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Waco, Texas
City
From left to right, top to bottom: Downtown, McLennan County Courthouse, Waco Suspension Bridge, Dr. Pepper Museum, Waco Mammoth National Monument, Baylor University, Waco Hippodrome, William Cameron Park, Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum, and Austin Avenue in Downtown
From left to right, top to bottom: Downtown, McLennan County Courthouse, Waco Suspension Bridge, Dr. Pepper Museum, Waco Mammoth National Monument, Baylor University, Waco Hippodrome, William Cameron Park, Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum, and Austin Avenue in Downtown
Flag of Waco, Texas
Flag
Nickname(s): "Heart of Texas"
Location within McLennan County and Texas
Location within McLennan County and Texas
Country  United States
State  Texas
County  McLennan
Area
 • City 95.5 sq mi (247.4 km2)
 • Land 84.2 sq mi (218.1 km2)
 • Water 11.3 sq mi (29.3 km2)  11.85%
Elevation 470 ft (143.3 m)
Population (2015 Est.)
 • City 132,356
 • Density 1,350/sq mi (521.5/km2)
 • Metro 262,813
Demonym(s) Wacoan
Time zone Central (UTC−6)
 • Summer (DST) Central (UTC−5)
ZIP codes 76700-76799
Area code 254
FIPS code 48-76000
GNIS feature ID 1370701
Interstates I-35.svg
U.S. Routes US 77.svg US 84.svg
Website Waco-Texas.com

Waco (/ˈwk/ WAY-koh) is a city which is the county seat of McLennan County, Texas, United States. It is situated along the Brazos River and I-35, halfway between Dallas and Austin. The city had a 2010 population of 124,805, making it the 22nd-most populous city in the state. The US Census 2015 population estimate is 132,356. The Waco Metropolitan Statistical Area consists of McLennan and Falls Counties, which had a 2010 population of 234,906. Falls County was added to the Waco MSA in 2013. The US Census 2015 population estimate for the Waco MSA is 262,813.

History

See also: Timeline of Waco, Texas

1824–1865

Indigenous peoples occupied areas along the river for thousands of years. In historic times, the area of present-day Waco was occupied by the Wichita Native American tribe known as the "Waco" (Spanish: Hueco or Huaco).

In 1824, Thomas M. Duke explored the area and reported to Stephen F. Austin, describing the Waco village:

"This town is situated on the West Bank of the River. They have a spring almost as cold as ice itself. All we want is some Brandy and Sugar to have Ice Toddy. They have about 400 acres (1.6 km2) planted in corn, beans, pumpkins, and melons and that tended in good order. I think they cannot raise more than One Hundred Warriors."

After Austin halted the first attempt to destroy their village in 1825, he made a treaty with them. The Waco eventually moved out of the region, settling north near present-day Fort Worth. In 1872, they joined other Wichita tribes on a reservation in Oklahoma. In 1902, the Waco received allotments of land and became official US citizens. Neil McLennan settled in an area near the South Bosque River in 1838. Jacob De Cordova bought McLennan's property and hired a former Texas Ranger and surveyor named George B. Erath to inspect the area.

1866–1900

Old map-Waco-1886
Waco in 1886
Suspension Bridge, Waco, Texas
Suspension Bridge, Waco, Texas

In 1866, Waco's leading citizens embarked on an ambitious project to build the first bridge to span the wide Brazos River. They formed the Waco Bridge Company to build the 475-foot (145 m) brick Waco Suspension Bridge, which was completed in 1870. The company commissioned a firm owned by John Augustus Roebling in Trenton, New Jersey, to supply the cables and steelwork for the bridge, and contracted with Mr. Thomas M. Griffith, a civil engineer based in New York, for the supervisory engineering work on the bridge. The economic effects of the Waco bridge were immediate and large. The cowboys and cattle-herds following the Chisholm Trail north, crossed the Brazos River at Waco. Some chose to pay the Suspension Bridge toll, while others floated their herds down the river. The population of Waco grew rapidly, as immigrants now had a safe crossing for their horse-drawn carriages and wagons. Since 1971, the bridge has been open only to pedestrian traffic and is in the National Register of Historic Places.

In 1885, the soft drink Dr Pepper was invented in Waco at Morrison's Old Corner Drug Store.

In 1845, Baylor University was founded in Independence, Texas, making it the oldest institution of higher learning in the state of Texas. It moved to Waco in 1886 and merged with Waco University, becoming an integral part of the city. The university's Strecker Museum was also the oldest continuously operating museum in the state until it closed in 2003, and the collections were moved to the new Mayborn Museum Complex. In 1873, AddRan College was founded by brothers Addison and Randolph Clark in Fort Worth. The school moved to Waco in 1895, changing its name to Add-Ran Christian University and taking up residence in the empty buildings of Waco Female College. Add-Ran changed its name to Texas Christian University in 1902 and left Waco after the school's main building burned down in 1910. TCU was offered a 50-acre (200,000 m2) campus and $200,000 by the city of Fort Worth to relocate there.

