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16 The impressive Harbor Rockwall has become a dining and shopping destination. Photo By Melisa Oporto

Rockwall

Thirty minutes from downtown Dallas (in good traffic), on the far shore of Lake Ray Hubbard, lies the little city of Rockwall, hometown to 91-year-old Ralph Hall, the oldest-ever member of the U.S. House, recently beaten in his 18th term by a Tea Partier. There’s a road named after Hall on the south end of town, where a lot of the newer commercial development has sprung up. Most notably, there’s the $80 million mixed-use, Spanish-tiled waterfront complex called The Harbor. Its owner filed for bankruptcy four years ago. Outposts of Gloria’s and Dodie’s and Luna de Noche still operate, but the Harbor’s landscaping withers in the sun, a fountain sits in disrepair, and empty storefronts with leasing signs in their windows outnumber occupied spaces. The place can feel like a Walking Dead set.

More cheer can be found a few miles north, on the other side of I-30, up Goliad Street, where the city is fixing up its historic courthouse square. There’s a hip Italian restaurant called Zanata whose chef left to open his own cool place down the street called the Fatted Calf. A few blocks away, The Londoner opened another of its British pubs in June. And literally across the street from City Barber Shop, you’ll find another barber shop, Hair Cut Place.

James Russell—seventysomething, wearing a tight crew cut and a large belt buckle—has run his tiny two-chair operation, cooled by a single window unit, in this spot since 1992. He gives a small boy a mohawk as his mom explains that the whole baseball team is getting them. When they leave and Russell’s next customer takes the chair, he gets right to the point.

“I’ve been cutting Ralph Hall’s hair for 20 years, his kinfolk’s even longer,” he says, pointing to a framed picture of the congressman. “He’s a gentleman. That guy who beat him? He’s an asshole. All these assholes have moved in here. I had a better clientele 20 years ago, no assholes.” 

Russell doesn’t say this with anger. He sounds more bemused. By the way, he thinks the chief of police is also an asshole. 

The haircut was a good one and cost $10. The diatribe was even better, and it came free of charge. — Tim Rogers

Demographics

  • Median Age: 35.1
  • Population Growth (2000-2013): 127.60%
  • Population Density: 1,478 people per square mile

Schools

  • Students Passing STARR K-11: 88%
  • Average SAT Score: 1564
  • Students Taking SAT/ACT: 74.90%
  • Instruction Spending Per Student: $4,494

Crime

  • Violent Crime Rate: 1.06 per 1,000 residents
  • Non-Violent Crime Rate: 21.72 per 1,000 residents

Real Estate

  • Average Price of Homes Sold (2013): $234,236
  • Sales Price Change (2011-2013): 11.30%
  • Owner-Occupied Homes: 76.90%

Ambiance: 87