Connections: From Nutt Lake to Reddy Kilowatt

Google aerial photos are taken and presented to us using the latest in technology, of course: satellites and the Internet. But once in a while the labels on these photos are downright antediluvian. For example, below is a recent Google aerial photo of the courthouse, Trinity River, and Paddock Viaduct:

power google nuttThose of you familiar with the area may be scratching your head over two labels on the photo:

1. Franklin Street once connected the north end of Houston Street downtown with Courthouse Avenue (today’s White Settlement Road) via the Franklin Street Bridge over the river. What is labeled “Franklin Street” on the photo is just a path alongside the river between North Taylor Street and Tarrant County College’s Trinity River Campus East.

2. There is no Nutt Lake east of the Paddock Viaduct.

power 52 aerialAh, but for about forty years there was a Nutt Dam on the Trinity River just west of the viaduct. So, I guess that technically you could called water impounded by Nutt Dam “Nutt Lake,” although I have yet to see that place name on an old map or in old newspaper articles. I have located the dam on the 1952 aerial with a yellow N. The dam also is shown on maps of 1915 (center) and 1939 (bottom). (Map details from Pete Charlton’s “1000+ Lost Antique Maps of Texas & the Southwest on DVD-ROM.”).

The dam was removed soon after the 1952 aerial photo was taken as the Corps of Engineers dredged and straightened the river channel and built levees for flood control in response to the flood of 1949.

power dam todayBut it appears that a remnant of Nutt Dam has survived. This week while poking around that area I found this section of iron pipe railing atop a concrete abutment sixty feet west of the viaduct on the south bank of the river. The railing and abutment were partially obscured by vegetation (and are located just a few feet off that “Franklin Street” path).

power water over nutt dam 9-15-11Compare that photo with this September 5, 1911 Star-Telegram photo showing water running over Nutt Dam. Note the iron pipe railing on both ends of the dam. In the background is the North Main Street iron bridge, which the Paddock Viaduct would replace in 1914.

power dam 2 NsThe yellow N in the 1952 aerial (inset) shows the location of Nutt Dam. The yellow N in the contemporary Google aerial shows the location of the iron pipe railing atop a concrete abutment that I photographed this week.

But, you ask, what connection could there be between Nutt Lake and Reddy Kilowatt?

power nutt buys 8-23-10Enter the man himself: Joseph Randolph Nutt (1869-1945) of Cleveland, Ohio. In this August 23, 1910 Star-Telegram clip don’t let that word cashier fool you. Nutt was not a cashier in the “next window please” sense. Nutt was a friend of President Herbert Hoover, treasurer of the Republican National Committee from 1928 to 1933, and a financier. For example, Nutt bought Fort Worth’s two electric companies and announced that he would build a $1 million ($24.6 million today) generating plant for his new Fort Worth Power & Light Company near the confluence of the West and Clear forks of the river. An adjunct of the generating plant would be Nutt Dam on the river south of the plant and just west of the North Main Street bridge.

power nut mug and house 1912Joseph Randolph Nutt and his house in Cleveland, which he built as he was building the Fort Worth generating plant.

power sanborn 1911This 1911 Sanborn map, printed soon after Nutt bought Fort Worth Light & Power Company, shows the old generating plant with a new name at East 6th and Calhoun streets. Note the railroad spur in East 7th Street to deliver fuel to the plant.

power ground 5-16-11On May 15, 1911 ground was broken—with a plow—on the new plant, which by then had a $1.5 million price tag. At 250 feet the plant’s smokestack would be taller than any building in town. Clip is from the May 16 Dallas Morning News.

The new generating plant was just part of a building boom in Fort Worth, spurred in part by the Stockyards and packing plants. The intersection of the river and North Main Street was an especially busy place: In December 1912 work on the Paddock Viaduct began. The city was also building four other bridges over the river.

