Samuels Avenue (Part 1): First and, for a While, Foremost

The Samuels Avenue neighborhood is one of Fort Worth’s most evocative. When the town first expanded out from the abandoned military fort, it expanded northeast, into the bend of the river toward Traders Oak, where Henry Clay Daggett and Archibald Leonard had begun the town’s first business in 1849 and where the county’s first election had been held in 1850. In 1859 Sam Houston spoke to an Independence Day crowd at Cold Springs, a popular recreation area east of Samuels Avenue. People later went out to the driving park (see Part 2) to ride and race and bet and out to the pavilion (see Part 3) to picnic and dance and be entertained.

Also on Samuels Avenue is aptly named Pioneers Rest, the town’s first cemetery, a who’s who of history: Buried therein are Major Ripley Arnold, General Edward H. Tarrant, General James J. Byrne, Captain Ephraim Merrell Daggett, Roger Tandy, Lemuel Edwards.

samuel graveBaldwin L. Samuel, born on September 22, 1803, also is buried in Pioneers Rest (he donated land for its enlargement).

Baldwin L. Samuel came to the area from Kentucky. In 1869 he told a voter registration canvasser that he had been in the precinct twelve years. Samuel bought the Terry plantation near Traders Oak about 1870.

Samuel, like Roger Tandy, was a charter member of the First Baptist Church.

After Samuel died in 1879, the road from his plantation to downtown came to bear his name. Samuels Avenue runs along a bluff and still has the same grand view over the river that Ripley Arnold saw in 1849 and that Baldwin Samuel saw about 1857. During the neighborhood’s long history it has hosted the fine houses of the wealthy and the shotgun houses of laborers. It still has a few houses from the nineteenth century, but time, fire, neglect, and development have claimed many of the oldest houses.

samuels wellge 3 letteredThis is a bird’s-eye-view map of the Samuels Avenue neighborhood published in 1886. You can see the square of Pioneers Rest Cemetery. That’s Samuels Avenue running east to west across the top of the cemetery; Cold Springs Road runs at a four o’clock angle. Believe it or not, the four houses marked A, B, and C are still standing. One hundred and twenty-six years later.

Here are the three today:

“A” is the Getzendaner house (1880s). John Getzendaner is listed in the 1885 city directory as a stockman. The fireplace, staircase, and molding of the interior are beautiful. The Getzendaner has been renovated and is now occupied.

A column brace of the back porch of the Getzendaner house.

“B” became the rear part of today’s Garvey house (1890s). The front part of the house was added after the 1886 map was drawn. William Garvey was listed in the 1885 city directory as a sand dealer. The Garvey house has new owners.

Columns and capitals of the Garvey house.

“C” is the Bennett house (1870s). David Chapman Bennett was listed in the 1878 city directory as a dry goods dealer. The Bennett house is wonderfully preserved.

These three houses survive into their third century in Fort Worth’s first neighborhood, where they share Samuels Avenue with now-vacant lots whose steps lead to nowhere:

These steps once led to the grand Samuel-Foster house overlooking the river (built in 1882, demolished in 2003). On the map the house can be seen between “B” and “C.”

(Thanks to Samuels Avenue resident, historian, and preservationist John Shiflet for his help.)

Samuels Avenue (Part 2): Win, Place, and Show

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4 Responses to Samuels Avenue (Part 1): First and, for a While, Foremost

  1. Steve A says:

    Those steps are SO sad…

    • hometown says:

      If you look at a sequence of aerial photos of that area over fifty years, the area goes from thick with houses to thick with condos and empty lots. I have lived in apartments myself, and no doubt something had to be torn down to build them, but still . . .

  2. John Shiflet says:

    Thank you so very much for an outstanding writeup about the cradle of Fort Worth’s history. There have been quite a few published articles about Samuels Avenue over the decades but yours is among the very best. I hope this story will help raise awareness among Fort Worthians about the importance of saving the early history still remaining in this oldest of Fort Worth neighborhoods. Samuels Avenue tells us the history of Fort Worth evolving from a isolated tiny army outpost, to becoming a town, and then successfully growing into a city. If this article leads anyone to take an interest in the neighborhood it will have helped to preserve this unique part of our community history. Thanks again for telling a remarkable story in such a fascinating way.

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