The Emporium Building at the intersection of Ennis Avenue and Dallas St. in Downtown Ennis.
Location of Ennis, Texas
|• Mayor||Angeline Juenemann|
|• City Manager||David Willard (Interim)|
|• Total||33.06 sq mi (85.62 km2)|
|• Land||32.53 sq mi (84.26 km2)|
|• Water||0.53 sq mi (1.36 km2)|
|Elevation||538 ft (164 m)|
| • Estimate |
|• Density||625.75/sq mi (241.60/km2)|
|Time zone||UTC-6 (Central (CST))|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC-5 (CDT)|
|GNIS feature ID||1335474|
Ennis is a city in eastern Ellis County, Texas, located 35 miles (56 km) south of Dallas. The population was 19,934 as of 2018, up from 16,454 at the 2000 census. It is the third largest city in Ellis County, with the county seat of Waxahachie being the largest and the city of Midlothian being the second largest. Ennis is home to the National Polka Festival and the Texas Motorplex. It is in the eastern portion of the Dallas–Fort Worth Metroplex.
The area that would later become the city of Ennis was first inhabited by the Tonkawa Native Americans. The area was also the hunting grounds of several Native American tribes including the Waco, Bidai, Anadarko, and Kickapoo tribes. These tribes frequented the area until Anglo pioneers arrived in the early-to-mid 19th century. When Ellis County was established and organized in 1850, much of the area was sparsely inhabited by isolated farmsteads as the nearby city of Dallas was in its infancy at the time. However, communities such as Ovilla, Waxahachie, and Bristol would have been settled and founded prior to the establishment of the city of Ennis.
In 1871 the Houston and Texas Central Railroad (H&TC) arrived at the spot that would become Ennis as it built north towards Dallas. The city was surveyed a year later and named after Cornelius Ennis, a founder of the H&TC Railroad who also served as Mayor of Houston (1856–57) and director of the Houston Tap and Brazoria Railway.
Between 1874 and 1890, the population of Ennis grew tenfold from approximately 300 to 3,000. Many of the new settlers came from the war-torn Confederate States of America and others came from the war-ravaged European nations that later became Czechoslovakia. This early growth was attributed to the success of cotton production in the region, making Ennis a center of trade and commerce for both farmers and the railroad. The influx of Czech migrants would also shape and transform the cultural heritage of the community for years to come.
In 1891, the H&TC chose Ennis to be its northern division headquarters. The machine shops and roundhouse employed several hundred men. One condition of the agreement was that as long as Ennis was able to furnish water the shops could not be moved from the community. The city built the first of three lakes for this purpose: Old City Lake in 1892, followed by New Lake in 1895, and Lake Clark (an extension of New Lake) in 1940. However H&TC would later be acquired by the Texas and New Orleans Railroad (T&NO), a subsidiary of Southern Pacific, in 1934. While it no longer hosted the company headquarters, the shops and yard in Ennis would remain and continue to be used as a hub for other lines and branches serving the city.
On July 14, 1902, the Corsicana Oil Citys of the Texas League moved that day's game against Texarkana to Ennis, due to Sunday blue laws in Coriscana. Future major-leaguer Nig Clarke set an all-time record by hitting eight home runs in ten at bats in a 51–3 victory. (Clarke was helped mightily by the fact that Ennis' tiny ballpark featured a right field fence only about 210 feet from home plate.)
The expansion of the cotton industry supplemented by the railroad provided access to foreign and domestic markets through the port of Houston. By 1920, a total of 152,601 bales of cotton were ginned and shipped from Ellis County, the most of any county in America. In part to the city's significant contribution, the Ennis Chamber of Commerce adopted the slogan 'Where Railroads and Cotton Fields Meet." These two industries - trade and cotton production - produced immense wealth for the community that could be seen in the residential development of the city. Lawyers, doctors, businessmen, and other wealthy residents built churches of many different denominations and numerous fraternal organizations met regularly. Elegant houses along "the Avenue" and north were accompanied by dozens of Folk Victorian houses and Craftsman style bungalows. These Victorian houses and Craftsman bungalows in the northwestern part of the city would eventually become a part of the Templeton-McCanless Residential Historic District.
