Lubbock was founded in 1890 when two competing communities on opposite sides of Yellow House Canyon, Old Lubbock and Monterey, merged and relocated. In 1909 Lubbock received rail connections to the Pecos and Northern Texas Railway. That same year it was incorporated as a city. Even so, Lubbock grew slowly and remained subordinate to Plainview (thirty-five miles to the north) as the regional entrepôt until selected to be the location of the new Texas Technological College in 1923. This led to Lubbock’s rapid development as the principal city of the South Plains, an agricultural region that increasingly in the 1920s was devoted to growing cotton and sorghum by irrigation from the Ogallala Aquifer. During the 1930s Lubbock became the center of cotton cultivation in Texas because the aquifer offered what initially seemed like a limitless supply of water to irrigate farms much larger in size than those of East and Central Texas. Lubbock also lies in the center of the Texas High Plains Appellation, established in 1993 as the largest wine-grape producing region in the state. The calcareous sandy loam soils are free of the phylloxera louse that decimated California and French vineyards in the late nineteenth century.
Downtown Lubbock began to acquire its current architectural contours in the 1920s. The postwar decade (1945–1955) marked its zenith as new retail buildings and skyscrapers signaled Lubbock’s urban aspirations. An EF4 tornado struck downtown on May 11, 1970, with winds of up to 250 miles per hour, taking twenty-six lives. A civic center and a library (LK11) replaced damaged sites. By the late twentieth century, oil was less a contributor to the economy than in nearby counties. Lubbock is the state’s leading cotton producing and processing county. With an enrollment over 32,000 (14 percent of the city’s population), Texas Tech (LK17) is a dominating influence on the city’s business and cultural life.
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