In addition Fort Worth was building the West Fork reservoir (later named “Lake Worth”). In September 1911 the city awarded a contract of $512,982 ($12.6 million today) for the dam and a pipeline to carry water six miles to the city. Work began on September 25, 1911, and the lake was filled on August 19, 1914. Lake Worth was built, in part, in response to the South Side fire of 1909.

power 225 mil gallons nutt dam 7-14-11This Star-Telegram clip of July 14, 1911 says Nutt Dam would hold 225 million gallons of water.

power 7 miles 5-1-13 dmnNutt Dam was only twelve feet high, but it and the mighty Lake Worth dam allowed the city to control the level of the river. Indeed, this Star-Telegram clip from May 1, 1913 shows that the West Fork was now navigable in a small launch from Nutt Dam seven miles upstream, which would have been about to the Lake Worth dam.

But J. R. Nutt built his eponymous dam to provide water for the steam necessary for his new generating plant. Because the river was confined between the high bluffs on the south and the generating plant on the north, any “Nutt Lake” formed behind the dam could not have been very wide.

power to open 6-23-12On June 23, 1912 the Star-Telegram announced that the plant would open September 1. Such predictions are rarely accurate. The plant was completed in early 1913. Note that the clip says the original building measured only 98 by 102 feet.

power sharing 8-6-12On August 6 1912 the Star-Telegram announced that Fort Worth would become the “Southwest’s greatest electric center” as the new plant supplied electricity to cities 150 miles south.

power spread 9-15-12On September 15, 1912 the Star-Telegram ran this feature about the plant as it neared completion, showing the coal hoist, the turbines, the tall arched windows. The story said “not a piece of wood has been used in this building, even the window frames being of steel.” Note that vice president was cattleman George T. Reynolds, who lived for sixteen years with an Indian arrowhead in his back.

power double capacity 5-30-13 dmnOn May 30, 1913, not long after the plant began operation, the Dallas Morning News announced that the plant would be enlarged to double its generating capacity. A second smokestack and more boilers would be installed.

power sanborn 1926By 1926 this is what the power plant looked like, with numerous water and oil tanks, cooling towers, and three concrete chimneys (labeled “conc ch”). Note the railroad tracks to deliver fuel from the north.

power reddy 4-27-37 dmnIn 1929 Texas Electric Service Company (TESCO) took over the plant. Reddy Kilowatt came along in the 1930s as the perky corporate spokesbolt for electric companies like TESCO and Dallas Power & Light. Clip is from the April 27, 1937 Dallas Morning News.

reddyBy 1948 Reddy had the appearance that is more familiar to us. Clip is from the Fort Worth Press.

Reddy Kilowatt-Music-LoResSee a Reddy Kilowatt TV commercial.

TESCO became a subsidiary of Texas Utilities Electric Company in 1984. In 1999 “TXU” became the new name. TXU shut down the generating plant about 2000. About 2004 Tarrant County College District bought the property when TCCD envisioned building a trans-Trinity River campus downtown. That didn’t happen, but TCCD still owns the property. The last of the plant’s four tall smokestacks were torn down in 2005. The interior has been gutted. Now the old power plant sits in neglect, its future doubly uncertain because of the ambitious Panther Island “urban waterfront neighborhood” planned for that area. Coincidentally, Panther Island will include a thirty-three-acre Town Lake just upstream from where Nutt Dam was. As for the historic power plant, will it be demolished, or could the former home of Fort Worth Power & Light be renovated to find a second life as a centerpiece of Panther Island? Panther Power!

Somewhere amid all this change Reddy Kilowatt, too, disappeared, perhaps taking early retirement to go fishing, maybe on Nutt Lake.

Some views of the generating plant:

power from paddockView from the viaduct.

window power plant

power 4 windowspower window archpower stack basesBases of six cooling towers.

power smallpower sidespower corner

power barbed wireThe old plant has taken on a prison-like appearance.

power under archThe power plant seen from under an arch of the viaduct.

power 3 iconsThree historicons: the power plant, the viaduct, and the courthouse.