Dr Pepper Museum
The Dr Pepper Museum is one of Waco's tourist attractions.

In the 1890s, William Cowper Brann published the highly successful Iconoclast newspaper in Waco. One of his targets was Baylor University. Brann revealed that Baylor officials had been importing South American children recruited by missionaries and making house-servants out of them. Brann was shot in the back by Tom Davis, a Baylor supporter. Brann then wheeled, drew his pistol, and killed Davis. Brann was helped home by his friends, and died there of his wounds.

In 1894, the first Cotton Palace fair and exhibition center was built to reflect the dominant contribution of the agricultural cotton industry in the region. Since the end of the Civil War, cotton had been cultivated in the Brazos and Bosque valleys, and Waco had become known nationwide as a top producer. Over the next 23 years, the annual exposition would welcome over eight million attendees. The opulent building which housed the month-long exhibition was destroyed by fire and rebuilt in 1910. In 1931, the exposition fell prey to the Great Depression, and the building was torn down. However, the annual Cotton Palace Pageant continues, hosted in late April in conjunction with the Brazos River Festival.

On September 15, 1896, "The Crash" took place about 15 miles (24 km) north of Waco. "The Crash at Crush" was a publicity stunt done by the Missouri–Kansas–Texas Railroad company (known as M-K-T or "Katy"), featuring two locomotives intentionally set to a head-on collision. Meant to be a family fun event with food, games, and entertainment, the Crash turned deadly when both boilers exploded simultaneously, sending metal flying in the air. Two people died and six were seriously injured.

20th century

Steel Bridge, Waco, Texas
Washington Avenue Bridge (postcard, circa 1908), built in 1902, it was the longest single-span steel bridge in the world.

In 1916, an African American teenager named Jesse Washington was tortured, mutilated, and burned to death in the town square by a mob that seized him from the courthouse, where he had been convicted of murdering a white woman. About 15,000 spectators, mostly citizens of Waco, were present. The commonly named Waco Horror drew international condemnation and became the cause célèbre of the nascent NAACP's antilynching campaign. In 2006, the Waco City Council officially condemned the lynching, which took place without opposition from local political or judicial leaders.

In the 1920s, despite the popularity of the Ku Klux Klan and high numbers of lynchings throughout Texas, Waco's authorities attempted to respond to the NAACP's campaign and institute more protections for African Americans or others threatened with mob violence and lynching. In 1923, Waco's Sheriff Leslie Stegall protected Roy Mitchell, an African American coerced into confessing to multiple murders, from mob lynching. Mitchell was the last Texan to be publicly executed in Texas, and also the last to be hanged before the introduction of the electric chair. In the same year, the Texas Legislature created the Tenth Civil Court of Appeals and placed it in Waco; it is now known as the 10th Court of Appeals.

In 1937, Grover C. Thomsen and R.H. Roark created a soft-drink called "Sun Tang Red Cream Soda". This would later become known as the soft drink Big Red.

On May 5, 1942, Waco Army Air Field opened as a basic pilot training school, and on June 10, 1949, the name was changed to Connally Air Force Base in memory of Col. James T. Connally, a local pilot killed in Japan in 1945. The name changed again in 1951 to the James Connally Air Force Base. The base closed in May 1966 and is now the location of Texas State Technical College, formerly Texas State Technical Institute, since 1965. The airfield is still in operation, now known as TSTC Waco Airport, and was used by Air Force One when former US President George W. Bush visited his Prairie Chapel Ranch, also known as the Western White House, in Crawford, Texas.

WacoAlamoPlaza1938
Alamo Plaza Courts, tourist apartments, Waco circa 1939

On May 11, 1953, a tornado hit downtown Waco, killing 114. As of 2011, it remains the 11th-deadliest tornado in U.S. history and tied for the deadliest in Texas state history. It was the first tornado tracked by radar and helped spur the creation of a nationwide storm surveillance system. A granite monument featuring the names of those killed was placed downtown in 2004.

In 1964, the Texas Department of Public Safety designated Waco as the site for the state-designated official museum of the legendary Texas Rangers law enforcement agency founded in 1823. In 1976, it was further designated the official Hall of Fame for the Rangers and renamed the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum. Renovations by the Waco government earned this building green status, the first Waco government-led project of its nature. The construction project has fallen under scrutiny for expanding the building over unmarked human graves.

