Flower Mound; A Story of Growth and Change

by Mark Glover, 6-05-13

Flower Mound has a colorful history and rich heritage. Buffalo, Cowboys & Indians, and Texas Rangers traveled through our Black Land Prairies and Cross Timbers. The earliest settlers discovered a land with natural beauty and abundant resources to build their farms and ranches.

Crosstimbers

Click to Enlarge

Geography and topography have always had a lot to do with why people are attracted to Flower Mound. The Eastern Crosstimbers run from South Texas to Kansas and through Flower Mound, interrupting vast Blackland Prairies to our East and West. Flower Mound has varied terrain, from hardwood forest to rolling hills and prairies.

Not much is left of how Flower Mound looked to the early pioneers. The Flower Mound (Mound) still exists as it did when the Buffalo and Antelope grazed its prairie grasses and wildflowers. Early leaders managed to preserve some stands of the Crosstimbers, more so than most communities. But much of Flower Mound is now urbanized with homes, schools and commercial development like many suburbs of DFW.

1171&2499The common thread that runs throughout the history of Flower Mound is the passion and fear of growth. This has been the central issue in virtually every municipal election. Growth and change has made the politics in Flower Mound highly spirited, and sometimes bloody.

The die was cast for growth in Flower Mound long ago. The completion of Lake Grapevine in 1953 and start of DFW Airport in 1969 changed rural Flower Mound forever. Dallas and Fort Worth were growing North. No one could stop it. The best early leaders could do was to steer growth toward higher quality.

The 1950’s and 60’s marked the transition from a rural culture to an upscale suburban community for Flower Mound. Edward Marcus (then Chairman of Neiman-Marcus) had a big part in steering Flower Mound’s early growth.

Black Mark Farm Headquarters

Black Mark Farm Headquarters

Edward Marcus entertained the rich & famous at his 4,000 acre cattle ranch named Black Mark Farm in Flower Mound in the 1950’s – 60’s. When Neiman-Marcus clients traveled to Dallas, they expected a real taste of Texas. A short drive from Neiman-Marcus in Downtown Dallas to Flower Mound provided what visitors expected – a working ranch, real cowboys, horses, and lots of cattle.

fortnight-Eliz Arden, CoCo Channel & Stanley Marcus

Elizabeth Arden, Coco Chanel, & Stanley Marcus

Neiman-Marcus held extravagant Fortnight Celebration Parties in Flower Mound yearly, starting in 1957.  The first Neiman’s Fortnight made the cover of Time Magazine and was named “Dallas in Wonderland”. Neiman’s Downtown Dallas store was decorated for the French Fortnight theme and there were cultural celebrations all over Dallas showcasing art, film and fashion. Flower Mound hosted the Fortnight Western Party, and it was quite a party.

Coco Channel and Elizabeth Arden attended this first Fortnight Party. Barbecue and beans were on the menu, but not to the liking of by Coco Channel. She scraped her plate off under the table, right onto the red slippers of Elizabeth Arden. It was unintentional, supposedly.

Bob Rheudasil, Ladybird Johnson & Edward Marcus

Bob Rheudasil, Ladybird Johnson & Edward Marcus

Edward Marcus enjoyed his ranch getaway in Flower Mound, but saw that growth was unstoppable.  He would often discuss his vision for this land with guests to the ranch.  He saw his land becoming part of a beautiful and well planned community with fine parks, trees, and walking trails. A place where homes, schools, Churches, and businesses would co-exist and flow in harmony. A town where neighbors would walk, talk and enjoy their community.

In 1960, Flower Mound was threatened by the wrong kind of growth, a hostile takeover by Irving. Irving attempted to grow its boundaries by annexing land through Denton County. Flower Mound laid right in the path. The attempted land grab became known as the Denton County War.

Edward Marcus, Bruton Orand, and other large land owners agreed to finance a lawsuit against Irving to stop the land grab if local residents would take up the fight. Bob Rheudasil, Doc Wilkerson, Ray Skillern, and others were more than willing and organized residents. Flower Mound won the landmark lawsuit and the subsequent appeal against Irving.

The Town incorporated after the lower court ruling in 1961 and Bob Rheudasil was elected the First Mayor. Not everyone embraced creating a town, but it was necessary to stop future land grabs. Flower Mound took control of its own destiny.

