Frisco, Texas: From tiny farm town to fastest-growing city
The City of Frisco has experienced a major population boom in the past few decades and has earned the title of fastest-growing city several times by the U.S. Census Bureau. However, the town that is now the corporate headquarters of the Dallas Cowboys had humble beginnings and can attribute its start to farmers and a railroad, dating back to the early 1900s.
According to the Texas State Historical Association, Frisco was originally named Emerson, Texas, for Francis Emerson, a McKinney banker who owned a farm in the area. The name was changed in 1902 to Frisco City, then shortened to Frisco and officially incorporated in 1908.
The development of Frisco was spurred by the construction of the St. Louis-San Francisco railroad. Many residents from smaller, nearby towns moved to Frisco to be closer to the railroad. Frisco was home to farmers who built cotton gins and grain elevators. One large grain elevator can still be seen today when driving down Main Street in downtown Frisco.
1920s and 1930s
In September 1922, a fire broke out in a cafe in downtown Frisco. The city attempted to fight it with their 1918 Ford Model T fire truck, but the fire spread fast and destroyed 13 buildings. At the time, this amounted to two-thirds of the business district in downtown Frisco.
Because of this devastating event, the city bought a warning siren that was used to alert volunteer firefighters and when tornadoes were spotted. A second fire truck was purchased in 1923 and had a siren and carried hoses for water, unlike the first truck.
The Frisco Independent School District was founded around the time of the city's incorporation and was enlarged and expanded in both 1912 and 1922. The city used bond money to build a new high school that opened in 1939 and was dedicated by Congressman Sam Rayburn.
Through this period, farming was still an important industry in Frisco. The city was in the center of the "great cotton belt" of Collin and Denton counties and the industry held on strong until the number of cotton gins in town dwindled through the late '60s and early '70s.
The first medical clinic was built in Frisco in the early '50s in order to attract a new physician to set up a practice in town. The Frisco Community Youth Center also opened around this time, due to the community wanting a safe place for kids to partake in recreational activities.
Sam Rayburn dedicated the building in 1960 in what would be his last public appearance before his death a few months later.
Between the years of 1970 and 1980, Frisco's population doubled. Residential neighborhoods started popping up, the University of Plano — now defunct, with a lifespan of less than a decade — announced its expansion into Frisco, and the area was considered to be in the midst of "vigorous growth."
The growth was largely due in part to real estate developers and investors, including Ross Perot and Watson and Taylor, snagging up cheap land. Most of these tracts of land bordered Preston Road and were rightly predicted to be future heavy development sites.
The developers who bought land in the '70s started making plans for development with the belief that "the way Dallas is growing, it will be valuable land some day."
Construction on the Stonebriar Country Club began in 1986. The plans for the project included zoning for a business park, light industrial buildings, shopping centers, and a wide range of housing.
Collin County Community College also started plans to expand into Frisco, opting for the better deal in Frisco than for another, more expensive location in Plano. However, voters initially rejected the bond package needed to begin construction and the college didn't open until 1995.
In 1994, the Dallas North Tollway was extended to State Highway 121, which marks Frisco's southern boundary. The new access to the tollway allowed Frisco residents to be better connected to Dallas.
The tollway eventually was extended to meet U.S. Highway 380 in 2007. Many saw the tollway as the beginning of Frisco's transformation into the "next Plano."
In the early '90s, there was a bit of race between Frisco and Plano on building a mall at the intersection of Preston Road and State Highway 121. Frisco got there first with the opening of Stonebriar Centre mall in August 2000.
The mall was a 12-year project from its inception to its opening at the coveted intersection. Frisco residents no longer had to drive into Plano or Dallas for their shopping and thousands of shoppers waited in line to be first through the door on opening day.
Frisco also gained a minor league baseball team, the Frisco Roughriders, in 2003. Two years later, they city had FC Dallas, a major league soccer team, and an Ikea furniture store. In 2016, the headquarters of the Dallas Cowboys was established in the city.
Moving into the 2020s, Frisco is expecting continued growth and development. With a population that grew from about 6,000 in 1990 to an estimated 177,000 in 2017, Frisco is poised to reach almost 300,000 by 2030.