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Posted in Advertising, Architecture, Century Club, Downtown, Downtown, All Around, Life in the Past Lane, Rollin' on the River | Leave a comment

Hello, Walls: When Corners Are a Canvas

Call it “artitecture”: the art that architects create in the design of our public buildings. Here are six artistic corners of buildings, all at least eighty-five years old.

corner hotel texas 2012Hotel Texas (Sanguinet and Staats, 1921).

corner binyonBinyon-O’Keefe Storage (Sanguinet and Staats, 1917).

corner flatironFlatiron (Sanguinet and Staats, 1907).

corner fort worth clubFort Worth Club (Sanguinet and Staats, 1926).

corner gasLone Star Gas (Hedrick, 1929).

corner woolworthWoolworth Building (Clarkson, 1926).

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Of Poetry and Doughetry

Everyone knows there’s just no bread in poetry, but sometimes there’s poetry in bread. Well, at least in the breadmeister.

eagle 1900 censusWalter Joseph Doherty was born in County Kerry, Ireland in 1861 and came to Texas at age twenty. Clip is from the 1900 census.

eagle-makers 1Image is from Makers of Fort Worth, 1914.

88By 1888 Doherty operated a grocery store on the near South Side on South Main at Ireland Street. Ireland Street is now Cannon Street. Clip is from the city directory.

eagle photo 10-22-08In the late 1890s Doherty founded the Eagle Steam Bakery on South Main. His bakery would become, in those pre-Minnie Baird days, one of the largest in the Southwest, capable of baking twenty-five thousand loaves of bread a day. Deliveries were made by horse and wagon. Clip is from the October 22, 1908 Telegram.

eagle naturalized 9-20-6On September 20, 1906 the Telegram reported that Doherty had become a naturalized citizen.

eagle 10-22-8This ad in the November 22, 1908 Telegram by Fort Worth’s Medlin Milling Company called Doherty’s bakery the largest in Texas.

eagle-makers 2This caricature of Doherty, also from Makers of Fort Worth, alludes to his other interest: writing poetry.

eagle poems 1907 1909These poems were printed in the Telegram in 1907 and Star-Telegram in 1909. Like the poetry of the Burma-Shave roadside signs that began in 1925, each Doherty poem, no matter how sentimental, ended with a plug for his products.

eagle census 6-15-11In 1911 the “bigger is better” Star-Telegram offered $10 for the best poem about “Why will Texas lead all other states in population when the 1920 census is taken?” Doherty listed Texas’s mineral resources and also seemed to allude to the Houston Ship Channel, which opened in 1914. (In the 1920 census Texas would be fifth in population.) Clip is from June 15.

eagle feature 11-21-15 stOn November 21, 1915 the Star-Telegram published a feature about Doherty, describing how the “barefooted Irish school boy” in Killarney exasperated the schoolmaster—to the point of cane thrashings—by surreptitiously scribbling lines of poetry instead of applying himself to his lessons in spelling or long division. “Three delightful little volumes” of Doherty’s poems had been published “within the past few years,” the newspaper wrote.  His later poetry, the newspaper said, was “tinged with a sadness” after the death of his daughter Mary Cecilia in 1910 at age twenty.

eagle el paso 1907 cdDoherty prospered and lived on El Paso Street on Quality Hill. Neighbors included attorney James Swayne and millionaire cattleman George Reynolds. Clip is from the 1907 city directory.

eagle obit 10-30-34 dmnW. J. Doherty died in 1934. Clip is from the October 30 Dallas Morning News.

eagle graveWalter Joseph Doherty is buried in the Calvary section of Oakwood Cemetery.

Some views of the Eagle Steam Bakery Building (Weinman, 1895) on South Main, built on the site of Doherty’s grocery store of the 1880s:

building eaglelook up eagle 1

corner eagle 2Beautiful brickwork.

