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Sunday, June 1, 2003
Last modified at 8:32 p.m. on Wednesday, May 28, 2003
© 2003 - The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal

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Few incidents altered the Lubbock landscape like the infamous 1970 tornado. On May 11 that year, a series of twisters struck the city, leaving a path of destruction from downtown to the Lubbock Country Club area. Many local historians agree the tragedy was one of the most significant events in Lubbock's relatively short history. Just some of the damage can be seen in the above photo taken near Fourth Street and Avenue L.

Lubbock's history one of community


BY JANE ALDRED
AVALANCHE-JOURNAL

In 1879, a small settlement of farmers and pioneers staked their claim in newly established Lubbock County, a land previously inhabited by Paleo-Indians, Spanish explorers, traders, buffalo hunters and Comanches.

The first settlement of a few dozen people was a far cry from the more than 200,000 people who now live within Lubbock's city limits.

Monterey and Old Lubbock, two prominent communities in 1890, vied to become the Lubbock county seat, according to the Lubbock Heritage Society and the City of Lubbock Department of Planning.

The communities compromised and chose a neutral location that is now present-day downtown Lubbock. Buildings and businesses were moved from the opposing communities and a frame courthouse was built on the square.

Lubbock Independent School District, created by the 30th Texas Legislature, opened for class in the fall of 1907.

By the census of 1910, 1,938 people were living in Lubbock.

When rail service was established on the South Plains by Santa Fe in 1909, Lubbock became the ''Hub of the Plains.''

''The railroad had the largest impact on Lubbock,'' said Wade Shoop, a planner for the city. ''Before the railroad, Plainview was larger than Lubbock.''

In February 1923, Gov. Pat Neff signed into law a bill establishing Texas Technological College. Within six months, Lubbock had been chosen as the school's site.

The city of Lubbock celebrated the announcement with a barbecue attended by more than 30,000 people.

That same year, home mail delivery began and New Lubbock High School was built on Broadway.

By 1925 the college was completed, and about 1,000 students attended the first semester.

''Bringing the university to Lubbock was the second most important moment in Lubbock history,'' Shoop said.

Throughout the 1920s Lubbock underwent an economic and population boom brought on by the railroad, he said.

''Before that, (agricultural) goods were shipped out by cart and mules,'' Shoop said. ''(The railroad) made it feasible for students to come out to go to school.''

Lubbock's population grew to nearly 21,000 by 1930 when Lubbock Municipal Airport opened north of town. Present-day Lubbock High School, located on 19th Street, was built just months later.

Except for a small decrease during the Great Depression, Lubbock's population continued to grow.

In 1950, when the present Lubbock County Courthouse was built, nearly 72,000 people called Lubbock home.

One of the most striking moments in recent history claimed the lives of 28 people and destroyed businesses and homes, Shoop said.

On May 11, 1970, a devastating tornado struck Lubbock, ripping through historic areas of the town, he said.

''The tornado had the greatest impact on changing the makeup of Lubbock,'' Shoop said. ''It destroyed much of the original housing stock of Lubbock.''

The city, however, recovered and continues to grow.

''Population will increase, but at a slower rate than in the past,'' he said. ''There will probably be more continuance in the fields of education, medical and manufacturing for Lubbock.''

jaldred@lubbockonline.com t 766-8716


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