Heads Above the Crowd

This summer Fort Worth got a new face to look up to:

arnold face And Major Ripley Allen Arnold is in good company. Some other heads above the crowd around town:

faces jfkJohn F. Kennedy in General Worth Square beside the Hotel Texas.

twainMark Twain in Trinity Park.

tandy charles croppedCharles Tandy at TCU.

clarks croppedCo-founders Addison and Randolph Clark at TCU.

pickett croppedBill Pickett  on Exchange Avenue.

smith john peter croppedJohn Peter Smith on Throckmorton Street.

face hayne tightSpring Palace fire hero Al Hayne on Lancaster Avenue.

rogers and soap suds croppedWill Rogers and Soapsuds on Lancaster Avenue.

Share:Email this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on RedditShare on Tumblr
Posted in About Face, Life in the Past Lane, Public Art | Leave a comment

Jacksboro Highway: Cowtown’s Highway to Hell

For much of America the 1950s were a time of “I Like Ike” and “We Like Short Shorts” and “I Love Lucy.” But out on Jacksboro Highway, the boys in the back rooms liked gambling, they liked prostitution, and they loved cops who looked the other way.

Jacksboro Highway gambler Nelson Harris had practically grown up on the Highway, having worked there in his teens as a club bouncer. Later he joined the Green Dragon narcotics syndicate and did time at Leavenworth.

By 1945 he was out of prison and owned a gambling joint on the Highway: Nelson’s Place.

By 1950 Harris was forty-one years old. His wife, Juanita, was twenty-five years old. On the morning of November 22 the couple got into their car outside their apartment on Wingate Street near University Drive. Juanita Harris was due to give birth the next week.

Then Nelson Harris leaned forward to start the car’s engine. He turned the ignition key. A bottle of nitroglycerin wired to the generator blew the car apart, killing Harris, Juanita, and their unborn child.

harris 11-22-50 piThe Nelson slayings were the lead story on page 1 of the November 22 Star-Telegram.

harris photosharris death cert

“Auto exploded”: During the decade to come out on Jacksboro Highway, the boys in the back rooms would spice up the lives of the people who filled out death certificates.

The bomb that blew apart the car of Nelson and Juanita Harris also blew the lid off Jacksboro Highway’s underworld. Fort Worth’s Highway to Hell would never be the same.

Law enforcement and the public had spent the previous decade looking the other way as the hoodlums who controlled the vice on Jacksboro Highway had killed one another off. But that had been in-fighting. Now, with the Harris murders, someone had killed a woman and an unborn child. The public began to demand action.

The cops had to stop looking the other way.

Vice districts like Jacksboro Highway are organic, not synthetic. No developer plats an area of a city, gets it zoned “S” for “Sodom,” and puts up a billboard proclaiming, “Anything Goes.” Vice districts develop gradually, driven by circumstances. Jacksboro Highway was the reincarnation of Fort Worth’s original vice district, Hell’s Half Acre. But whereas the Acre developed out of the cattle drives that brought men and money into town, Jacksboro Highway developed out of a more complex set of circumstances. National prohibition had ended in 1933, but the Texas legislature had limited the sale of hard liquor. In 1935 Tarrant County ordered all establishments to stop selling whiskey. Jacksboro Highway was Fort Worth’s five-mile strip of Texas Highway 199, which since 1939 had run toward northwest Texas, where many of the counties were dry. Oilfield workers and ranchers—roughnecks and rednecks—in those dry counties came to Fort Worth to gamble and drink on Jacksboro Highway. And the Highway was a two-way street: Moonshiners in Tarrant County serviced those dry counties, running cars that were souped up and loaded down with liquor out the Highway, earning it the nickname “Thunder Road.”

In 1936 Fort Worth celebrated Texas’s first one hundred years with its Frontier Centennial. To make that months-long celebration an economic success, the city winked at illegal gambling and open bars. Cops began looking the other way.

In 1942, with America at war, Fort Worth became the home of Air Force Plant 4. Thousands of men and women worked at the plant building B-24 bombers. At adjacent Fort Worth Army Air Field (later Carswell Air Force Base), more men trained in those B-24s. All those workers with a paycheck to spend and a need to relax worked just three miles from the clubs of Jacksboro Highway.