By the mid-20th century Ennis had become a modern community with schools, three movie theaters, several drugstores, banks and automobile dealerships. The sons and daughters of early settlers had developed new traditions like the National Polka Festival and the Ennis Bluebonnet Trail. Moreover, the city was connected to Dallas to the north and Houston to the South by Interstate Highway 45. Since then, citizens of Ennis have been able to experience the best of two worlds, participation in the attractions of a large, dynamic city and the familiar street-scape of a unique, nurturing community.
The commercial strip along Ennis Ave. between Downtown and Interstate 45 was hit by an EF1 tornado in the tornado outbreak of May 15–17, 2013, rendering four homes uninhabitable and damaging as many as 55 businesses. The damage caused by the tornado impacted the National Register Historic District and many other businesses in town, with some of the historic downtown buildings facing demolition. However, the demolition of these historic buildings were opposed by local community leaders and activists. As a result, these damaged buildings were sold by the city to developers with the intention of repairing the buildings and revitalizing the neglected Downtown Historical District. These revitalization plans were implemented in the Downtown Comprehensive Plan, and the city was re-admitted to the Texas Main Street Program in January 2015. Today, almost all of the buildings pending demolition have since been rebuilt and renovated, and revitalization efforts have encouraged the startup of new businesses and festivals in the historic district.
Railroads in Ennis
Throughout the city's history, railroads have been instrumental in the community's early economic boom and supplemented the city's growth for over a century. Three railroads initially laid tracks and operated to and from Ennis - the Houston and Texas Central (H&TC) running north to south-east, the Texas Midland Railroad spurring to the northeast, and the Waxahachie Tap Railroad - later known as the Central Texas and Northwestern Railroad (CT&N) - coming in from the northwest. The CT&N was merged into the H&TC by the early 1900s and both remaining railroads serving the city would be merged into the Texas and New Orleans Railroad in 1934, eventually merging into its parent company Southern Pacific Railway by 1961. In 1996, Southern Pacific would merge into Union Pacific Railroad which is now serves as the sole rail operator in the city, maintaining a yard and local base of operations for the Ennis Subdivision.
"Hotel and Station at Ennis, Texas", circa 1917. The two-story station building seen in the leftmost portion of the left photo burned down in the early 20th century and was replaced by the Van Noy restaurant building (not depicted).
The construction of the Houston and Texas Central Railway would be directly responsible for the early development of the city. Not only was the community strategically located in the middle of the Blackland Prairie, but it was located along the proposed H&TC line from Houston to Dallas - the first rail connection between both cities. However, the railroad's decision to establish Ennis meant that the nearby town of Burnham - located five miles south near the present-day community of Ensign - would be bypassed. The issue of this decision presented itself when many businesses in Burnham were attracted to the railroad and relocated to Ennis. As a result, a mob of angry residents reacted violently to the railroad's bypass and attacked citizens in the city of Ennis, killing one and injuring several others. Burnham, an otherwise well-planned and relatively developed city, would eventually decline and become a ghost town in the coming decades.
In 1870 - as the H&TC was laying track in Ellis County - residents of the neighboring city of Waxahachie refused to give bonds to the railroad and resisted the development of a rail link to the system. After the railroad brought significant growth to Ennis and the decline of the bypassed community of Burnham took hold, attitudes changes as opportunistic businessmen and lawmakers chartered the Waxahachie Tap Railroad to link Waxahachie to the H&TC in an effort to reap some of the economic benefits. Construction was completed in 1879, establishing a 13-mile connection across Ellis County between both cities. In 1881, the railroad would be reorganized into the Central Texas and Northwestern Railway and secured state legislation permitting the railroad to build out west into the Panhandle, but no further construction would be made on the railroad. Eventually, the CT&N was merged into the H&TC in 1901.
