One City, Two Downtowns (Part 2): Survivors

Early in the twentieth century, when Fort Worth’s white community and African-American community were largely segregated, many of the business, educational, religious, and social institutions of the African-American community were located in east downtown or on the near East Side. Many of the landmarks have been demolished (see Part 1). Here are some that have survived.

east map survivors 2


  1. Allen Chapel A.M.E. Church
  2. Greater St. James Baptist Church
  3. Knights of Pythias Lodge Hall
  4. Morning Chapel C.M.E. Church
  5. Mt. Gilead Baptist Church
  6. Grand United Order of Odd Fellows
  7. Colored High School
  8. East Eighteenth Street Colored School No. K
  9. Baker Funeral Home
  10. Baker Chapel A.M.E. Church
  11. Mount Zion Baptist Church
  12. James E. Guinn School
  13. Drake’s Cafeteria
  14. Grand Theater

east allen chapel1. Allen Chapel A.M.E. Church (1912), 116 Elm Street. Established 1870.

east st james2. Greater St. James Baptist Church (1913), 210 Harding Street. Established 1895.

east key of the west3. Key West Lodge No. 5, Knights of Pythias (1925), 900 East 2nd Street. The African-American Knights of Pythias organized in 1880. The building was recently restored and converted to apartments.

east morning chapel4. Morning Chapel C.M.E. Church (1938), 903 East 3rd Street. Established 1868.

east mount gilead5. Mt. Gilead Baptist Church (Sanguinet and Staats, 1912), 600 Grove Street. Established 1875.

east church listingsIn 1907 J. A. Hamilton published his History and Directory of Fort Worth, a book listing African-American businesses and community leaders. As these church listings show, the four churches listed above on the map are older than the buildings they now occupy, and two of the fourMt. Gilead and Morning Chapel—moved to their current locations after 1907.

east odd fellows6. Grand United Order of Odd Fellows (1925), 415 East 6th Street. The African-American branch of Odd Fellows was organized in 1843. This lodge was organized in 1880. I. M. Terrell was an officer. The building now houses an architect and an attorney. (More on the golden age of fraternal lodges.)

east linksThe three-link chain is the Odd Fellows symbol. The three links stand for friendship, love, and truth.

east householdThe Household of Ruth is the African-American Odd Fellows women’s auxiliary.

east 13th street school-FWHA7. At 1201 East 13th Street in the Third Ward is this building, built in 1909 as the “Colored High School.” In 1921 it was renamed for I. M. Terrell, who had been its principal. The building now houses the Fort Worth Housing Authority.

east terrell school8. At 1411 I. M. Terrell Circle South this Third Ward school building (1910) originally was named for Texas legislator Andrew J. Chambers and accommodated white students. But in 1931 the building was designated for African-American students and renamed “East Eighteenth Street Colored School No. K.” In 1936 I. M. Terrell High School, having outgrown its East 13th Street building, moved a few blocks south to the Chambers/No. K building.

east baker funeral9. In 1926 former Pullman porter James Nathan Baker, who owned a funeral home in Cleburne, opened a facility in Fort Worth at 301 East Rosedale in his father’s house. In the 1940s Baker bought People’s Burial Park on Northeast 28th Street (now called “New Trinity Cemetery”).

baker cd The Baker funeral home continues in operation. (More on local undertakers.)

east baker chapel mug10. In 1908 former slave Henry Baker, father of James Nathan Baker, organized Baker Chapel A.M.E. at his home, where the funeral home his son founded stands today. Today the church is located at 1050 East Humbolt Street. The building dates to 1936. Henry Baker image is from History and Directory of Fort Worth.

east mt zion11. Mount Zion Baptist Church on Evans Avenue was organized in 1894. The grand building, with its two classical porticos, was built in 1922.

mt zion 2-13-22Clip is from the February 13, 1922 Star-Telegram.

east guinn school 1911 1927 195212. The original James E. Guinn School building (Sanguinet and Staats) was built in 1917 at the corner of Rosedale and Louisiana (I-35 displaced Louisiana Street in 1952) to replace School No. 13 (South Side Colored School, see Part 1), which had been built in 1894. Guinn, son of a former slave, was born in 1866 and attended Fort Worth schools. He became principal of School No. 13 in 1900. Upon his death in 1917 the new building was named for him. In 1927 an elementary school building (Clarkson) facing north was added beside the original building. In 1937 a middle school building (Withers) facing east was added. The 1917 building was demolished in 1986. The school closed in 1980. The surviving buildings now house the city’s Business Assistance Center. Bottom photo shows the elementary school on the right, the middle school on the left. The 1917 building was in between on the corner.

