The History of the Circle T Ranch



Circle T Ranch is unique in that it’s only had a handful of owners over its lifetime and has always been owned by highly influential Dallas business leaders who used the ranch as a family getaway, as a horse or cattle operation, and as the site for sophisticated gatherings of Dallas’ well-to-do society.

Ted Dealey, who succeeded his father as head of Belo Corp., bought acreage in what is now Westlake in the late 1930s and had a home built there in 1938 by famous architect Charles Dilbeck. The property was known as the 220 Ranch for the amount of acreage it contained. 

Dealey, who built what is now known as Turner Lake, sold his ranch in the late 1940s to J. Glenn Turner who renamed the property Circle T Ranch and continued to add acreage until it reached about 2,500 acres. 

Turner used the ranch to raise and train Tennessee Walking Horses, and as a place for entertaining and respite from Dallas. Turner incorporated the ranch and surrounding area as the Town of Westlake in December 1956.

The ranch was sold in 1969 to Nelson Bunker Hunt, another powerful Dallas figure who raised horses and cattle on the property. Hunt is said to have loved the property so much he once insisted he’d never part with it, even for $200 million, according to a story in the New York Times. 

Ross Perot Jr. managed to buy Circle T Ranch in 1993 for less than $20 million after Hunt went bankrupt. 

After Perot bought the ranch, former Westlake mayor Scott Bradley — who owned 130 acres adjacent to the ranch including the Dilbeck house that he’d restored — opposed Perot’s development plans, and a feud developed over the Circle T and whether it would be owned by Westlake or disannexed and annexed into the city of Fort Worth.

A multiyear battle with many layers of intrigue eventually was settled with the ranch declared to be in the Town of Westlake. 

In 1998, Bradley sold acreage he owned to Fidelity and moved the Dilbeck house to another property about a mile away. In 2000, Fidelity opened its campus, becoming the first major corporate facility on the ranch.

Sources: The Little Town that Could, by Joyce Gibson Roach, The New York Times, The Dallas Morning News.


 

TIMELINE:

1993:
Ross Perot Jr. acquires the 2,500-acre Circle T Ranch from Nelson Bunker Hunt 

1998:
Fidelity buys more than 300 acres of land, some from Hillwood and the remainder from Scott Bradley, then the mayor of Westlake

1999:
General Growth announces a partnership with Hillwood to build a super regional mall (Plans for a mall are later removed in the mid 2000s)

2000:
Fidelity campus opens its first building, One Destiny Way

2000:
DaimlerChrysler Financial builds a 130,000-square-foot office

2001:
Tom Fazio golf course and Vaquero residential development opens

2003:
Westlake Academy opens

2008:
Deloitte buys land and announces plans for Deloitte University

2010:
Fidelity opens Two Destiny Way, bringing its square footage at the ranch to more than 1 million square feet

2011:
Deloitte University opens

2011:
General Growth’s interest at Circle T is transferred to Howard Hughes Corp. 

2015:
Schwab announces plans to build at Circle T

2016:
Hillwood announces partnership with Howard Hughes for a mixed-use development

Summer 2017:
Construction to begin on the Schwab campus

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