In 1882, the H&TC began construction on a spur line which would span over 100 miles from Ennis to the city of Paris, Texas, linking a southern terminus of the St. Louis and San Francisco Railroad. This would bypass the city of Dallas and provide a direct link from St. Louis, Missouri to the port cities of Houston and Galveston. However, in 1885 - just three years into construction - the H&TC went into receivership after only building half of the line, stopping just south of the city of Quinlan. In 1892, the Texas Midland Railroad was chartered by businesswoman Hetty Green who would purchase the northeastern spur from the H&TC. The link between the cities of Ennis and Paris would finally be made 13 years later after the initial proposal of the route when construction was completed in 1895 under the direction of Hetty Green's son.
After a decade of operation, the Texas Midland was bought out by parties interested in a link and partnership between the Frisco Line and Rock Island Line. Plans were announced to build a line 65 miles south from Ennis to Waco to connect with the recently established Burlington-Rock Island Railroad, a joint venture of the Rock Island Line and Burlington Route. There was significant potential of Ennis becoming a major railroad hub and junction, which could have significantly boosted its already booming development. However, this southern extension would never come to fruition and the Texas Midland would eventually be bought out and annexed by Southern Pacific in 1928, which leased the line to its subsidiary Texas and New Orleans Railroad. In 1934, the T&NO would fully acquire both the Texas Midland and the Houston and Texas Central, dissolving both companies in a merger to consolidate the H&TC line into the Southern Pacific system and fully abandon the Texas Midland Route. While Ennis would continue to see T&NO service to Dallas and Houston, the northeastern spur from Ennis to Paris would sit abandoned and go unused for almost a decade. A washout of the bridge spanning the Trinity River would lead to the official abandonment and decommissioning of the line between Ennis and Kaufman in 1942.
The city was also served by the Texas Electric Railway, an extensive interurban railway network in North Texas that stretched over 200 miles in length at its peak. The line historically ran through Ennis at street level along Dallas Street before running parallel to the T&NO tracks outside of the city center. From 1913 to 1941, Ennis was a stop along the Dallas-Corsicana Line, but the rise of the automobile, decline in ridership, and the economic strain of World War II led to the suspension of service and closure of the line. Like the Texas Midland's spur along Breckenridge Street, the interurban line ran along Dallas Street and was likewise paved over after service was suspended. However, these tracks were revealed and partially restored during street renovations in the late-2010s.
By the mid-20th century, the significance of the railroad began to decline in the city, as the postwar boom of the mid-century favored the automobile over the locomotive. Texas and New Orleans' Sunbeam and Hustler services were cut in 1955 and 1957 respectively, after serving the city since the T&NO's takeover of the H&TC. Passenger service would not return to Ennis, as attempts by Amtrak to restore service to the city were largely unsuccessful. Ten years after the T&NO's merger into Southern Pacific in 1961, Southern Pacific would initially resist attempts to route the Lone Star along the line through Ennis in the early 1970s. In 1989, a spur of the Texas Eagle - the successor of the Lone Star service - running from Dallas to Houston would run nonstop through the city during the alternate service's brief three-year stint in the early 1990s. Shortly after in 1996, Southern Pacific would merge into Union Pacific, who has since been the sole railroad operating in the city. Union Pacific would go on to commemorate the city's significant railroad history by honoring the legacy of its local yard workers - some of whom were fourth and fifth-generation railroaders - in awarding the city a membership to the company's Train Town USA registry in 2013.
Templeton-McCanless Historic District
The Templeton-McCanless Residential Historic District is named in honor of two notable figures instrumental in the early development of the city, one of whom - Hix McCanless - was the architect for several early homes built in Ennis from the late 19th century to early 20th century. Because of the city's economic boom and the general prosperity of the Gilded Age during this era, many of these early homes were built indulgently with ornate details and great levels of craftsmanship in adherence to the pre-modern architectural styles of the time - namely in the Neoclassical, American Craftsman, and Folk Victorian styles. However, many of these original homes were lost to neglect, demolition, fire, and careless renovation during the 20th century, precipitating the need to preserve the locally historic significance of those remaining. The historic district was created in 1986 after five years of grassroots efforts from the Ennis Heritage Society (now the Ennis Historical Society) and is now an officially registered district in the National Register of Historic Places dedicated to the protection and preservation of these homes. Today, dozens of homes are preserved in the styles and eclecticism which dominated pre-contemporary design, predominantly those prevalent at the turn of the century. Some of the homes have been named after the architect of the house or the family name of its first residents. A few examples can be seen in the gallery below.