east drakes13. Built in midcentury, this building at 951 East Rosedale is a newcomer compared with the others and is in the survivor category only because it is still standing, although boarded up. The building’s two best-known businesses are long gone. About 1946 the Zanzibar Café and Night Club opened there, with performers such as Jackie Wilson and Charlie Pride performing under the building’s retractable roof. In 1975 Irreasa Drake opened Drake’s Cafeteria there. Drake, herself the daughter of a cook, began her career cooking for others in homes and cafes. In 1952 she was a cook for Mrs. Lily Brown at Brown’s Café at 326 East 13th Street. In 1953 she borrowed $89, bought some groceries, and opened her own café: Drake’s Lunch Room at 911 Jones Street. By 1956 her lunch room was at 307 East 9th Street. By 1960 it was at 1064 New York Avenue. In 1975 she moved around the corner to 951 East Rosedale and cooked there the rest of her life, making Drake’s Cafeteria a mainstay of East Side dining. She worked six days a week, cooking from the recipes in her head. On the seventh day she rested and ate out—often at other cafeterias so she could check out the competition and their prices. Irreasa Drake died on August 1, 1990. Her granddaughter Vanzanell Edwards took over the cafeteria, but it closed a number of years ago. Obituary is from the August 3 Star-Telegram.

theater grand theater14. Four blocks east of Drake’s Cafeteria, Grand Theater (1938) on Fabons Street just off Rosedale has not shown a movie in years, but the building still stands as the home of  619 Productions, a charitable arts organization. Across Fabons Street was little Dixie Park with a swimming pool for African Americans.

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Posted in Architecture, Bricks and Martyr, Downtown, Downtown, All Around, East Side, Life in the Past Lane, Public Buildings | Leave a comment

In the Line of Duty (Part 1): The Technology Changes; the Danger Doesn’t

In 2009 a section of Trinity Park was set aside as a memorial to Fort Worth firefighters and police officers who were killed in the line of duty.

The centerpiece of the memorial is bronze statues of a firefighter and a police officer flanking a horse.

The statues are a static depiction of a funeral procession in which a horse follows the casket of a fallen comrade. The boots in the stirrups of the horse’s saddle face backward, symbolizing the fallen comrade looking back at life as he or she rides toward the afterlife. This last rite, in a version in which the horse was sacrificed, may date back to Genghis Khan.

One plaque in the memorial honors John H. Bennett, who on July 31, 1911 was the first firefighter to be killed since the city formally organized the fire department in 1893, according to the Star-Telegram.

bennett longerIn 1911 the fire department still had not replaced its horse-drawn wagons with gasoline-powered trucks. Streets were still unpaved. Buildings were still mostly wooden, wood and coal were burned for heating and cooking, and fires were all too common. The South Side suffered a major fire in 1909, and a year later Fort Worth High School on the South Side burned.

Until 3:30 a.m. July 31, 1911 John H. Bennett’s commute to “the office” had been a short one: He lived at 2812 Lipscomb, two houses south of fire station 10. The scene of the accident—6th Avenue at Weatherbee Street (today’s Allen Avenue)—was about thirteen blocks from Bennett’s fire station 10. A doubletree is part of the apparatus for harnessing two horses. (Clip from the July 31 Star-Telegram incorrectly gives Bennett’s middle initial as M.)

face hayneThe Star-Telegram said John H. Bennett was the first fireman killed since volunteer Al Hayne (see bust) had been killed at the Texas Spring Palace fire of 1890. Hayne has long been honored as a fallen firefighter, but historian Richard Selcer says Hayne was not a Fort Worth volunteer fireman.

bidekerFire Chief William E. Bideker

A fund was established for Bennett. Firemen and their survivors did not have many benefits a century ago. Police officers and firefighters were independent contractors.

After the death of John H. Bennett in 1911, three years would pass before the fire department suffered its second fatality. By 1914 the fire department had changed, modernized. It was using more “auto fire engines,” fewer horse-drawn wagons. It had more neighborhood fire stations. But the dangers had not changed. On July 23, 1914, another fireman—also from station 10—was responding to another South Side fire. A few blocks east of where John H. Bennett had been killed, a tire of the auto fire engine blew out, and a fireman was thrown from the engine and killed. He was Captain Louis E. Ferguson—the man who in 1911 had been John H. Bennett’s captain and who had tried to save Bennett as Bennett was thrown from the horse-drawn wagon.

fire lipscomb10 1910 UTALFire station 10, designed by Sanguinet and Staats and built in 1910, still stands at 2800 Lipscomb Street. Fire stations, like schools, were numbered according to their ward (district). Fire station 10 was in the Tenth Ward. (Old photo from University of Texas at Arlington Library.)

bennett graveJohn H. Bennett is buried in Oakwood Cemetery.

bennett 8-2-11On August 2, 1911 a Star-Telegram reader suggested a memorial to the fallen fireman. It took ninety-eight years, but John H. Bennett finally got his memorial.

In the Line of Duty (Part 2): “He Sees Naught of the Danger There”

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Posted in Heads Above the Crowd, Life in the Past Lane | 6 Comments