Ancient Crossroads
You can't enter Texarkana and not know that you just came upon a fairly important city.
Sprawling and busy, this fabled town, straddling the Texas and Arkansas state lines,
has never been an empty place. Caddo Indians settled here, as a major trade route
bisected the area, which Native Americans, American, Spanish, and French pioneers
used as a freeway to each other's empires. Later, railroads paralleled the trade route
and thus created this gateway city, which either welcomes you to Arkansas or Texas,
depending on your direction.

Southwestern Queen
Texarkana's time as the "Queen of the Southwest" began when the Texas & Pacific
Railroad came through to build its transcontinental line further west, having met up
with tracks laid by the Cairo and Fulton Railroad in 1873. The new-fangled city attracted
thousands of emigrants - both white & black - and prospered from all the timber that
surrounded it. Beverly J. Rowe reveals in her book,
Historic Texarkana, that the city
suffered a number of devastating fires due to the heavy industry. Education and
prosperity go hand-in-hand, of course, but Texarkana was kind of late in the public
education game, opening its first free, white school on the east side only in 1884. The
Texas side, and the black schools, followed in 1885. Texarkana now also has a junior
college and an extension of Texas A&M- Commerce.

Famous and Infamous
One of the most well-known Texarkanans (if that's what they're called!) was Scott
Joplin, the rag-time composer who entertained many in the Swampoodle Red Light
District. His presence paved way for other musicians that the artist community
nurtured, like Lead Belly Ledbetter, Louis Armstrong, and others. H. Ross Perot is yet
another notable Texarkanan. The former presidential candidate and multi-billionaire
assisted in saving and restoring the "Gateway to the West" Theater, built in 1924, and
now renamed the Perot Theater. A more notorious Texarkana "resident" was the
Texarkana Phantom, who killed five people on Lovers Lane in the late 1940s. He was
never caught...

Cross the Line at Any Time. Hey, that's a rhyme!
Texarkana's main drag is State Line Avenue, which not only serves as a division for the
states, but as a municipal divider as well. The post office/federal building sits
smack-dab in the middle of the road. It's down this road (or around it, a block or two)
that you'll find most of Texarkana's attractions: the
Museum of Regional History;
Discovery Place Children's Museum; and the Ace of Clubs House.

SOAP BOX ALERT * SOAP BOX ALERT * SOAP BOX ALERT * SOAP BOX ALERT * SOAP BOX
As usual, I came to Texarkana using the old highways, and not the Interstate. This may
be why I was perplexed as I traveled into the city center. Along the Interstate,
populated by tall pine trees, big-box stores, and chain restaurants, Texarkana is shiny
and new. Along US 67 or US 82, however, Texarkana reveals itself as a struggling
southwestern city, with a lot of its former glory marred by decay. I had to shake my
head the entire time I visited downtown... not because I was disappointed, but because
once again, an Interstate sucked the life blood from the very place it was meant to
serve. Thus, I left Texarkana feeling a little sad. That's not to say that it isn't a splendid
place to visit, but man, do I HATE Interstates.
Toe the Line in Texarkana
Amtrak's Texas Eagle still makes two daily stops in Texarkana... one on the way to Chicago,
the other on the way to Dallas. Yet the Union Depot is in horrible condition, with holes in the
window, the clock missing, and a very close proximity to the Bowie County Correctional
Facility. No offense, Texarkana, but that's not really the first impression you want travelers
to get when they arrive in your fair city?
Nights are a-twilighting on the
Arkansas side.
How to get there
Texarkana, either named
for a steamboat that plied
the Red River, a locally
bottled liquor, or a
railroad executive who
thought he was really
clever, sits at an ancient
Caddoan trade route.
Today, you can take US 82,
US 67 (Bankhead
Highway), US 71 or US 59
to town. If you're in a
hurry, you can take
Interstate 30, but who the
heck would want to?!
Texarkana's Museum of Regional History displays a
great collection of pre-Columbian Caddoan
artifacts.
Learn more about
southwestern
Arkansas in my new
book,
The Red River
Valley of Arkansas:
Gateway to the
Southwest