The 1899 T&P Depot (Part 1): “Finest Passenger Station in the Entire South”

On December 16, 1899, as Fort Worth residents were doing their Christmas shopping, they took time out to help unwrap a big gift to the city: the new Texas & Pacific railroad passenger depot.

t&p opened heads 12-17-99 regThe new depot was, the Fort Worth Register proclaimed on December 17, simply “the finest passenger station in the entire South.”

t&p opens full page 12-17-99 regThe Register devoted almost a full page to the new depot.

t&p wikiThe depot was located at the intersection of Main and Lancaster streets east of the Al Hayne memorial, where Frank Kent Cadillac dealership later stood.

t&p TCC NE, Heritage RoomThis H. D. Conner image shows the depot from a different angle. (Photo from Tarrant County College Northeast, Heritage Room.)

t&p from courthouseThe clock tower of the new station was situated so that it could be seen from north on Main Street. Thus, Main Street downtown was bookended by the courthouse tower on the north and the train station tower on the south—the two towers almost one mile apart. In this photo the first Worth Hotel is on the left at 7th Street. Photo is from the 1905 Panther City Parrot yearbook.

Railroad officials estimated that fifteen hundred passengers had come to town for the grand opening on December 16. The newspaper estimated that 20,000-25,000 people were on hand. A parade marched from the courthouse down Main Street to the new depot. Participants included “secret orders” (fraternal lodges), the fire department, sheriff’s deputies, school children, local militia units.

Bands played. People made speeches: Mayor B. B. Paddock, former Mayor John Peter Smith, T&P railroad officials et al. Paddock broke a bottle of Champagne over one of the building’s columns.

t&p menu 12-17-99 regThere was a banquet for invited guests. Here is the menu.

The Register noted that on February 1, 1899 George J. Gould, president of the T&P in Texas and son of tycoon Jay Gould, had pressed a button in New York City, symbolically beginning construction of the depot.

Cost of construction was estimated at $300,000 ($8.2 million today). The building was designed by Otto Lang, an architect in the T&P’s engineering department. The exterior was built of Pecos sandstone (like the federal building/post office) and Thurber brick. The roof had Spanish tiles. The waiting room had classical columns supported by marble piers. The floor was tiled in marble. Windows were of cut glass. Clip is from the January 17 Register.

TP Depot-ShopsThis Sanborn map shows the depot in the upper left relative to Tower 55 to the east and the T&P roundhouse to the south. Along four tracks the depot had long sheds for passengers. (From Pete Charlton’s “1000+ Lost Antique Maps of Texas & the Southwest on DVD-ROM.”)

1928 aerial largeThis 1928 aerial photo shows the 1899 depot north of the T&P roundhouse. In 1928 T&P would build a new railyard and roundhouse three miles southwest of downtown.

t&p 1886 wellgeThe 1899 depot replaced the Union Depot, built when the T&P arrived in town in 1876. This 1886 Wellge bird’s-eye-view map shows the Union Depot (labeled U; 81 is Ginocchio’s Hotel) about where today’s Tower 55 is, east of the 1899 depot.

Texas Rangers who helped keep the peace after the Battle of Buttermilk Junction posed at the rear of the 1876 depot. (Photo from East Texas Research Center.)

In turn, the 1899 depot would be replaced in 1931 by the art deco masterpiece of Wyatt Hedrick.

The 1899 T&P Depot (Part 2): “Destructive Fire Breaks Out”

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5 Responses to The 1899 T&P Depot (Part 1): “Finest Passenger Station in the Entire South”

  1. Dennis Hogan says:

    I keep hoping that someday I’ll find a photo of the first T&P depot–the one that preceded the 1899 T&P depot. Plus the adjoining Ginocchio Hotel. I’ve seen nothing but sketches! Meanwhile…
    I finally did find a photo of the elusive Cotton Belt depot that both Pete Charlton and I searched for years. It’s in the UTA digital archives! This is the depot the Cotton Belt first used–the one across the Trinity by the old power plant.

    • hometown says:

      All I have seen are rough sketches in the bird’s-eye-view maps of the late nineteenth century. That depot stood well into the era of photography. So did the hotel. The Swartz brothers were here. As one of the busiest public places in town, the depot must have been photographed formally and informally many times. It’s the same old refrain: What became of the photos? Who throws out history? But we do it every single day.

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