The neighborhoods where the laborers of the stockyards and packing plants lived were even closer—less than a mile away. Even the high-rolling members of River Crest Country Club lived only three miles away.

rocket ad 1948 fwpSocialites from the West Side, frat boys from TCU looking for adventure, high-stakes professional gamblers, and penny-ante amateurs—the Highway offered something for them all. Clubs included the Four Deuces, 3939 Club, Black Cat, Black Sands, Coconut Grove, Rocket Club, Skyliner, and Showboat. Ad is from a 1948 Fort Worth Press.

candy barr skyliner 55At the Skyliner Club the interpretive dance of terpsichorean Candy Barr enthralled aficionados of the performing arts. Clip is from an August 1955 Star-Telegram.

Such clubs offered dining, dancing, and drinking. Also slot machines, cards, dice, roulette wheels, and bookmaking. And for those who were so inclined, a choice of fights: fist, knife, or gun.

That combination of big money and illegality lured to the Highway a certain class of businessmen. These were men who in a game of word association were less likely to respond to the word chamber with “of Commerce” and more likely to respond with “a revolver has six.”

Big money breeds big enemies. Author Ann Arnold, in her definitive Gamblers & Gangsters, wrote that between 1943 and 1959 nineteen gangland killings took place in Fort Worth. Most of the victims were habitués of the Highway. Most of the murders were never solved.

The clubs on the Highway could be classified as divas or dives. In the diva clubs well-dressed couples were ushered to their tables with deference by men in tuxedos. In the dives drunks were tossed out the back door by bouncers in denim jackets.

The diva clubs featured big-name entertainers: Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys, Andrews Sisters, Paul Whiteman, Dorothy Lamour, Kay Kyser, Tommy Dorsey, Artie Shaw, Benny Goodman, Harry James. The dives had chicken-wire netting stretched in front of the stage to protect musicians such as young Willie Hugh Nelson.

Arguably the top diva club was W. C. “Pappy” Kirkwood’s Four Deuces, a five thousand-square-foot Spanish colonial casino and restaurant. The Four Deuces, so-called because of its 2222 Jacksboro Highway address, was by invitation only. Among the invited: cowboy singer Gene Autry, Speaker of the U.S. House Sam Rayburn, the wife of Star-Telegram publisher Amon Carter, animal collector Frank Buck, and King Ranch board chairman Dick Kleberg.

Tens of thousands of dollars changed hands in a night at the Four Deuces. Not everyone gambled, of course. Some came merely for the ambiance, the food and drink: the best steaks, liquor, and cigars.

Associated Press writer Mike Cochran wrote in 1988 of Kirkwood’s son Pat: “As a youngster growing up on Jacksboro Highway, Pat Kirkwood scrambled atop the roof of his dad’s gambling joint on Saturday nights and assessed the economy by activities along the road below. ‘If it was a three-ambulance evening, money was a little tight,’ he said. ‘But seven or eight ambulances meant everything was OK. People were out spending money and boozing and brawling.’”

Car-bombed gangster Nelson Harris once worked at the Four Deuces as a lookout man.

Into the “dive” category fell an assortment of Highway establishments. Some offered wild life; one offered wildlife. Elmer Sharp ran a private club in his garage. Doyle Brunson, now a member of the Poker Hall of Fame, recalled Sharp from the 1950s in Brunson’s The Godfather of Poker: “Elmer kept a pet bear at the ‘private club’ he ran illegally out of his garage, and if business or brawling was slow, he’d just wrestle that damn bear.”

elmer sharp utaElmer Sharp was solid and square shouldered—a refrigerator with five o’clock shadow. Doyle Brunson recalled, “They claimed the only person in town tougher than Elmer was his mama.” (Photo from University of Texas at Arlington Library.)

Fort Worth suffered a severe case of ambivalence about the Highway, just as it had about Hell’s Half Acre, bewailing its sin one minute and whispering thanks for its economic engine the next minute. Vice brought people to town, put money into circulation. Calls for reform waxed but always waned. Indignation was always followed by resignation.

And then came the car bombing of the Harrises in 1950.

And yet, seldom can one event be singled out as the last straw. More often there are many last straws that eventually make a broom. And the broom begins to sweep. In the case of the Highway, suddenly police began to find gambling where they had found none before. Arrests were made; equipment was confiscated.

