A Look Back: From ‘Vandergriff’s Folly’ to ‘Miracle Lake’
By Office of Communication
Posted on October 04, 2018, October 04, 2018

Lake Arlington. Photo Courtesy of the Portal to Texas History

Though Lake Arlington has now entered its sixth decade of existence, it remains the focus of a persistent urban history myth: That flooding rains in April of 1957 inundated the then-new reservoir so quickly from Village Creek runoff that all kinds of construction equipment had to be abandoned and remains at the lake bottom today.

Former Arlington Utilities Director John Kubala, now deceased, frequently debunked the myth in both public talks and media interviews. Since he participated in the planning process for the lake and was present when it filled, it would be prudent to accept his information as accurate, though there's this: The lake-bottom-full-of-construction-equipment myth has a contrarian life of its own and persists no matter what.

"What did happen was that the rains came so rapidly that we had to blow up an old bridge over Village Creek after the lake filled (near Bowman Springs Park), as well as an old silo," Kubala said in one such interview.

That myth cleared up, Lake Arlington and Village Creek nevertheless have colorful histories. The "Village Creek" name, for instance, evolved from a number of Native American settlements along the creek, which was also the location of what is billed as the last battle with Indians in Tarrant County - The Battle of Village Creek in May of 1841 commanded by Gen. Edward Tarrant, who would end up being the namesake for the county. A Methodist Church just below the lake dam now occupies the approximate battle spot, "approximate" because reports of the conflict portray it as a sort of moving battle of men on horseback

Former Mayor Tom Vandergriff became an advocate for the lake based on the city's growth projections and the revelation that a growing GM plant would eventually need more water than all the city's wells could provide. This area and most of Texas were in the midst of a massive drought and foes of the lake dubbed it "Vandergriff's Folly." Luckily for Vandergriff, and Arlington, the area received more than 50 inches of rain in 1957, so much coming in April alone that the lake filled, a transition from "Vandergriff's Folly" to "Miracle Lake." Vandergriff was always a gifted politician, but also clearly a fortunate one.

This article was written by Arlington author and historian O.K. Carter, who serves on the Landmark Preservation Commission.

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