University Park began as a cluster of homes surrounding the fledgling Southern Methodist University in 1915, then located in rural Dallas County, to provide housing for University professors. The University supplied these homes with utility service until 1924, when the growing population could no longer be supported by the school’s facilities. In response, the area’s homeowners first sought annexation into the Town of Highland Park but were refused due to the high cost which would have been required to provide the necessary utility and safety services. Shortly thereafter, Dallas also refused a request for annexation on similar grounds. Determined to confront the challenges before them, community leaders organized to incorporate as a separate city. On April 12, 1924, voters approved the incorporation measure by a 5:1 margin.
As a result of efforts to build and improve the city, University Park grew to a population of over 20,000 residents by 1945 and had become one of the most prestigious locations in the area. In fact, the community’s attractiveness and tax value had risen to such an extent that the City of Dallas now wanted to annex University Park into its boundaries. At the time of the election, even the University Park elected officials favored annexation. In the largest voter turnout to that date and still one of the largest in city history, the annexation was rejected by a 53% to 47% margin.
Since the 1940s, the population and area of University Park have remained relatively stable at 23,000 residents and 3.8 square miles. The city is now surrounded by Dallas on three sides and the Town of Highland Park to the south. The city’s unique character, high property values, and low tax rate have been steadily maintained.
The city boasts several lovely parks, tennis courts, and The Holmes Aquatic Center, a community pool. The tennis courts & parks can be reserved. All of these areas are hubs of activity during all times of the year.
Residents of the City of University Park attend the Highland Park Independent School District. These schools are continually among the highest rated by the Texas Education Association.
The school system was founded over 100 years ago, in July of 1914, to educate the residents of the newly formed Park Cities, Highland Park & University Park.
For most of the history of the district, the facilities included 4 elementary schools, an Intermediate School, a Middle School, and the High School. Just over the last several years, a 5th elementary school has been built and three of the original 4 elementary schools have been razed and completely rebuilt. More than 97% of Highland Park ISD graduates attend college, with many attending the most prestigious universities in the country.