In 1978, bones were discovered emerging from the mud at the confluence of the Brazos and Bosque Rivers. Subsequent excavations revealed that the bones were 68,000 years old and belonged to a species of mammoth. Eventually, the remains of at least 24 mammoths, one camel, and one large cat were found at the site, making it one of the largest findings of its kind. Scholars have puzzled over why such a large herd had been killed all at once. The site is currently being looked at by the National Park Service for possible inclusion into the National Park system. They are conducting a special resource study to be presented to Congress. The bones are currently on display at the Waco Mammoth National Monument, part of the National Park Service.

On February 28, 1993, a shootout occurred in which six Branch Davidians and four agents of the United States Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms died. After 50 days, on April 19, 1993, a standoff between FBI agents and Branch Davidians ended in a fire that destroyed their compound, referred to as Mt. Carmel, near Waco. Seventy-four people, including leader David Koresh, died in the blaze. This event became known as the Waco siege.

In 1999, a charter school called the Emma L. Harrison Charter School was closed by the Texas Education Agency; the school was the first school of its kind to have its charter revoked in Texas.

21st century

During the presidency of George W. Bush, Waco was the home to the White House Press Center. The press center provided briefing and office facilities for the press corps whenever Bush visited his "Western White House" Prairie Chapel Ranch near Crawford, about 25 miles (40 km) northwest of Waco.

On May 17, 2015, a violent dispute among rival biker gangs broke out at Twin Peaks restaurant. The Waco police intervened, with nine dead and 18 injured in the incident. More than 170 were arrested. No bystanders, Twin Peak employees, or officers were killed in the process. This was the most high-profile criminal incident since the Waco siege, and the deadliest shootout in the city's history.

Geography

Waco is located at 31°33'5" North, 97°9'21" West (31.551516, -97.155930).

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 95.5 square miles (247 km2). 84.2 square miles (218 km2) of it is land and 11.3 square miles (29 km2) of it is covered by water. The total area is 11.85% water.

Climate

Waco experiences a humid subtropical climate (Köppen climate classification Cfa), characterized by hot summers and generally mild winters. Some 90 °F (32 °C) temperatures have been observed in every month of the year. The record low temperature is −5 °F (−21 °C), set on January 31, 1949; the record high temperature is 112 °F (44 °C), set on August 11, 1969.

Climate data for Waco, Texas (1981–2010 normals)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 90
(32.2)
96
(35.6)
100
(37.8)
101
(38.3)
102
(38.9)
109
(42.8)
109
(42.8)
112
(44.4)
111
(43.9)
101
(38.3)
92
(33.3)
91
(32.8)
112
(44.4)
Average high °F (°C) 58.7
(14.83)
62.3
(16.83)
69.8
(21)
78.1
(25.61)
85.5
(29.72)
92.2
(33.44)
96.8
(36)
97.3
(36.28)
90.3
(32.39)
80.4
(26.89)
69.0
(20.56)
59.5
(15.28)
78.33
(25.736)
Average low °F (°C) 36.4
(2.44)
40.0
(4.44)
47.4
(8.56)
54.9
(12.72)
64.1
(17.83)
71.1
(21.72)
74.4
(23.56)
74.1
(23.39)
66.7
(19.28)
56.9
(13.83)
46.8
(8.22)
37.7
(3.17)
55.88
(13.264)
Record low °F (°C) −5
(-20.6)
4
(-15.6)
15
(-9.4)
26
(-3.3)
35
(1.7)
52
(11.1)
58
(14.4)
53
(11.7)
39
(3.9)
25
(-3.9)
17
(-8.3)
−4
(-20)
−5
(-20.6)
Precipitation inches (mm) 2.12
(53.8)
2.63
(66.8)
3.15
(80)
2.69
(68.3)
4.29
(109)
3.43
(87.1)
1.79
(45.5)
2.05
(52.1)
3.04
(77.2)
3.90
(99.1)
2.82
(71.6)
2.75
(69.9)
34.66
(880.4)
Avg. precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in) 7.1 6.8 8.3 6.3 8.1 7.5 5.3 5.0 5.8 7.2 7.3 7.1 81.8
Source: NOAA

Demographics

Historical population
Census Pop.
1870 3,008
1880 7,295 142.5%
1890 14,445 98.0%
1900 20,686 43.2%
1910 26,425 27.7%
1920 38,500 45.7%
1930 52,848 37.3%
1940 55,982 5.9%
1950 84,706 51.3%
1960 97,808 15.5%
1970 95,326 −2.5%
1980 101,261 6.2%
1990 103,590 2.3%
2000 113,726 9.8%
2010 124,805 9.7%
Est. 2015 132,356 6.1%
U.S. Decennial Census
Lake Waco southern portion
Lake Waco – southern half of the lake with Twin Bridges in view