E.K. Atwood House, built in the Colonial Revival style in 1925.
Matthews-Atwood House, designed by Hix McCanless and built in the Classical Revival style in 1908.
Ransom House, built in the Folk Victorian style in 1900.
Joe Novy House, built in the Prairie Style in 1915.
Barrington House, built in the American Craftsman style in 1925.
Ennis is in the northeastern region of Texas, in eastern Ellis County. Interstate 45 passes through the east side of the city, with access from Exits 247 through 255. I-45 leads north 35 miles (56 km) to Dallas and south 205 miles (330 km) to Houston. U.S. Route 287 curves around the south side of Ennis and leads northwest 15 miles (24 km) to Waxahachie, the Ellis County seat. Texas State Highway 34 passes through the center of Ennis, leading northeast 26 miles (42 km) to Kaufman and southwest 20 miles (32 km) to Italy. Waco is 73 miles (117 km) to the southwest.
Ennis has a total area of 28.2 square miles (73.0 km2), of which 27.6 square miles (71.6 km2) is land and 0.54 square miles (1.4 km2), or 1.85%, is water.
The climate in this area is characterized by hot, humid summers and generally mild to cool winters. According to the Köppen Climate Classification system, Ennis has a humid subtropical climate, abbreviated "Cfa" on climate maps.
The city of Ennis has a City Commissioner/City Manager government type, with several commissioners representing different departments of the city government in city council. The city is also one of the largest incorporated cities in the United States that continues to elect its City Marshal. The election is held every two years with the winning nominee being named Chief of Police by the City Council and City Manager. The position is currently held by Chief Andy Harvey, who was appointed by Secretary Wade after the retirement of former chief John Erisman.
Below is a list of members of the City Government and their position:
|Mayor||Angeline "Angie" Juenemann|
|Mayor Pro Tempore||Jake Holland|
|Commissioner Ward 1||Rowdy Pruitt|
|Commissioner Ward 2||Marco Hernandez|
|Commissioner Ward 3||Scott Hejny|
|Commissioner Ward 4||Shirley Watson|
|Commissioner Ward 5||Bill Honza|
|City Manager||Marty Nelson|
|City Secretary||Angie Wade|
|Secretary to City Manager||Bethany Prewitt|
|City Attorney||Brenda McDonald|
|Municipal Court Judge||Don Stout|
|Police Chief||David J. Anthony (Interim)|
|Fire Chief||Jeff Aycock|
|Fire Marshal||Chad Wester|
|Finance Director||Stephen Barnes|
|Economic Development Coordinator||Jim Wehmeier|
|Director of Public Works||Robert Bolen|
|Chief Building Inspector||Mark Richardson|
|Director of Health Services||Chauncy Williams, R.S.|
|HR/Benefits Coordinator||Irene Kasuffa|
|Director of Parks & Recreation||Paul Liska|
|Library Director||Jessica Diaz|
|Tourism Director||Gina Rokas|
|Downtown Director||Becky McCarty|
As of the census of 2000, there were 16,045 people, 5,335 households, and 3,947 families residing in the city. The population density was 891.7 people per square mile (344.4/km2). There were 5,618 housing units at an average density of 312.2 per square mile (120.6/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 66.57% White, 14.71% African American, 0.47% Native American, 0.29% Asian, 0.01% Pacific Islander, 15.93% from other races, and 2.03% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 33.19% of the population.
There were 5,335 households, out of which 38.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 54.4% were married couples living together, 14.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 26.0% were non-families. 22.8% of all households were made up of individuals, and 10.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.95 and the average family size was 3.45.
