Fast-forward five years and one day.
About 2:30 p.m. on December 17, 1904 fire broke out in a third-floor servant’s quarters above John Laneri’s restaurant on the second floor of the depot. The entire fire department responded. Several hundred men from the T&P shops and yards helped move combustible furniture from the building. Rail cars at the depot were moved to safety; the mail and express offices were cleared. As firemen fought the fire, trains continued to arrive and leave with only slight delay. Arriving and departing passengers simply used the train sheds instead of the main depot building.
Fort Worth’s roving photographer Charles Swartz took this photograph of the fire. The Al Hayne memorial can be seen in the left foreground. Behind the memorial is the Joseph H. Brown building. (Photo from University of Texas at Arlington Library.)
Another photo by Charles Swartz shows that most of the depot’s roof was gone. The Telegram reported on December 17 that the upper floor of the depot was destroyed (“Most of the ceiling had fallen in.”). The clock tower also was damaged. (Photo from University of Texas at Arlington Library.)
On December 18 the Telegram detailed the chronology and damage of the fire. Damage was estimated at $10,000 ($255,000 today), but service disruption was brief. Rubberized sheets were draped over the damaged building, and trains continued to roll into and out of the busy depot. The Telegram reported that all railroads entering Fort Worth except the Santa Fe and the Houston & Texas Central used the depot for passengers—seventy trains daily.
This time table from earlier in 1904 shows how busy the passenger depot was.
After the fire, the construction contractor inspected the building, found the damage to be mostly above the walls.
Two firemen were injured. Clip is from the December 18 Dallas Morning News.
Five of Fort Worth’s early fires occurred in the area between Lancaster Avenue and Hattie Street south of downtown: Spring Palace (1890), T&P depot (1904), Fifth Ward school and Missouri Avenue Methodist Church (1904), South Side (1909), Fort Worth High School (1910). And just as the South Side fire of 1909 would motivate improvements in fire department equipment, the 1904 T&P depot fire led Fire Chief James Maddox to ask for another steam engine for the department. Clip is from the December 20 Telegram.
Four months later, on April 8, 1905, the restored station would welcome President Theodore Roosevelt as he passed through town. These photos show Roosevelt’s train between two of the long sheds behind the station. (Photos from University of Texas at Arlington Library.)
A footnote about the Swartz brothers: Ten months after Charles Swartz photographed the T&P depot fire in December 1904, on October 6, 1905 he was taking photos at the new Fort Worth Iron and Steel mill located about where the 3700 block of Hemphill Street is today. The “bolt factory,” as it was commonly called, was a major employer on the booming South Side. (Photo from Greater Fort Worth, 1907.)
Swartz was struck and killed by a Katy locomotive. Clip is from the October 6, 1905 Telegram.
With their cameras the Swartz brothers—Charles, John, and David—documented life in Fort Worth at the cusp of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Most of the Swartz photos are slice-of-life glimpses of the people, places, and events in Fort Worth.
But one Swartz photo has become iconic: In late 1900 John took the photo of Butch Cassidy, the Sundance Kid, and the rest of the Wild Bunch in his studio at 705 Main Street when the gang holed up in Fort Worth. (Photo from Wikipedia.)
Photographers don’t often get photographed, but Charles Swartz snapped an accidental selfie when he took this photo inside the drugstore of J. P. Nicks. His reflection appears in the left side of the mirror behind the counter. See magnified inset in lower-left corner. (Photo from Nicks descendant Janis Smith Shaffer.)