As of the census of 2010, 124,805 people resided in the city, organized into 51,452 households and 27,115 families. The population density was recorded as 1,350.6 people per square mile (521.5/km2), with 45,819 housing units at an average density of 544.2 per square mile (210.1/km2). The 2000 racial makeup of the city was 60.78% White, 22.65% African American, 1.38% Asian, 0.51% Native American, 0.05% Pacific Islander, 12.38% from other races, and 2.26% from two or more races. About 23.6% of the population was Hispanic or Latino of any race. Non-Hispanic Whites were 45.8% of the population in 2010, down from 66.6% in 1980.

In 2000, the census recorded 42,279 households, of which 29.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 38.4% were married couples living together, 16.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 41.4% were not families. Around 31.1% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.9% had someone living alone at 65 years of age or older. The average household size was calculated as 2.49 and the average family size 3.19.

In 2000, 25.4% of the population was under the age of 18, 20.3% from 18 to 24, 25.0% from 25 to 44, 16.0% from 45 to 64, and 13.4% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 28 years. For every 100 females, there are 91.4 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 87.3 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $26,264, and for a family was $33,919. Males had a median income of $26,902 versus $21,159 for females. The per capita income for the city was $14,584. About 26.3% of the population and 19.3% of families lived below the poverty line. Of the total population, 30.9% of those under the age of 18 and 13.0% of those 65 and older lived below the poverty line.

Downtown

WacoTX AlicoTower
Waco's 22-story ALICO building

The town of Waco was built around the Waco Suspension Bridge, which was a crucial crossing of the Brazos River upon completion in 1870. Today, downtown Waco is relatively small when compared to other larger Texas cities, such as Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, or even Fort Worth, El Paso, or Austin. However, each day, nearly 20,000 people commute to and from work in downtown. It is also the location of the McLennan County Courthouse.

In May 1953, the worst tornado in Texas history struck downtown Waco, killing 114 and injuring hundreds. It caused millions of dollars in damage and dented Waco's economy for years after. Downtown Waco is home to the ALICO Building, which was completed in 1910, and was once the tallest structure in the Southwest. Downtown Waco, where Dr Pepper soda was invented, is also the location of the famous Dr Pepper Museum.

A scenic riverwalk along the east and west banks of the Brazos River stretches from the Baylor campus to Cameron Park Zoo, about seven miles in all. This multiuse walking and jogging, lighted trail passes underneath the Waco Suspension Bridge and captures the peaceful charm of the river.

See also: Neighborhoods of Waco

Transportation

Downtown Waco from I-35-cropped
Downtown Waco as seen from Interstate 35

Interstate 35 is the major north-south highway for Waco. It directly connects the city with Dallas (I-35E), Fort Worth (I-35W), Austin, and San Antonio. Texas State Highway 6 runs northwest-southeast and connects Waco to Bryan/College Station and Houston. US Highway 84 is the major east-west thoroughfare in the area. It is also known as Waco Drive, Bellmead Drive (as it passes through the city of Bellmead), Woodway Drive or the George W. Bush Parkway. Loop 340 bypasses the city to the east and south. State Highway 31 splits off of US 84 just east of Waco and connects the city to Tyler, Longview, and Shreveport, Louisiana.

The Waco area is home to three airports. Waco Regional Airport (ACT) serves the city with daily flights to Dallas/Fort Worth International via American Eagle. TSTC Waco Airport (CNW) is the site of the former James Connally AFB and was the primary fly-in point for former President George W. Bush when he was visiting his ranch in Crawford. It is also a hub airport for L3 and several other aviation companies. McGregor Executive Airport (PWG) is a general-aviation facility located west of Waco.

Local transportation is provided by the Waco Transit System, which offers bus service Monday-Saturday to most of the city. Multiple taxicab companies operate in the city. Nearby passenger train service is offered via Amtrak. The Texas Eagle route includes daily stops in McGregor, located 20 miles west of the city.

Attractions

WacoBridge02
The Waco Suspension Bridge

Major Waco attractions include:

  • Armstrong Browning Library
  • Cameron Park
  • Cameron Park Zoo
  • Dr Pepper Museum
  • Grand Lodge of Texas
  • Hawaiian Falls Waterpark
  • Lake Waco
  • Lee Lockwood Library and Museum
  • Magnolia Market at the Silos
  • Mayborn Museum Complex
  • Red Men Museum and Library
  • Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum
  • Texas Sports Hall of Fame
  • Texas State Technical College System
  • Waco Mammoth National Monument
  • Waco Suspension Bridge

Images for kids


Waco, Texas Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.