The first Town Secretary was Pat Rheudasil, who worked without salary, without a real office, and had to organize a town with no resources or experience. Pat did everything from read water meters to balance the books and was the Town’s only employee for many years. Pat Rheudasil was the Mother of Flower Mound, if towns can have mothers. Bob Rheudasil always said, “No one did more for Flower Mound than Pat”.

In 1968, Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced a program to create several New Towns across the US. The New Town Program was meant to spur new ideas for urban planning, encourage self-sufficient communities, advance home building design, and help control urban sprawl.

Edward Marcus and development team for Flower Mound New Town

Edward Marcus and development team for Flower Mound New Town

Edward Marcus ceased the opportunity to make the vision for his land come true. He applied to be one of HUD’s New Town projects, naming it Flower Mound New Town (FMNT). HUD approved, and made the first phase loan guarantee commitment of $18 million in December of 1970. FMNT consumed all of Edward’s land, and all the land he could buy or option. The project consumed Edward Marcus as well.

Flower Mound New Town killed Edward Marcus. Stress from a non-performing partner, a downward spiraling economy, shifts in national politics, government red-tape, and cancelled HUD commitments were more than his body could endure. Edward Marcus died shortly after the projects failure in 1976.

But much of Edward’s vision survived. The Town of Flower Mound inherited parks, trails, streets, utilities, buildings, and well thought out plans for future growth. The town got its first real fire station and amenities through grants worked by FMNT. Edward’s vision and actions put Flower Mound on a path toward quality and well planned growth. It was a quantum leap forward for the town, one that Flower Mound would not made without Edward Marcus’s vision and leadership.

The 1970’s were plagued by the Dis-annexation Wars in Flower Mound. From 1971 to 1977, there were seven attempts by citizen groups to dis-annex different parts of the Flower Mound. FMNT brought on growth and change for the entire town, and some blame it for the Dis-annexation Wars. The real cause of the unrest was new taxes brought on by growth and the incorporation as a town.

A lot of residents felt Flower Mound was a town in name only, existing only to stop annexation by other towns like Irving, Lewisville, and Denton. Flower didn’t enact property taxes until 1972 and sales tax until 1977. Taxes, like growth, were inevitable. The Town Council said in a Press Release to citizens in October of 1972:

“There seems to be a great deal of misinformation being spread regarding the proposed taxation…,Flower Mound is situated in a position which makes it the focal point of urban development…,adjacent to what will become the world’s greatest airport…This area will witness a fantastic rate of growth…,Failure to properly ready ourselves for this urbanization can result in utter chaos in the form of strip zoning, haphazard development, poor construction of public, as well as private, facilities, and the invasion of Flower Mound by fly-by-night developers who come into the community, install second-rate facilities, and leave when their construction begins to deteriorate and create problems for the public…Town Council has a tremendous opportunity to build a first class city, but that can only be done by getting out front with proper controls.”

The Town Budget with new taxes was $258,000, of which $150,000 came from new taxes. The balance came from federal grants and utility franchise fees. The new taxes allowed the Town start-up a volunteer fire department, hire six police officers, hire a Director of Community Development & Building Inspector, and fund consulting fees for a City Attorney and Planning Consultant.

Taxes and rumors of more taxes had citizens of Flower Mound saying, “We want out”.  But, growth and change was inevitable and Flower Mound could not grow in a quality manner without a real Town Government and tax base.

Flower Mound earned the title Voting Capital of Texas during the period of the Dis-annexation War. With all the succession and regular elections, there was almost always an election going on. And 85-95% of the registered voters voted in these elections. Fortunately, none of the dis-annexation elections succeeded.

The 1980’s & 90’s marked the highest growth in Flower Mound. Tidal Waves of new homes rolled into Flower Mound and the town was consistently ranked one of the fastest growing towns in the US. Flower Mound grew from around 4,400 people in 1980 to over 50,000 people by 2000.

Many citizens wanted to shut the gate and stop new growth. Others wanted to stop growth to preserve trees and the natural landscape. Ever increasing growth, traffic, and commute times to jobs in Dallas or Fort Worth exasperated the stress of many residents.

