Quality Hill: Where Affluence Hung Its Silk Hat

On June 11, 1902 Electra Waggoner, daughter of cattle and oil millionaire William Thomas Waggoner, married Albert Buckman Wharton of Philadelphia after the two had met while traveling in the Himalayas. And thus began one of the best-known marriages of Fort Worth society at one of the best-known address of Fort Worth society: 1509 Pennsylvania Avenue in Quality Hill.

After Samuels Avenue in the late nineteenth century, Fort Worth’s next enclave of the wealthy in the early twentieth century was Quality Hill, located just southwest of downtown. (Mark Twain had used the term “the quality” to refer to the well-to-do in 1885.)

quality term 9-7-99 regBy 1899 the Fort Worth Register was referring to Fort Worth’s enclave centered along today’s Summit Avenue as “Quality Hill.” (The “Mr. Slaughter” referred to in the September 7 clip may be cattle baron John Bunyan Slaughter, who lived at 556 South Summit Avenue.)

The grandest houses of Quality Hill were on Summit Avenue from West 7th Street to Pennsylvania Avenue and on Pennsylvania and 8th avenues and Penn and Ballinger streets. But whereas most of the houses on Samuels Avenue had been built of wood, those of Quality Hill were built of mostly brick and stone. Quality Hill houses were proud and ponderous, with columns and sweeping porches, porte-cocheres, turrets, and spires. Interiors featured wood-paneled walls, grand staircases, ornate fireplaces, crystal chandeliers, and imported furnishings.

Many of the residents of Quality Hill made their fortunes in cattle. In fact, Summit Avenue just as easily could have been called “Cattleman Avenue.” Among the cattlemen with fine homes along Summit Avenue were John Bunyan Slaughter, William Thomas Waggoner, Cass Edwards, Colonel C. A. O’Keefe, brothers William and George Reynolds, Samuel Burk Burnett, and James H. Nail.

Likewise, Penn Street could just as well have been called “Bankers Boulevard.” Bankers on that four-block street included W. H. Eddleman, Otho S. Houston, Major Khleber Miller Van Zandt, and C. H. Silliman.

Pennsylvania Avenue had a bit more variety. Winfield Scott, who listed his occupation in the city directory as simply “capitalist” (in boldface), was Fort Worth’s biggest taxpayer. Also on Pennsylvania Avenue were three cotton brokers (Neil P. Anderson, Hermann Frerichs, and T. B. Owens) and four bankers (H. C. and W. R. Edrington, H. B. Herd, and G. E. Cowden).

Inspiring them all to live long lives was Quality Hill resident George L. Gause, Fort Worth’s first trained undertaker.

For the most part, the mansions of Quality Hill were built by men who had not been born with silver spoons in their mouths (although one—George Reynolds—long carried an iron arrowhead in his back). Two of the most successful had begun their careers as cattle trail cowboys (Samuel Burk Burnett, William Thomas Waggoner); another had begun as a Pony Express rider (George Reynolds), and still another had begun as an illiterate woodchopper (Winfield Scott).

These Quality Hill houses are long gone:

gause 1930 CDThis house at 1251 Pennsylvania Avenue was built for cotton broker Neil P. Anderson and in 1923 became the residence of George L. Gause and the location of Gause-Ware funeral home. (Photo from 1930 city directory.)

reynolds greaterThe homes of cattlemen brothers William Reynolds (1600 Summit Avenue) and George Reynolds (1404 El Paso Street). (Photos from Greater Fort Worth, 1907.)

duringer greaterDr. William Duringer, 1402 Summit Avenue. (Photo from Greater Fort Worth, 1907.)

richhart okeefe houseCattleman Colonel C. A. O’Keefe, 520 South Summit Avenue. When this house was demolished in 1950 some of its columns were saved by C. L. Richhart and stand tall in Botanic Garden. (Photo from Greater Fort Worth, 1907.)

van zandt house 800 pennBanker and civic leader Major Khleber Miller Van Zandt, 800 Penn Street. (Photo from Greater Fort Worth, 1907.)

quality vickery greaterGlenwood developer Richard Vickery, 1203 Summit Avenue.

ball-houseQuality Hill had two Frank Balls (see Ball-Eddleman-McFarland house below). Attorney Frank W. Ball lived in this house at 1424 Summit Avenue. (Photo from Photos of Fort Worth, 1890s.)

houses panel burnett on top UTAThe homes of cattle baron capitalists Samuel Burk Burnett (top, 1424 Summit Avenue) and W. T. Waggoner (1200 Summit Avenue). Burnett built his house where the Frank W. Ball house had stood; All Church Home demolished the Burnett house in 1962. (Photos from University of Texas at Arlington Library.)

Just as Quality Hill resident and undertaker George Gause eventually caught up with the other residents of Quality Hill, “progress,” in the form of a wrecking ball, caught up with the homes of Quality Hill. Apartment buildings and Fort Worth’s original medical district took more and more of the fine homes. Today only a few survive, most notably:

grand thistle hill 2The Wharton-Scott house (1904), 1509 Pennsylvania Avenue.

quality marriedThe residents of Quality Hill, as exemplified by Electra Waggoner and A. B. Wharton, were always well represented in the society pages of Fort Worth newspapers.