In the city, the population was spread out, with 30.4% under the age of 18, 10.6% from 18 to 24, 27.7% from 25 to 44, 18.5% from 45 to 64, and 12.8% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 31 years. For every 100 females, there were 95.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 91.4 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $38,923, and the median income for a family was $44,608. Males had a median income of $28,585 versus $22,855 for females. The per capita income for the city was $15,677. About 10.4% of families and 13.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 17.3% of those under age 18 and 15.7% of those age 65 or over.
The city is home to the Ennis Independent School District, which consists of two early childhood centers, four elementary schools, two intermediate schools, one junior high, and Ennis High School. Secondary education offers several extracurricular programs, such as UIL (University Interscholastic League) Academics and Sports, TSA (Technology Student Association), and the National FFA Organization. Sports offered in either junior high and up or exclusively high school include baseball, football, basketball, volleyball, tennis, cross country running, track, powerlifting, softball, soccer, and golf.
There are two longstanding and popular festivals with nationwide recognition that take place in the city, the first of which being the National Polka Festival. First held in 1967, this three-day festival has been hosted annually during the Memorial Day weekend to commemorate the city's historic Czech Texan history and heritage. The festival features Czech cuisine, polka music, a Memorial Day parade through downtown, and polka dances hosted at event halls operated by fraternal organizations such as Sokol or the Knights of Columbus. There is also a homecoming-like competition among residents and these community-based fraternal organizations to annually crown the Duke and Dutchess of Ennis. The Ennis Polka Run also takes place to help fund the Rotary Club and the Children's Reading Club of Ennis.
The second major festival hosted in Ennis is the Bluebonnet Trails Festival, celebrating the state flower of Texas and the vibrant bloom of wildflowers in the surrounding countryside. The event attracts tens of thousands of tourists each year to events including sightseeing excursions and a festival in downtown. The festival is held on the third weekend of April, and the Bluebonnet Trails are hosted for the entire month. First hosted along the Kachina Prairie Park's historic mile-long trail system in 1938, the Bluebonnet Trails have since expanded into a route map of several dozen miles along rural farm roads throughout the surrounding countryside east and northeast of the city. The routes for these sightseeing excursions have been officially hosted and mapped out by the Ennis Garden Club since 1951. To commemorate the popularity of the Bluebonnet Trails Festival and the efforts made to celebrate and preserve the state flower of Texas, Ennis was designated by the 1997 Texas State Legislature as the "Official Bluebonnet City of Texas" and home to the "Official Bluebonnet Trail of Texas."
Several other local events and festivals are hosted in the city throughout the year, mostly within the historic city center. The Unity One "Blues on Main" Summer Music Festival is a jazz and blues festival hosted in June; Ennis Freedom Fest is a parade and firework show hosted on the 4th of July; the Fall Festival and Monster Mash Dash 5k Marathon are hosted in October; and the Lights of Ennis Festival, the Parade of Lights, and the Our Lady of Guadalupe Procession are hosted in December during the Christmas season.
Lake Bardwell is a reservoir managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers located 5 miles south of Ennis. It is a flood-control reservoir in the Trinity River Basin and a conservation pool in the Trinity Valley Authority. Surrounding the lake is a park system consisting of Big Mustang Creek Park, Little Mustang Creek Park, High View Park, Love Park, Mott Park, and Highview Marina, all of which offer boat ramps. The lake and parks offer hiking, horseback riding, camping, fishing, and sport boating opportunities.
The Galaxy Drive-in Theater opened in 2004 and draws visitors from around the area, specifically for being one of only 18 drive-in theaters operating in the state of Texas. Even though it is a newer facility, it has a retro and vintage design similar to traditional drive-in theaters of the mid-century.
Ennis is home to the Texas Motorplex, a quarter-mile drag racing facility built in 1986 by former funny car driver Billy Meyer. It annually hosts the NHRA O'Reilly Fall Nationals each September, when hundreds of professional and amateur drag racers compete for over $2 million in prize money.