Pro-growth advocates in the 80’s and 90’s sited new businesses, new jobs, lower taxes, and increased property values as the positives to embracing growth. The argument fell on deaf ears for most in the bedroom community. The pendulum swung toward slow to no growth policies and voters elected representatives that promised to deliver.

In January of 1999, Flower Mound enacted a Residential Building Moratorium to stop residential growth. This moratorium stayed in place for about a year, while new Smart Growth ordinances were written to slow future growth. The no growth sentiment remained strong in Flower Mound for several years, and still exists today.

With ever increasing ordinances designed to slow development, Developers sought the path of less resistance. Growth went around Flower Mound to other communities. Lantana was built in the Summer of 1999.  Highland Village, Argyle, Bartonville and other towns got growth that would have happened in Flower Mound. Flower Mound still got increased traffic through town, but didn’t get the added tax base associated with this growth.

No one felt growth pains more than the founding leaders of Flower Mound. It was both a sad and exciting time for them. They watched Flower Mound grow from a beautiful landscape of farms and ranches with just over 700 people, to a sea of residential homes.

Bob Rheudasil in his Bluebonnets

Bob Rheudasil in his Bluebonnets

Bob Rheudasil was the founding leader I admired most. Bob was the first Mayor of Flower Mound and my father-in-law. He told me many stories about early Flower Mound and the people that lived here.

Bob moved to Flower Mound in 1953 to run Black Mark Farm for Edward Marcus. He was an expert on native prairie grasses, cattle, and trees. He was a man of the dirt and could grow almost anything. Bob planted many trees along corridors and in the neighborhoods of Flower Mound. He passed in 2011.

Bob grew friends very well too. He loved making new friends and seeing old ones. When Bob met a new Flower Mound resident he always told them, “I welcome you to Flower Mound, as long as you welcome the next to come”. Bob wholeheartedly welcomed new residents, but under one condition. If they didn’t welcome other new people to Flower Mound, he didn’t have much respect for them.

Early leaders like Edward Marcus, Doc Wilkerson, Bob Rheudasil, and Pat Rheudasil embraced growth because there was no other choice. But they had high standards and demanded quality from developers. They courageously wrangled growth to the best it could be.

The story of growth and change in Flower Mound is far from over. Flower Mound is entering a new up-cycle in economic growth. Flower Mound must continue to plan well, welcome new neighbors, and steer growth toward the best it can be.

Mark Glover is a native of the Flower Mound area and the son-in-law of Flower Mound’s First Mayor, Bob Rheudasil. Mark and his wife Penny live in Flower Mound Farms on their three acre mini-farm called Rheudasil Farms. Mark owns iMark Realty Advisors and helps clients buy, sell, lease and develop commercial real estate. The special relationship Mark shared with Bob Rheudasil and his development background provides him a unique perspective of the growth, development, and the history of Flower Mound. 

Copyright © Mark Glover & Rheudasil Farms

History on The Flower Mound This Saturday

Have you ever wondered about the history of Flower Mound? What was it like for early settlers? Where was the old Donald School, Waketon General Store and the other early 1800’s landmarks?

Are there really pictures of Elizabeth Arden, CoCo Channel, Dale Robertson, Ladybird Johnson, and John Wayne in Flower Mound?  Did Bobby Goodyear, JC Penny, and Ray Skillern really have land investments in Flower Mound?  Was it true that Edward Marcus (Chairman of the Board of Neiman-Marcus) had a 4,000 acre cattle ranch in Flower Mound?  And did Neiman-Marcus really have marvelous fortnight parties with movie stars, politicians, and foreign dignitaries in Flower Mound?

What was Flower Mound New Town? What did the Master Plan look like then?

The answers to the above, old photos and stories will be presented at the The Flower Mound Wildflower Walk this Saturday, May 11.  The Wildflower Walk is from 9am to 4pm at the The Flower Mound, East of Tom Thumb on FM 3040 (Flower Mound Road).

Mark Glover, local writer, historian and Mound Foundation member has a presentation, old photographs, and stories he will informally share. Mark will be on the Summit of the Mound from 10am to 12pm.  Alton Bowman, author of The Flower Mound, A History and Field Guide the Flowers and Grasses will also be available to share history of the Mound and its flowers & plants.

Come out and learn something exciting about Flower Mound history. Enjoy the wildflowers and the Flower Mound with us. It’s part of our heritage.