Five weeks after Harris and his pregnant wife were killed in November 1950, a grand jury began to investigate their murders. Then investigators found that Harris had left behind a trunk full of business records—records pointing to police payoffs.

jacksboro 3-31-51 dmnThe grand jury widened its investigation to “gaming, bribery, and vice.” After a three-month investigation the grand jury indicted sixty gamblers, most of them Jacksboro Highway operators. Clip is from the March 31, 1951 Dallas Morning News.

Rumors circulated. The grand jury would indict police officers for taking bribes. But a deal was cut. No officers were indicted, but police chief George T. Hawkins was sacrificed: demoted and transferred to the traffic bureau. He had been suspected of taking bribes.

Police never solved the Harris killings.

But even as the broom made of last straws swept the Highway, killings continued. There were three in 1955 alone.

evans 11-2-55 dmnClifton Edell Evans ran a rigged gambling operation and a call-girl business. Police once found four thousand pairs of dice in a raid on his house. In April 1955 Evans disappeared. Police found blood on the front seat of his Cadillac. A few months later police, following a tip, found Evans’s body in a shallow grave not far from Jacksboro Highway. Police Chief Cato Hightower said highway gangsters Cecil Green and Leroy “Tincy” Eggleston, who ran an extortion racket, might have killed Evans to increase their reputation as men to be feared. Clip is from the November 2, 1955 Dallas Morning News.

eggleston 7-11-30 dmn 2Tincy Eggleston (born 1909) was a gangster’s gangster. Beginning in 1926, Eggleston devoted a solid quarter-century to local crime. Clip is from the July 11, 1930 Dallas Morning News.

eggleston 2-19-35 dmnIn 1935 Eggleston, serving thirteen years for robbery, broke out of the Harlem state prison farm. Clip is from the February 19, 1935 Dallas Morning News.

green 5-4-55 dmnEggleston associate Cecil Green also had been a suspect in the Harris car bombing. In May 1955 Green was gunned down at his sister’s By-Way Tavern on the Highway. Police suspected the hit man was highway habitué Gene Paul Norris but could not prove it. Eggleston and Green also were suspects in the William Clark murder case. Clip is from the May 4, 1955 Dallas Morning News.

Mike Cochran in 1988 quoted Cleon Nettles’s memory of the Highway: “When someone got too big for his britches, he just disappeared . . . and they’d find him in a well.” And so it was for Eggleston, who ran a gambling operation on the Highway in addition to the extortion racket with Cecil Green. In 1950, just hours after the Harris car bombing, Eggleston had called police to report that he had just found a similar bomb in his car. Some insiders had suspected that Eggleston had killed the Harrises and then had rigged his own car with a bomb to divert suspicion.

eggleston googleEggleston was listed in the 1955 city directory as a “cattleman” living with wife Walterine in a modest house on Beddell Avenue on the South Side.

On a day in August 1955 Eggleston left Walterine and that modest house to meet an extortion victim for a payoff. The next day Eggleston’s bloodstained car was discovered.

eggleston 9-1-55 piA few days later Eggleston’s body was found in an abandoned well east of the Highway.

No one was ever tried for the murder. The Highway’s gangland slayings were always front-page news at the Star-Telegram. Clip is from September 1, 1955.

eggleston wbap footageFrames from WBAP-TV news footage of the time show Eggleston, his bloodstained car, and the recovery of his body from the well.

jacksboro eggleston 55 deceasedConsidering how much time Tincy Eggleston spent touring Texas prisons, it’s a wonder he managed to work so much crime into his short life.

price daniel 9-2-55 dmnAfter these three gangland killings, a Texas Senate committee investigating narcotics added Fort Worth’s underworld to its to-do list. Clip is from the September 2, 1955 Dallas Morning News.

And the body count continued to rise. In 1956 gambler Charles Frank Cates, who had been questioned in the Harris car bombing, was in a house behind Chenault’s Dining Place on the Highway. He was counting money when the phone rang. Cates picked up the receiver, and the house exploded. Under the house police found wires that ran 250 feet down Jacksboro Highway. Police suspected that one man had phoned Cates from a phone booth on the Highway and that another man in a car nearby had detonated the bomb when signaled by the first man. Cates survived. A few weeks later he received another phone call. He told his wife he had to go meet a man. Police found Cates’s shotgunned body within a mile of the well that had yielded the body of Tincy Eggleston.

