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Entry from July 16, 2008
City That Lifted Its Face (Weslaco nickname)

The city of Weslaco decided in the 1930s that it wanted to look more like a Spanish village. Buildings on both sides of Texas Avenue (the main street) were given white stucco facades in a Spanish architectural style. By 1936 and 1937, Weslaco was being called “The City That Lifted Its Face.”
Also in 1936-1937, neon lighting was added to highlight the architecture at night. Weslaco was also called “The City With The Neon Skyline.”
Wikipedia: Weslaco, Texas
Weslaco is a city in Hidalgo County, Texas, United States. The population was 26,935 at the 2000 census. Weslaco derives its name from the W.E. Stewart Land Company. It was the hometown of Harlon Block, one of the Marines photographed raising the flag at Iwo Jima.
Weslaco is part of the McAllen–Edinburg–Mission Metropolitan Statistical Area.
Handbook of Texas Online
WESLACO, TEXAS. Weslaco, about fifteen miles west of Harlingen in south central Hidalgo County, is on U.S. Highway 83 and Farm Road 88. The site was part of the Llano Grande grant to Juan José Ynojosa de Ballí (1790). Upon Ynojosa’s death the grant was divided among his children, and Manuela and María received the land on which Weslaco is situated. The Ballí family ranched and maintained ownership until 1852. In 1904 the Hidalgo and San Miguel extension of the St. Louis, Brownsville and Mexico Railway reached the site, promoted by Uriah Lott, Lon C. Hill, Jr. and others interested in developing the area through farming as opposed to traditional Hispanic ranching.
Construction of a railroad depot in 1927 attracted canning plants, dehydrating plants, and a box factory to Weslaco. A ground-level water reservoir was constructed in 1928. The first Weslaco “Birthday Party” was held in December 1929 and included a parade and style show. By 1930 the town’s population had reached 5,300. In 1936 civic plans required all buildings in the business section to be remodeled with Spanish colonial architecture. Weslaco then acquired the nickname “City with the Neon Skyline” because neon lights were used to outline the new facades.
Texas Escapes
Hidalgo County, South Texas
State Hwy 83 & FM 88
15 miles East of McAllen
15 miles West of Harlingen
7 miles SE to Nuevo Progresso, Mexico
Population: 26,935 (2000)
The people of Weslaco came up with an idea to brighten the gloom of the Great Depression in 1936 by lighting two blocks of Texas Boulevard downtown with neon.
Valley History by Norma Rozeff
Weslaco Glowed Brightly in a Gloomy Period
Norman Rozeff
Newell’s conceptions of a revamped downtown were to win approval from the community. The combination of donations and loans from the Federal Housing Authority financed the project. And what was the concept to be implemented? All building on both sides of Texas Avenue between Third and Fifth Streets were to be given a uniform white stuccoed face-lift in Spanish style architecture. With remodeling of T.G. Cressner’s drug store, the transformation job commenced on January 27, 1936. Within a year’s time the work had been completed on the two blocks. This allowed the official dedication of the city’s remodeling program at the 1936 birthday party.
Weslaco became, or made itself, known as the “City That Lifted Its Face.” It wasn’t finished yet. Over the next year, 1937, it added vari-colored neon light tubing to outline and accentuate the buildings in the business district. In between structures, lighted designs provided the element of cohesiveness. Now Weslaco gleaned a new moniker – “The City with the Neon Skyline.” Without question the colored lights playing upon the white facades provided an air of modernity when the city celebrated its 18th Birthday in December 1937.
8 November 1936, Brownsville (TX) Herald, “Birthday Fete Plans Pushed,” pg. 6, col. 2:
Dedication of the new “face lifted” main street.
7 November 1937, Valley Sunday Star-Monitor-Herald (Brownsville, TX), pg. 12A, col. 1:
Valley’s Only Face-Lifted City Now Will Outline Skyline With Neon
Neon Tubes To Be Erected Soon
WESLACO—America’s only “face lifted” city comes to the front again with something still newer and more original in city beautification. Weslaco, Texas, located in the heart of the Rio Grande Valley, expects to be the first and only city in the United States to boast a neon lighted skyline, according to plans already completed by the Weslaco Chamber of Commerce.
Neon lights will be used to outline buildings in the business section of the city, comprised solely of buildings of Spanish architecture, a result of the “face lifting” campaign of a year ago.
The neon lights outlining against the night sky a city of gleaming white Spanish fronts and palm lined boulevards, will make Weslaco the beauty spot of the Rio Grande.
Every Weslaco merchant and owner of business property has signed for this new lighting display and work upon the project has started at once, according to Harry Batliff, secretary of the Weslaco Chamber of Commerce.
The new lighted skyline will be entirely completed before the annual fruit, flower, and vegetable fiesta of the lower Rio Grande Valley, which will be held in Weslaco on December 9th and 10th.
21 January 1940, Valley Sunday Star-Monitor-Herald (Brownsville, TX), magazine, pg. 2 photo caption:
Several years ago Weslaco “had its face lifted” by providing uniform Spanish type fronts for places of business fronting on Texas Avenue. Weslaco people were so proud of their Spanish Village effect, that they cast about for some way to make the improvements stand out at night also. They solved this by means of a neon outline of the tops of the buildings. This neon skyline extends several blocks and effectively sets off the Spanish type store fronts at night.
(Photo courtesy Weslaco Chamber of Commerce)

10 December 1940, San Antonio (TX) Express, pg. 12, col. 6:
Celebrities of City in Early Party Days to Attend
WESLACO, Dec. 9.—Weslaco, “The City That Lifted Its Face,” comes of age this week, and what a party Weslaco is going to throw!
Google Books
by Karen Gerhardt and Bianca Tamez
Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing
Pg. 42 photo caption:
Weslaco businessmen, having coffee in Cressner’s Drug Store, discussed a way to improve the town despite the constraints of the Great Depression. Soon, sketches by architect R. Newell Waters were displayed downtown. On January 27, 1936, T.D. Cressner began the project by remodeling his store. By December 1936, two blocks of Texas Boulevard between Third and Fifth Streets were dressed in the white-stuccoed Spanish architectural style. In addition to improving the facades of their buildings, Weslaco businessmen added neon lights at roof height to create a unique identity for the city. Weslaco became known as “the town that lifted its face” and “the city with the neon skyline” because of the renovations. (Edrington Studio.)

Posted by Barry Popik
Texas (Lone Star State Dictionary) • Wednesday, July 16, 2008 • Permalink

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