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Cool It! Pull Up a Porch and Sit a Spell

Now that the summer heat has moderated, and we can sit outside without the need for a body squeegee, it’s porch weather. Here are some porches (all of them at least eighty years old) seen downtown and on all four sides of town:

porch allenHouse (1920) on Allen Street on the near East Side. Note the half-cove shingles.

porch grand ross 1917Waddy R. Ross house (1917) on Park Street at Grand Avenue on the North Side.

porch on mayHouse (1920) on May Street on the near South Side.

porch dulaneyOilman Richard Otto Dulaney’s house (1923) on Elizabeth Boulevard.

porch st. pat rectoryRectory (1908) of St. Patrick Cathedral.

porch talbott-wallTalbott-Wall house (1903) on Samuels Avenue.

porch pollock-cappsPollock-Capps (1899) house on Penn Street, named for physician Joseph Pollock and attorney William Capps.

porch hi mount 1925House (1925) on Bunting Avenue in Hi Mount on the near West Side.

“Well,” I hear an indignant lady on College Avenue sniff, “these are all well and good, but what about Fairmount? Why is it not represented here?”

Fairmount, a veritable showroom of sitter-certified porches, will be the subject of its own porchapalooza here after the Ides of March.

Can’t wait that long? Then try Sit a Spell and Raise a Glass of Tea to Front Porches Past

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Posted in Architecture, Casas Grande, Downtown, Downtown, All Around, East Side, North Side, Sitting Pretty, South Side, West Side | 2 Comments

“Sound the Hewgag”: Turning Gold Into Good Works

Scottish-born industrialist Andrew Carnegie was an alchemist: First he turned steel into gold. A lot of gold. And then he turned gold into good works: In 1886 he began to use the fortune he made in the steel industry to build public libraries in towns across the country.

Carnegie mugThen, in 1901, when he sold Carnegie Steel Company to J. P. Morgan for $480 million ($13.6 billion today), that transaction brought Carnegie’s checking account balance to a tidy $310 billion-with-a-b in today’s dollars. That’s when Andrew Carnegie retired and really began turning gold into good works. For example, he gave away $40 million (about $1 billion today) to build more than sixteen hundred public libraries in cities across America, from sixty-seven branch libraries in New York City to thirty-two central libraries in Texas in towns from El Paso to Marshall. Of the thirty-two built in Texas, only thirteen have survived, and only four of those are still used as libraries. (Photo from Wikipedia.)

Fort Worth was an early beneficiary of Carnegie’s philanthropy.

carn meeting 10-4-92 gazBut first some background: In 1892 twenty women, led by Jenny Scheuber, had formed the Fort Worth Public Library Association. But without a library building, the association’s work was more theory than practice. Members met in private homes, such as that of John Peter Smith. Clip is from the October 4, 1892 Gazette.

carn no need 1-10-97 regIn fact, this column by “Helen Humility” in the January 10, 1897 Register indicates that some folks didn’t see much need for a public library. One prominent capitalist—a man—said the libraries at the YMCA and Commercial Club were “little used.” But those were male facilities. The Commercial Club was a men’s club that changed its name to the “Fort Worth Club” in 1906.

In the late 1890s the women of the library association asked for help from Carnegie. Carnegie is said to have suggested that the women ask each man in Fort Worth to donate “the price of a good cigar” to cover the cost of operating a library. When the city guaranteed $4,000 a year to operate a library, Carnegie made his donation.

carn offer 7-26-99 regOn July 26, 1899 Mayor and Cowtown head cheerleader B. B. Paddock announced that Carnegie had responded favorably to the women’s appeal: Fort Worth could receive $50,000 ($1.3 million today) to build a public library. Paddock was ecstatic: “Sound the hewgag. Blow the ram’s horn. Proclaim it from the housetops!” Clip is from the Register.

carn accepted 7-27-99 regThat night at a mass meeting Mayor Paddock made the motion that Carnegie’s offer be accepted. Paddock’s motion was seconded, and lo, a most unlibrary-like commotion did ensue: “Bedlam broke loose, and never before was such an enthusiastic uproar heard in the vicinity of the city hall.” Clip is from the July 27 Register.

carn messer 9-24-99 regIn September the city advertised for construction bids. Herbert H. Greene of Dallas was the architect. British-born architect Howard Messer was consulting architect and superintendent. Messer designed the Ball-Eddleman-McFarland house (1899) on Penn Street. (Marshall Sanguinet designed the Carnegie libraries in Dallas and Leavenworth, Kansas.) Clip is from the September 24, 1899 Register.