The Ennis Railroad and Cultural Heritage Museum is housed in the former Van Noy restaurant building. The museum's collections include: railroad and cultural memorabilia including items related to the Houston and Central Texas Railroad; a large diorama of the old engine roundhouse that once existed just north of the museums location; a large collection of rare china; and a MKT caboose.
The Kachina Prairie is a city park preserving one of the last remaining examples of untouched Texas blackland prairie. The first Ennis bluebonnet trail was marked through this area in 1938.
In popular culture
Scenes from the following movies were filmed in Ennis: Deadly Blessing (1981) starring Sharon Stone; On Valentine's Day (1986) starring Hallie Foote and Michael Higgins; and Walking Tall: The Payback (2007) with Kevin Sorbo and Haley Ramm.
Scenes from the documentary Flight of the Butterflies (2012) were filmed on Ennis' bluebonnet trails.
On March 21, 2009, the TV show Pinks: All Out hosted a contest at the Texas Motorplex.
- Clyde Barrow - Depression-era criminal, partner in Bonnie and Clyde crime duo. Born in nearby Telico, Texas, but frequented and resided in Ennis later in life.
- Ernest Tubb - country music singer and songwriter, Country Music Hall of Fame inductee. Also known as the "Texas Troubadour" born in nearby Crisp, Texas.
- Darrell Lance Abbott - musician, guitarist, and songwriter, co-founding member of Pantera and Damageplan
- Ray Armstrong - college and professional football player
- Bob Banner - producer, writer and director, co-producer of The Carol Burnett Show
- Joe Barton - politician, former Republican representative of Texas's 6th congressional district. Longtime resident
- Alfred H. Bennett - District Judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas
- Pam Bowers - college women's basketball coach
- Gary Campbell - college football player and coach
- Steve Collins - college football player
- Chase Craig - writer-cartoonist, editor, and scripter. Worked with Dell Comics and Gold Key Comics
- Jacobs Crawley - rodeo cowboy, saddle bronc racer
- James "Red" Duke - trauma surgeon, professor, host of Dr. Red Duke's Health Report, first surgeon to receive President Kennedy at Parkland Medical in Dallas
- Jack Fields - businessman, politician, Republican representative of Texas's 8th congressional district
- Bob Finley - MLB catcher, Southwest Conference and AFL official, NFL referee
- Walt Furnace - politician and businessman, Republican representative of the Alaska House of Representatives
- Tanya Godsey - musician, vocalist, and pianist
- Jack Lummus - Medal of Honor recipient, 1st Lt. of the US Marine Corps, player for the New York Giants
- Graham Harrell - NFL and college football player, quarterback, coach, offensive coordinator. Lived in Ennis, attended and played football at Ennis High School
- Hattie Leah Henenberg - lawyer, judge, appointed to the All-Woman Supreme Court
- D. Van Holliday - theoretical and experimental physicist, acoustician
- Kirby Baxter Holmes - gospel musician, vocalist, pastor. Instrumental in Martin Luther King Jr.'s first touring visit to Texas in 1959
- Charles Hudson - MLB starting pitcher
- Vincent Marshall Canadian football player
- Hix McCanless - architect, surveyor, civil engineer. Longtime resident, designed multiple homes in Ennis
- Kendall Morris - news anchor, Miss Texas 2011
- Robert Randall Onstead - grocer and businessman, founder of Randall's Food Markets
- Ginger Rogers - actress, singer, dancer. Briefly lived in Ennis during childhood. In an appearance on the Phil Donahue Show, she describes Ennis as "a quiet place and very pretty, just a little country place with tree-lined streets."
- Rabon Tarrant - jump blues and jazz drummer, singer and songwriter. Composer of blues standard "Blues with a Feeling"
- Mary Walker - World Barrel Racing Champion, 2013 National Cowgirl Hall of Fame inductee
- Edward Whitacre Jr. - former chairman and ceo of AT&T Inc. and General Motors, national president of the Boy Scouts of America
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