cates death cert“Shotgun blast”: the death certificate of Charles Frank Cates.

norris 4-30-57 dmnBy 1957, as the broom of last straws continued to sweep the Highway, Gene Paul Norris was on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list. And he had achieved that ranking before he planned the biggest crime of his career. Norris planned to rob a bank. But not just any bank: the branch of Fort Worth National Bank that was located in Carswell Air Force Base and held the base’s payroll of $225,000 ($1.8 million today). But police found out about the plan, and when Norris and his accomplice made a practice run along their escape route, police were waiting. Norris was killed in a shootout with police after a high-speed chase on—where else?—Jacksboro Highway. Clip is from the April 30, 1957 Dallas Morning News.

norris 4-30-57 piPolice Chief Cato Hightower said that with the death of Norris police could close the books on nine local murders, including those of Eggleston, Green, and Cates.

“He was a madman,” Hightower said of Norris. Clip is from the April 30 Star-Telegram.

(Longtime local residents will recognize the byline of this grisly crime story. Before Elston Brooks was an entertainment columnist of the Star-Telegram he was a police reporter during Fort Worth’s gangland era. )

After the 1951 grand jury named names, the IRS also became interested in business-as-usual on the Highway. Gamblers and gangsters didn’t report their illegal income, of course. Likewise, city and county employees who were on the take didn’t report their bribes. But they often spent far more than the income they did report. That discrepancy interested investigators. Some gamblers were convicted of tax evasion.

By the time Gene Paul Norris was killed in 1957—seven years after the Harris car bombing—the Highway was reaching the end of the road. The world—big and small—was changing. In the big world, the postwar economic boom gave people less motive to gamble to get rich quick, to take a chance on repercussions, legal and otherwise. In the small world, the crackdown on vice on Jacksboro Highway was putting an end to business-as-usual. Many of the Mr. Bigs had been killed or jailed. And the Highway’s high rollers now had an option: They could pack up deck and dice and move to Las Vegas.

Finally came a public works project: Jacksboro Highway was widened. The city, invoking eminent domain, removed with a bulldozer what had not already been removed by indictment, bullet, or bomb.

Now the nightclubs are gone. Even the diva Four Deuces was demolished, despite attempts to preserve it for its historical and architectural significance.

jacksboro rocket 1A survivor is the Rocket Club building. The building, with its canvas roof over the dance floor that retracted so couples could dance under the stars, was converted into a muffler and welding shop.

jacksboro avalon 1One block north is the Avalon Motor Court, once owned by gangster Asher Rone, who also owned the Black Cat Café next door. Gangster Elmer Sharp, who worked for Rone, once interrupted an assignation with a waitress at the Avalon to run next door in his boxer shorts to beat up four men who were robbing Rone.

The Avalon survives as a respectable motel.

Today the Highway to Hell is the highway to fast-food outlets, small used car lots, propane distributors, and other small, decidedly prosaic businesses. For example, now located at 5811 Jacksboro Highway, just a block from where bored Elmer Sharp wrestled his pet bear at 5717, is an establishment that would have thrived on the Highway to Hell in the 1950s: Fort Worth Monument Company, crafter of quality tombstones.

graves(Photos from Find A Grave.)

Share:Email this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on RedditShare on Tumblr
Posted in Advertising, Crime, Life in the Past Lane | 30 Comments

How Times (Pocket) Change: When a Dime Store Could Be a Work of Art

His was a fortune built on change: nickels, dimes, and quarters. In 1896 Samuel H. Kress (1863-1955) opened a “5-10 and 25 cent” store in Memphis. The S. H. Kress Company thrived and eventually had a chain of 250 stores across the country.

kress opens 5-4-5 teleFort Worth’s first Kress store opened May 5, 1905 at 813 Houston Street. Two prominent cattlemen, brothers George T. Reynolds and William D. Reynolds, built the first Kress building to Kress specifications. Clip is from the May 4 Telegram.

kress 1905 building utaThis University of Texas at Arlington Library photo of a “5-10 and 25 cent” Kress store in Fort Worth has no date, but the building may be the first Kress store at 813 Houston.

kress 05 cdIn the 1905 city directory variety stores were listed as “racket stores.”

kress ad 7-23-05 teleAd is from the July 23, 1905 Telegram.

kress fedexIn 1911 the store moved a block south to a larger location in the two-story Shelton Building (1900) at 901 Houston Street (where FedEx Office is today). A third floor and a parapet with “KRESS” in a name block were added. (Top photo from University of Texas at Arlington Library.)