carn corner 6-14-00 dmnMrs. Sarah Jennings (as in the street name) donated land for the building. The cornerstone was laid on June 13, 1900. This clip from the June 14 Dallas Morning News says the Fort Worth library was the second Carnegie library to be built in Texas.

carn opens 1-18-01 regOn October 17, 1901, Fort Worth’s Carnegie Public Library opened. The building also contained an art gallery. Jenny Scheuber of the library association served as librarian—for the next thirty-seven years. Note the library’s generous operating hours at the bottom. Clip is from the October 18 Register.

Some views of the Carnegie Public Library:

carn sanbornThe library faced across 9th Street toward Hyde Park and the 1907 Flatiron Building. Across Throckmorton Street were the 1893 city hall and the 1899 fire hall. (The footprints of the Flatiron and the 1906 Western National Bank buildings at West 9th and Houston conform to odd-shaped lots.)

carn swartz widePhoto by Fort Worth photographer Charles Swartz (Library of Congress).

carn details locSome details of the frieze.

building carnegie library floorplanImage from Library of Congress.

carn teddy close swartz UTALUnder one of those top hats is President Theodore Roosevelt, possibly the gent doffing with right hand near the center of the photo (see inset). During a visit to Fort Worth in 1905 Roosevelt planted a tree at the library. Photo was taken by the ubiquitous Charles Swartz and dated April 8. Six months later, on October 6, Charles Swartz would be struck and killed by a Katy locomotive as he was taking photos. (Photo from University of Texas at Arlington Library.)

(More on the Swartz brothers:

parking lot carnegie libraryFort Worth’s Carnegie Public Library was demolished in 1936. On the site was built the 1939 wedge-shaped library, which was demolished in 1990. The current central library on 3rd Street was built in 1978.

carn cornerstone todayThe cornerstone, whose inscription is a who’s who of civic leaders, stands on the site of the library.

carn markerNote that the historical marker on the site was placed when the 1939 library still stood.

Oh, and a hewgag is a toy musical pipe.

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On This Date a Century Ago: Moos, Booze, and High-Button Shoes

On October 13, 1914 you could read all about it in the Star-Telegram: The Braves were in Boston; the Athletics were in Philadelphia; the Stock Show was on the North Side, Buffalo Bill was on his way, and Gavrilo Princip was in deep trouble.

10-13-14 world seriesThe Boston Braves had swept the Philadelphia Athletics in the first four-game World Series. The “miracle Braves” had been in last place on July 4 but had surged to win the National League pennant by 10 1/2 games. And at second base for Boston in the batting order, that’s Johnny Evers of the Chicago Cubs double-play combination immortalized in the 1910 poem:

“Baseball’s Sad Lexicon”

These are the saddest of possible words:
“Tinker to Evers to Chance.”
Trio of bear cubs, and fleeter than birds,
Tinker and Evers and Chance.
Ruthlessly pricking our gonfalon bubble,
Making a Giant hit into a double—
Words that are heavy with nothing but trouble:
“Tinker to Evers to Chance.”

10-13-14 stock showThe Stock Show that year was held in October—in and around the Coliseum (1908) on the North Side. Special trains brought in people from out of town. Special streetcars shuttled people to the show.

10-13-14 electricAt the Stock Show, Fort Worth Power & Light touted electric cooking appliances.

10-13-14 codyIn the Sells-Floto circus parade the next day, “Buffalo Bill himself” would appear and “salute you from the saddle.”

10-13-14 archdukeGavrilo Princip, the Bosnian Serb whose assassination of Austrian archduke Ferdinand on June 28 had precipitated World War I, was indicted in Sarajevo.

10-13-14 whiskeyIf you look at only the bucolic photograph, you’d never guess that the ad is selling whiskey.

10-13-14 shoesFor $3 women could button themselves into a pair of these.

10-13-14 time tableA century later we can’t fully appreciate the role that rail mass transit played in Fort Worth. Streetcars served downtown and the inner city. Each day the newspaper printed a schedule of trains and of the interurban to Dallas and to Cleburne. All those passenger trains used just two stations.