After Electra and A. B. wed in 1902 the couple lived in Philadelphia while father of the bride W. T. Waggoner built his daughter the $46,000 ($1.1 million today) “honeymoon cottage” that we call “Thistle Hill.” Marshall Sanguinet and Carl Staats, Fort Worth’s leading architects, designed Thistle Hill in Georgian revival style. A. B. Wharton in 1904 opened one of Fort Worth’s first auto liveries (automobile dealerships). Clip is from the June 15, 1902 Register. (The Register erroneously referred to Mr. and Mrs. Dan Waggoner—parents of William Thomas—as Electra’s parents. They were her grandparents.)

quality divorcedWhen the honeymoon ended in 1921 Electra and A. B. split some pretty pricey sheets: $3 million would be $38 million today. Clip is from the January 27, 1921 Dallas Morning News.

thistle 2-12-11 stCapitalist Winfield Scott bought the Wharton house in 1911. Today $90,000 would be $2.2 million. (Hill Street was renamed “Summit Avenue.”) Clip is from the February 12, 1911 Star-Telegram.

carriage thistleThe Thistle Hill grounds include this brick carriage house, also designed by Sanguinet and Staats.

thistle greaterThere was also a lighthouse-like water tower. The carriage house is on the right. (Photo from Greater Fort Worth, 1907.)

house cobbElsewhere on Quality Hill is the Lyman Cobb house (1904), 1598 Sunset Terrace. Cobb was a brick and cattle dealer.

grand mooreJames F. Moore house (1904), 1326 Pennsylvania Avenue, is now part of the Woman’s Club complex. Moore was a real estate investor and developer.

carriage reynolds william 1910The grand home of cattleman William Reynolds is long gone. This is just his carriage house (1910), 1600B Sunset Terrace, which been converted into a home.

grand ball eddleman 1899Ball-Eddleman-McFarland house (1899), 1110 Penn Street. Frank Ball was a “capitalist.” William Eddleman was a banker.

grand pollock

Pollock-Capps house (1899), 1120 Penn Street. This grand home was built for Dr. Joseph R. Pollock, a homeopathic physician. In 1909 attorney William Capps and his wife Sallie bought the house. William Capps died there in 1925 at age sixty-seven. The Queen Anne Victorian mansion is built of red brick and limestone with a slate roof and copper finials. Originally the grounds overlooking the river included a golf course and tennis court. The three-bay carriage house had a ballroom upstairs. The law firm that Capps co-founded in 1882 continues as Cantey Hanger. Fittingly, the Pollock-Capps house now houses a law firm.

grand oxsheer homeOxsheer house (1916), 1119 Pennsylvania Avenue. Fountain Goodlet Oxsheer was a cattleman.

century swayneSwayne house, 1318 Ballinger Street (1899).

swayne-cdJames W. Swayne was an attorney and district judge. (The street address was changed from El Paso Street to Ballinger Street when the house was converted to a commercial building in 1954.)

gross-houseThe other Quality Hill survivor on Ballinger Street is at 1301.

gross-mugIt was built in 1916 by Leon Gross (1866-1945).

gross-washer-buildingIn 1882 Nat and Jacob Washer established Washer Brothers Clothiers, which evolved into one of the better department stores in town.

gross-1925-cdLeon Gross became president of the company in 1907 upon the death of Jacob Washer. Gross also was president of the board of trade (forerunner of the chamber of commerce), an early member of River Crest Country Club, and a founding member of Beth-El Congregation.

grand three on eighthThese three houses in the 600 block of 8th Avenue are more-modest survivors on Quality Hill. From left to right, Irion house (1910), Scott house (1909), and Mitchell-Schoonover house (1907).

mitchell 1907 cdJames E. Mitchell was a jeweler. He hired Sanguinet and Staats to design his house.

schoonover-45-cdDr. Frank Schoonover Jr. bought the house in 1945.

irion 1911 cdJohann Walker Irion was a physician.

Winfield Scott lived in the “little” Scott house on 8th Avenue at least part of the time while he was having the big Scott house (Thistle Hill, the “honeymoon cottage” of Electra Waggoner and Albert Buckman Wharton) remodeled. But Scott died eight months after buying Thistle Hill.

brookshire-houseBehind the Mitchell-Schoonover house at 1619 Pennsylvania Avenue is the Brookshire house, built in 1916.

brookshire-191-cd brookshire-sidewalksSamuel Nathan Brookshire (1861-1940) was a paving contractor who came to town about 1885.

slack-houseBehind the Brookshire house at 611 9th Avenue is the Durham house, built about 1900. Note the visored oval windows.

slack-09-cdThe Durham house was first occupied by Thomas W. Slack, a banker.

electra obitAs for the Quality Hill couple who introduced this post, Electra Waggoner Wharton and Albert Buckman Wharton, she died in her Park Avenue home in Manhattan in 1925; he died in Simi Valley, California in 1963.

scottwaggoner cryptburnett tombcemetery moore mausoleum 2slaughter oakwood

Today Winfield Scott, W. T. and Electra Waggoner Wharton, Burk Burnett, James F. Moore, John Slaughter Bunyan, and several other residents of Quality Hill are once again neighbors: at Oakwood Cemetery.

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