The east side of Houston Street became bargain central for shoppers. Other bargain stores were McCrory’s (at 401 Houston where the Westbrook is today), F. W. Woolworth at 501 Houston, and W. T. Grant at 611 Houston.

kress ad 8-7-19 stFull-page ad is from the August 7, 1919 Star-Telegram. Boy’s moleskin pants 50 cents, Mary Jane pumps $1.25, boy’s suit with Peter Pan collar, silk cord, and tassels $1.98.

kress to open august 13 36Fast forward seventeen years and scooch back north three blocks. In 1936 the Kress company built a fine new store at 605 Houston/604 Main. Kress wanted his buildings to be viewed as public art. The Fort Worth building, like more than fifty other Kress buildings, was designed in art deco style by Kress head architect Edward F. Sibbert. The Fort Worth building, like several other surviving Kress buildings, is listed on the National Register.

The store opened on August 14, 1936. On August 13 the Star-Telegram wrote that only the Kress stores in New York and Nashville could rival the Fort Worth store. The Fort Worth store featured the latest in air conditioning, lighting, and ventilation. Interior materials included marble from Italy and zebrawood from Africa. Solid bronze was used for doors, stair railings, and other decorative metalwork.

kress electric 1936In the August 13 Star-Telegram Texas Electric Service Company swooned over the Kress Building’s air conditioning and modern lighting.

kress full page 1936This full-page ad in the August 13 Star-Telegram showed the progression of buildings during the store’s thirty-one years downtown.

kress photo 1946 NREclectic Avenue: This W. D. Smith photo of 1946 shows, from left, the 1915 Fort Worth Club Building (now the Ashton Hotel), the 1890 Winfree Building (second location of the White Elephant), Kress, and Cox in the much-remodeled 1895 Scott-Harrold Building (as in Winfield Scott). (Photo from University of Texas at Arlington Library.)

kress interior 1957 NRThis photo from University of Texas at Arlington Library was taken in 1957.

kress moving 12-16-60 dmnBut three years later a different kind of change came to the five-and-dime store. By 1960 people were shopping more in suburban stores and less downtown. The downtown Kress store closed on December 31, 1960. The building was converted to lofts in 2006. Clip is from the December 16, 1960 Dallas Morning News.

Some more views of the Kress Building:

kress all 3The intersection of Main and 5th streets is art deco junction. On the southeast corner is the Blackstone Hotel. On the northwest corner is the Sinclair Building. And across Main from the Blackstone is the Kress Building.

kress 3 in glassClass on glass: The art deco triumvirate from left to right, Blackstone, Sinclair, and Kress reflected in a wall of the 777 Main Building.

kress main sidekress houston frontThe Kress building is unusual in that it stretches two hundred feet from Main (top photo) to Houston (bottom photo) with entrances on each street but is not on a corner lot.

kress bricksRough brickwork is now exposed where the north wall of the Kress Building rubbed shoulders with the south wall of the Scott-Harrold Building. Sometime in the 1990s the 1895 Scott-Harrold building was demolished and reincarnated as a parking lot.

kress glasskress main doorskress bulbskress handrailkress railingkress freight elevator

kress buttonskress vertical

kress topkress in trees

Share:Email this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on RedditShare on Tumblr
Posted in Advertising, Architecture, Art Decow, Class on Glass, Downtown, Downtown, All Around, Public Buildings | 1 Comment

Central Post Office: Still Letter Perfect

As the decade of the 1930s progressed, the firm of architect Wyatt Hedrick continued to pack the hottest drafting pencil in the West.

hedrick lancasterHedrick was turning a three-block stretch of Lancaster Avenue into a showcase of his artistry on a grand scale. His Texas and Pacific passenger terminal and Texas and Pacific freight terminal had opened in 1931. In 1933 his central post office would open. Inside and out, the post office would remain among the most photogenic buildings in town.

post office 11-20-30 dmnPlanning for the ambitious project began in 1930. On November 19 Hedrick presented preliminary sketches to the Treasury Department’s supervising architect. (Front Street soon would be renamed “Lancaster Avenue” in honor of T&P president John L. Lancaster.) Clip is from the November 20 Dallas Morning News.

post office 1-26-31 dmnOn January 25, 1931 Hedrick announced that construction bids on the $1.24 million ($17 million today) job would be advertised soon. Clip is from the January 26, 1931 Dallas Morning News.

