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.

kress 80 censusSamuel Henry Kress was born in Pennsylvania in 1863. In 1887 Kress, then twenty-four, opened a stationery and notions store in Nanticoke, Pennsylvania.

kress 96 cdIn 1896 Kress opened a “5 and 10c” store in Memphis, Tennessee. His S. H. Kress Company thrived into the next century 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 utaThe label of this University of Texas at Arlington Library photo of a “5-10 and 25 cent” Kress store in Fort Worth has no date or street address, 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 Shelton Building (1900) at 901 Houston Street (where FedEx Office is today). (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 twenty-five 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 new 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 for inspection on August 14, 1936, although, as with the new Montgomery Ward store on West 7th Street in 1924, nothing was sold on opening day. 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 kudosAs was the custom at the time, local businesses, especially those that had contributed to the project, congratulated the Kress company via newspaper ads. For example, on the left, Lauritzen & Makin supplied interior fixtures; Morrow Wrecking Company cleared the building site.

kress photo 1946 NREclectic Avenue: This W. D. Smith photo of 1946 shows, from left, the 1915 Fort Worth Club Building (Ken Davis’s Mid-Continent Supply Company at the time, 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.

kress obitSamuel Henry Kress, who became a millionaire a nickel and a dime at a time, died in 1955 in his Fifth Avenue penthouse.

Some more views of Fort Worth’s 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 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

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

  1. Joe Cole says:

    My mother worked at Kress at the 901 Houston Street location from 1928 when she was 18 until she married my dad in 1934. She loved that job and talked about it and people she worked with often until her death at age 105 in 2015.

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