By Reba Henry
Oh, the memories!
I have lived in my house, in my Fort Worth neighborhood for over 48 years. My three children added six grandchildren to the family and they, too, spent considerable time here, as well as nieces, nephews, and other people’s children.
During those 48 years, I held a variety of positions with organizations running the gamut from non-profits to the public sector (federal, state, municipal), to private sector corporations, and a few entrepreneurial stints. Every opportunity integrated the same marketing, strategic communications, and event planning/management skills set. A highly active volunteer career, which sometimes felt as though I worked a second career, and retirement opportunities helped hone those skills to near surgical sharpness. I even created a non-profit event that occurred annually for three years.
Polytechnic Heights census breakdown
Hispanic or Latino origin (of any race): 4,175 (73.8%)
Black: 810 (14.2%)
Two or more races: 178 (3.1%)
White alone: 658 (11.6%)
Under 18: 30.8%
18 years and over: 69.2%
65 years and over: 7.8%
Median age: 25.5
Less than high school graduate: 46.9%
High school graduate: 30%
Some college or associate’s degree: 17.6%
Bachelor’s degree: 1%
Graduate or professional degree: 1.8%
I am Reba Henry, and my neighborhood is Polytechnic Heights. In the late 1970s, one volunteer opportunity led to my involvement in the housing arena. It included public housing management and development, neighborhood revitalization through housing rehabilitation, and “main street” development. This led to my becoming “knee-deep” in my community (neighborhood, and on a broader scale — city, state, and the nation) through service on local, multi-state regional, and national advisory boards. These experiences helped me develop a broader sense of what “community” looks like.
At one time, I officed in Las Colinas. The day it took me three hours and 45 minutes to return home from a client visit on Royal Lane at Highway 75 in Dallas is the day I swore that was the end of commuting for me. Before that and thereafter, my commutes never exceeded 14 minutes from home.
I purchased my home (from the original owner) soon after the major “white flight” exodus from the neighborhood occurred. Then, there were still many older whites in the neighborhood, with younger Blacks and Hispanics moving in. This neighborhood is a convenient place to live as the location allows quick and easy access to anywhere. A few blocks off Hwy 287, with easy access to IH-30, any point in the metroplex, Texas, or the world is quickly accessible by plane, train, car, or public transportation. I was able to drop my kids off at school every day, then get to where I needed to be on time. They were able to walk home from school each day of their elementary school years and during their high school years, bus pick-up/drop-off was only a few blocks from home.
Other reasons I enjoy living here are, I learned after moving in that this is an historical neighborhood and university community. In 1852, members of the Tandy and Hall families of Tennessee settled in what later became Polytechnic Heights. In 1890, the Methodist Episcopal Church South founded Polytechnic College on hill-top land donated by the Tandy-Hall families where it still resides today as Texas Wesleyan University. At one time Polytechnic Heights was an incorporated city hosting a stop on the Fort Worth Interurban. It was a city in the fullest extent with a Post Office, fire station, movie theater, ice cream shop, and more in the way of commercial offerings. Fort Worth incorporated Polytechnic into the city limits during the 1920s. TWU was my study hall during college and grad school, I was a member of their board of advisors for many years, and the administration supported an effort to bring a book festival to Fort Worth, which I spearheaded.
In the 1980s-1990s, gang activity and drug abuse ran rampant across the city. One tool used to address this issue was the “Weed and Seed Program.” This program sought to eradicate the prevalence of gangs across the city, ‘weeding’ out the drug activity and, with planning, at a future date ‘seeding’ the neighborhoods with new business and residential in-fill development. It was a privilege to work with the engineering and planning teams who developed the city’s commercial corridor, neighborhood, and urban village plans all over the city as a communications and events planning consultant. In a way, I contributed to what Fort Worth is today.
Finally, I like where I live because the memories would not be the same had we lived any place else. The neighborhood shaped me, and I worked to shape the neighborhood through efforts on various nonprofit boards, tasks forces, advisory, and ad hoc committees. Living any place else would not have provided the dynamics living in Polytechnic did. In the early years of living here, I knew my neighbors, we visited, etc. Then, during the transition years, which came in waves, I didn’t care to know my neighbors. Recently, that has changed as the occupants moving in are homeowners that have renovated existing housing stock or purchased the new in-fill houses being constructed here. There seemingly is more stability now in my neighborhood. In fact, there are two new builds on my block and a renovation next door. One new build is now occupied, and the owner has become a good friend. I eagerly anticipate the arrival of the other new neighbors, especially the one who will live next door.
The greatest fear for this neighborhood is gentrification. List prices for homes have gone up and property values are on the rise. This is good, but it has its downfalls. One can applaud progress, though it is not acceptable if it comes at the expense of young families being priced out of convenient, affordable housing.
Editor’s note: This story was edited from its original version to correct a photo caption about Reba Henry’s educational credentials.
Reba Henry was the author of the column about her home and neighborhood. She is a retired communications professional, special events coordinator, and a prolific community volunteer. She is also on the Fort Worth Report’s Reader Advisory Council. To tell the story of where you live, please send your essay to firstname.lastname@example.org and Managing Editor Thomas Martinez at email@example.com.