Some views of Wyatt Hedrick’s central post office:

post office wide

columns central postFor the post office Hedrick began with beaux arts and classical styles, . . .

look up main post office cow capital look up main post office 1933but gave the building a Cowtown overlay.

detail post officeTable leg in the lobby.

ceiling main post2Lobby ceiling.

mythical main post officelight post office

columns main post officecorner post office selook up main post office detail 2look up post office door 2animals post office lightFeet of a lamp post.

lion main postlight main post inside footFeet of a lamp base in the lobby.

door post office detailOrnamentation on an entrance.

Share:Email this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on RedditShare on Tumblr
Posted in Architecture, Downtown, Downtown, All Around, Public Buildings | 2 Comments

Standing at the Corner of Choice and Chance

In 1883 Fort Worth built a grand opera house.

cannon sanbornThe opera house (“B” on map) was located at the intersection of Rusk (Commerce) and 3rd streets between the Natatorium (“A”) and the mystery hotel of Dr. Henry Howard Holmes (“C”).

cannon opera houseBy 1900 the opera house had been renamed “Greenwall’s Opera House.” (Photo from Greater Fort Worth, 1907.)

cannon 9-12On September 12, 1900 the Fort Worth Register reminded readers that the Aubrey stock company that night would present at the opera house a melodrama, The Red, White and Blue, based on the Spanish-American War of 1898.

cannon census 1900Seven blocks from the opera house, on West Weatherford Street, was the grocery store of Wade Tanner. Wade’s brother Percy worked in the store and lived on Mills Street with Wade’s family.

On that night of September 12 Percy Tanner stood at the intersection of Rusk and 3rd streets, just outside the opera house entrance, and for him it was the intersection of Choice and Chance. Like all of us, he had an infinite number of choices. He could have chosen to walk across 3rd Street to the Natatorium and taken a chance on suffering leg cramps and drowning in the pool. He could have chosen to proceed south on Rusk into Hell’s Half Acre and taken a chance on being stabbed in a barroom brawl. He could have chosen to walk west to Main Street and taken a chance on being hit by a streetcar.

But no, Percy Tanner chose to walk into the opera house to see the play The Red, White and Blue. Once inside the opera house he made his way up the stairs to the balcony, took his seat, and watched the stage as the curtain rose.

[Enter CHANCE, stage left.]

cannon percy killed 9-13-00 regIn its September 13 edition the Register reported that on the previous night an opera house patron watching The Red, White and Blue from the balcony had been killed when a wooden cannon on stage exploded during the last act just before the curtain rang down. The patron was hit by flying debris of the cannon.

Percy Tanner was twenty-eight years old.

cannon indicted 9-16-00 regThe legal system acted quickly. On September 16 the Register reported that the stock company’s manager and property man were indicted for committing negligent homicide by unlawfully discharging a cannon in the city limits.

cannon thorne on trial 9-20-00 regOn September 20 the Register reported on the trial of the property man, who described how the accident occurred.

cannon acquitted 9-21-00 dmnThe Dallas Morning News reported on September 21 that the property man had been acquitted. The trial of the stock company manager was held over to the next term of the court. He apparently never stood trial for negligent homicide.

cannon $ awarded 4-3 regBut the family of Percy Tanner filed a civil suit against the opera house and against the stock company. On April 2, 1901 the Tanners were awarded damages of $6,000 ($165,000 today) from the stock company. Clip is from the April 3 Register.

cannon grave 1900Young Percy Tanner, who had stood at the intersection of Choice and Chance and had taken a seat in the balcony of the opera house that night wanting only to be entertained, is buried in Oakwood Cemetery.