10-13-14 classifiedOf the nine early automobile marques listed in this Fort Worth Auto Exchange ad, seven have gone the way of the interurban and high-button shoes.

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Reptile Depreciation: $150 Alligator Suddenly Worth Just 50 Cents? What a Croc!

Forty years before there was Pete the python there was Joe the alligator.

alligator joe 12On the night of October 11, 1914 a carnival company arrived by train. The carnival was in town in conjunction with the Stock Show, which that year was held on the North Side in October.

At the T&P station downtown carnies unloaded a bear, a Shetland pony, and Joe, a six-foot alligator. Joe was muzzled and tethered to a stake on the station grounds preparatory to being transported to the carnival site the next morning.

But early on the morning of October 12, after his overseers fell asleep, Joe smelled freedom and proceeded to slither thither.

After carnival workers discovered that their alligator was on the lam, two witnesses came forward. A packing house worker nicknamed “Hot Stove” said he saw Joe in some weeds and was much afraid. Joe “snorted like an elephant,” Hot Stove said. Another witness said he saw Joe in some weeds near the mouth of a sewer near East Front Street (now Lancaster Avenue).

After three hours of beating the bushes for Joe, carnival officials concluded that Joe indeed had crawled into the city sewer system.

“It is said the alligator can live in the sewer for months,” the Star-Telegram said.


Cue the “I’m never going to lift the toilet lid again” paranoia.

10-13-14 gatorOn October 13 the Star-Telegram reported that the search for Joe continued. Note that the alligator—while still at large—was said to be worth $150 ($3,400 today).

joe 15Turns out Joe’s freedom had been briefer than was known by the public at the time. On Thursday the Star-Telegram reported that the alligator all-clear had been sounded. Seems that about 9:30 a.m. after Joe’s predawn escape on Monday, W. O. Phillips, driver of a laundry wagon, was at the train station picking up linen when he saw Joe hotfooting it under a building. Phillips grabbed Joe by the tail and pulled him out and loaded him onto his laundry wagon. Apparently Phillips kept Joe in the wagon as Phillips made his laundry pickup and delivery rounds that day because Phillips said “that night I took him out to the house” in Arlington Heights. Phillips said he was not afraid of Joe. “I took his muzzle off and dug him a hole in the barn where he could wallow around in.”

On Tuesday morning Phillips made inquiries and discovered that indeed a carnival was one alligator short of a congregation. (Congregation is the group noun for alligators. I swear on a stack of matching luggage.)

On Wednesday Phillips left Joe in his wallow hole in the barn and went out to the North Side carnival location. Phillips later told the Star-Telegram that he was “half-way expecting” a small reward from the carnival owner. After all, the October 13 news story had said the alligator was valued at $150.

Phillips recounted his meeting with the carnival owner:

“I asked him if he had lost an alligator—didn’t tell him I had it. He said one had gotten away from him. I asked him what he [the alligator] was worth. He said he had eight of them, and he would sell me the whole outfit for 50 cents each.”

(Seems a $150 alligator in the bush is worth only fifty cents in the hand.)

Phillips said the carnival owner then got mad and threatened to have Phillips arrested for not advertising the fact that Phillips had custody of the escaped alligator. Phillips countered by asking the carnival owner why he had not advertised the fact that he was missing an alligator.

To which the carnival owner said he had advertised—“in a secret form.”

Phillips asked “what good secret advertising did.”


At that point negotiations broke off. Phillips said the carnival owner could darned well send a wagon out to Arlington Heights and fetch his ol’ fifty-cent alligator.

Which the carnival owner did that night.

And so Joe the six-foot alligator, show biz trouper that he was, returned to his gypsy life in the carnival, perhaps now and then remembering Fearless Phillips and the wallow hole in the barn.

Labor note: The Star-Telegram said that during the brief time Joe was thought to be AWOL in the city sewer system the prospect of an impromptu strike had loomed because sewer workers refused to set foot down a manhole.

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