School. Built at a cost of $60 million the new high school represents the culmination of years of work and progress for the city of Denison.
August 29, 2014
Renovated Munson Stadium opens after $5 million in improvements. Funds provided included $3 million from Denison ISD, $1 million from the W.B. Munson Foundation, and $800,000 from public donations. Forest Park also receives numerous upgrades including period furniture and lighting as well as a splash pad and locomotive-themed playground.
September 16, 2016
Historic 1874 Denison Educational Institute school bell is dedicated at new Denison High School. This bell has now officially hung at every Denison High School location.
August 18, 2018
Texoma Health Foundation Park opens to the public. The regional park consists of 80 acres and cost $16 million to build. With softball and baseball fields, soccer fields, sand volleyball courts, playgrounds, a splash pad, and multi-use trail system the park is the premiere outdoor attraction in Grayson County.
January 27, 2021
First phase of D3 project breaks ground. The Designing Downtown Denison project is a complete streetscape project that will increase walkability, ADA accessibility, and improve business access throughout downtown Denison. Anticipated cost for the first phase is $16.4 million.