Share:Email this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on RedditShare on Tumblr
Posted in Cities of the Dead, Downtown, Downtown, All Around, Life in the Past Lane | Leave a comment

Sinclair Building: Oil Built It, Art Imbues It

The intersection of Main and 5th streets is Fort Worth’s art deco junction.

sinclair all 3On the southeast corner is the Blackstone Hotel. On the northwest corner is the Sinclair Building. And across Main from the Blackstone is the Kress Building (1936).

art deco sinclair

The Sinclair Building was built in 1930 by oilman Richard Otto Dulaney, president of Planet Petroleum Company and Fort Ring Oil and Gas Company, and designed by architect Wiley Clarkson. (Dulaney in 1927 had built the Petroleum Building, designed by architect Wyatt Hedrick.)

sinclair from dulaney 7-12-30 dmnOn July 11, 1930 another oil company—Sinclair—announced that it would open its southwestern headquarters on October 1 in the Dulaney Building, which henceforth would be called the “Sinclair Building.” Clip is from the July 12 Dallas Morning News.

sinclair wbap 11-17-30 dmnOn November 17, 1930 the Dallas Morning News radio schedule showed that WBAP would broadcast the formal opening of the Sinclair Building at 10:15 a.m., right after “Amos ’n’ Andy.”

sinclair dulaney EBOn Elizabeth Boulevard stands Richard Otto Dulaney’s home (1923), thought to have been designed by Hedrick.

Some views of the Sinclair Building:

sinclair barber polesinclair ceiling

sinclair lobbysinclair windowsinclair marker

sinclair verticalart deco sinclair diamond

art deco sinclair entryart deco sinclair night

art deco sinclair elevatorart deco sinclair detail 2art deco sinclair detail2

art deco kress sinclairDeux decos: the Kress Building and the Sinclair Building.

Share:Email this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on RedditShare on Tumblr
Posted in Architects, Architecture, Art Decow, Downtown, Downtown, All Around | 2 Comments

At Seven Stories (or Ten) (or Eleven), It Was High Finance

Martin Bottom Loyd founded First National Bank of Fort Worth in 1877 on Houston Street at 2nd.

first national previousFirst National’s second home was built about 1900 on Houston Street at 7th. (Image from Greater Fort Worth, 1907.)

first national to build 11-15-08 teleOn November 15, 1908 the Telegram announced that First National Bank would build a third home on the site of the second. The new building would be seven stories tall. Architects were Sanguinet and Staats.

first national sketch 3-7-9 stBut on March 7, 1909 the Star-Telegram announced that the building would be a vertiginous ten stories—the tallest building in Fort Worth. A pure-dee skyscraper!

first national daggett 6-19-09 teleThe new building went up quickly. The old bank building had not been torn down until late February. But on June 19 the Star-Telegram printed a photo of the completed steel frame. For contrast, floating beside the frame was a small photo of E. B. Daggett, son of early civic leader Ephraim Merrell Daggett and father of Jeff Daggett. The caption says that in 1857 E. B. Daggett at age nineteen helped build the first brick building in Fort Worth, for which work he was paid $2.50 a day and spent it all on “ginger cake and soda pop.”

first national pebbles 9-29-9 stOn September 29, 1909 the Star-Telegram reported that a drunk had climbed to the top of the “skyscraper” and dropped pebbles onto passersby below. Note that now the building is described as eleven stories tall.

first national list 2-14-10 stOn February 14, 1910 the Star-Telegram reported that a time capsule containing the names of bank employees had been placed in the masonry in the lobby of the new building. The capsule was to be opened and updated in fifty years.

first national moves in 2-16-10 stTwo days later, on February 16, 1910 the employees of First National Bank moved into the “magnificent new skyscraper.” In a few days a few tons of gold and silver would be moved to the new vault.

When bank founder Loyd died in 1912 his last words reportedly were about his bank’s new home: “Damn my soul, you’ll never fill that building.”

building first national with cardHis bank would not only “fill that building” but also in 1926 would double its size. The 1910 building (see postcard) was only fifty feet wide along Houston Street—the width of three columns of windows. Architect Wyatt Hedrick, a protégé of Sanguinet and Staats, designed an expansion that widened the front facade by three identical columns of windows.

In 2003 XTO Energy bought the building and restored it. The building was renamed the “Bob Simpson Building” in honor of the XTO cofounder.

Some views of First National Bank:

look up simpson dentil

corner simpsonbuilding bob simpson

night simpson cornernight simpson 3night simpson frontnight simpson boblook up simpson verticallook up simpson grillelook up simpson detaillook up simpson capitalglass simpsonclocks first national

Share:Email this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on RedditShare on Tumblr
Posted in Architects, Architecture, Downtown, Downtown, All Around, Life in the Past Lane | 2 Comments