Turtle Creek

Turtle Creek Information

Turtle Creek is the name of a neighborhood in the Oak Lawn area of Dallas, Texas. But really, it is the name of an idea. In terms of physical places, it is the name of an actual creek that has its headwaters in the township of Highland Park, Texas, which is landlocked within the city of Dallas. It then runs in a southerly, then westerly direction through the Dallas neighborhood of Oak Lawn until it becomes culverted at Reverchon Park. It re-emerges partly where Oak Lawn Avenue meets Interstate 35, then it is culverted again under the West Dallas Design District where it flows into the Trinity River Meanders (also culverted).

The Meanders are the original path of the Trinity River through Dallas, but for flood control purposes, they were culverted in the early 20th century, and a redirected path of the Trinity was dug to the west, engineered with levees and pumps, opening up an industrial district which thrives to this day.

Turtle Creek is also the name of a thoroughfare which runs through the same neighborhood, generally alongside the creek of the same name. The street has been broken up by dedication of Reverchon Park and by construction of the interstate, but its continuation through the Design District provides a hint of the culvert creek running beneath the streets.

Turtle Creek Boulevard shares a single block along the creek with Cedar Springs Road, a vestige of earlier times when natural urban growth converged the two streets. There is also a Turtle Creek Plaza, a largely private drive on the opposite bank of the creek from the boulevard where fancy homes have stood. Some stand no longer, though with gentrification of the neighborhood, land values are appreciating. The neighborhood has changed rapidly, becoming much more densely populated (it ranked as the fastest growing neighborhood in the U.S. in 2001-02 in terms of new dwelling units) and new, expensive homes have begun to be built along this secluded section.

Turtle Creek has also become an adopted nickname for the Oak Lawn neighborhood, though never an official one. The nickname also sometimes applies to a spillover of the Uptown area, which has become the official moniker for the area between downtown Dallas and Oak Lawn beginning in the 1980s.

The name Turtle Creek also graces a number of business and real estate properties in the area, many of which have addresses away from Turtle Creek Boulevard. There is even a Turtle Creek News which is published twice weekly and circulated in Uptown, Oak Lawn and Highland Park.

But throughout much of the 20th Century, the mention of “the Turtle Creek area” has brought visions of majestic oaks and lush greenery, manmade waterfalls along the creek (built for drainage), ripples over the white rock, mother ducks with their young following behind, a sense of escape from the Texas summer, the luxury high-rises along the boulevard, and, yes, even sightings of the turtles for which the creek was named. It was at one time, the home of the exclusive Dallas Athletic Club before it moved eastward to Mesquite. To this day, the downhill drive on any street that crosses Turtle Creek imparts a brief sense of ease and relaxation.

In more recent decades, the neighborhood became the favorite of the gay community, seeking a refuge, or ghetto, in the “buckle of the Bible Belt”. In truth, it was Oak Lawn and Uptown more broadly for which this was true, but the inclusion of Turtle Creek and its bend along Lee Park and Arlington Hall provided some romance for the renaissance the gay and lesbian community would bring to a neighborhood that had become blighted by the 1960s and 70s.

In 1980, following a national tour by the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus, which included a stop in Dallas, a group of men determined that Dallas needed to have its own men’s chorus, and so began the Turtle Creek Chorale. After humble beginnings, the Chorale has risen to considerable renown, having performed for HRH Elizabeth II, among other dignitaries.

Today, the Turtle Creek Chorale is among the foremost members of the Gay and Lesbian Association of Choruses with over 200 singing members, upward of two dozen recordings, and committed to the cause of building bridges between the GLBT community and other communities locally and around the world.

And so, Turtle Creek is more than just a neighborhood. With no real official status (the real neighborhoods are called Oak Lawn and Uptown, and Highland Park is an incorporated township), Turtle Creek has become elevated to the status of an idea, a mythical neighborhood with no real boundaries, but one which Dallas leaders are proud to showcase before the global community as demonstrative of the city’s diversity.