Town Hall Reopening Honors History

When Highland Park Town Hall reopened its doors after 15 months of renovations, the accompanying ceremony was a way to celebrate the future. But more than anything, the gathering was about honoring the past.

After all, the reopening ceremony took place 90 years to the day after the original Town Hall was completed on June 5.

“Our town has a fascinating history,” said Mayor Joel Williams, who acted as emcee for the event.

Indeed, sponsor Pierce Allman gave a brief “history lesson” of sorts to attendees on the town’s founding. He noted the importance of families such as the Coles, the Caruths, the Exalls, and the Armstrongs in gathering from various states to found Highland Park.

“Today, as you look at this new and timeless landmark, just think of the name for a minute: Town Hall,” Pierce Allman said. “It evokes a sense of place and a sense of people.”

Longtime philanthropist Margaret McDermott was an esteemed guest at the celebration. She first came to Highland Park with her family as a 7-year-old in 1919, and graduated from Highland Park High School in 1929.

Residents file up the main staircase to explore the renovated rooms.
Residents file up the main staircase to explore the renovated rooms.

“I’m so thankful to be at Highland Park,” she said. “And I think even I should look forward to the future.”

McDermott was one of 13 donors whose contributions went toward landscaping renovations including trees, flowers, tiles, pavers, and fountains.

In true Americana fashion, the program also included the Pledge of Allegiance, led by director of public safety Chris Vinson.

Operatic singer Angela Turner Wilson, daughter of SMU president R. Gerald Turner, sang “God Bless America.”

Guests were invited to write messages on scrolls for a time capsule that will be buried on the Town Hall’s grounds. A copy of the video series “HP100,” which won silver at the 35th annual Telly Awards, will also be buried along with the scrolls.

“The award, which is the highest you can win in the Tellies, means a lot to me personally,” documentarian Carrie Brewer Martinez said. “We’re all so honored to be able to tell the story of the town’s centennial.”

La Duni and Mi Cocina provided refreshments, and volunteers acted as docents, handing out fans to guests on the hot afternoon.

Finally, as the grand finale, vocalists from the Dallas Symphony Orchestra took part in Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus” following a butterfly release in partnership with the Texas Discovery Gardens.

The butterflies were handed out to willing audience members in individual envelopes, and were released at Williams’ signal.

“The release of these butterflies is intended to symbolize the beautiful beginning of a new century for our beloved Highland Park,” Williams said. “Welcome, neighbors, to your new home.”

Margaret McDermott gets a tour upstairs.
Margaret McDermott gets a tour upstairs.

A flood of residents then made their way to explore the extensive library on the first floor, and up the main staircase to explore council chambers, boardrooms, and offices ready for work.

The council chambers — anything but stale —are equipped with Spanish Colonial décor, a sage finish, and understated chandeliers.

Boardrooms and a fully equipped break room sit ready for members of the town staff and elected officials to take advantage of.

Town staff members, who have been cramped in temporary office spaces for more than a year, have spacious, new offices to fill.

But mainly, members of the town staff and elected officials hope that it will be a place for residents to enjoy as well.

“It’s wonderful to see the smiling faces,” town engineer Meran Dadgostar said. “People are impressed with the work that’s gone into it.”

This story appears in the July issue of Park Cities People, on stands now.

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