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 northeastward into the peninsula formed by a 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, toward Cold Springs, a popular recreation area where in 1859 Sam Houston spoke to an Independence Day crowd. Later attractions were the driving park (see Part 2), where people went to ride and race and bet, and the pavilion (see Part 3), where people went 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 local history: Buried therein are Major Ripley Arnold, General Edward H. Tarrant, General James J. Byrne, Captain Ephraim Merrell Daggett, Captain Charles Turner, Colonel Abe Harris, Josephine H. Ryan, Roger Tandy, Jesse Zane-Cetti, Carroll Peak, and Lemuel Edwards.

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

samuel gold digger

Baldwin L. Samuel was listed in the 1850 Todd County, Kentucky census as “gold digger.”

samuel 1869 4By about 1857 Baldwin Samuel was in Fort Worth because in 1869 he told a Tarrant County 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.

rock island ttDuring the neighborhood’s long history it has hosted the fine houses of the wealthy and the shotgun houses and other modest homes of laborers, such as residents of the Rock Island neighborhood east of Samuels Avenue, where the railroad’s switchyard was located.

The Samuels Avenue neighborhood still has a few houses from the nineteenth century, but time, fire, neglect, and development have claimed most 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 three houses marked A, B, and C are still standing.

Here are the three today:

getzandaner 2015A is the Getzendaner house (1880s). John Getzendaner is listed in the 1885 city directory as a stockman. The house has been renovated.

Before renovation.

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

look up getzendaner porchEave brackets of 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 a new owner, although its fate remains uncertain.

Columns and capitals of the Garvey house.

turret garveyGarvey house turret.

C is the Bennett house (1870s). David Chapman Bennett was listed in the 1877 city directory as a vice president of Martin Bottom Loyd‘s First National Bank. 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 Foster-Hodgson-Pool house overlooking the river (built in 1882, demolished in 2003). On the map the house can be seen between B and C. (Pool family members who lived here included D. McRae Elementary School teacher Alma Pool.)

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

  1. Gwen Harper says:

    Great article!
    I own 760 Samuels, the Getzendaner house. It’s changed more since your picture.
    If you’d ever like a tour, please let me know:)
    I’m sure I could get you inside all 3 of the houses, as I’m friends with the owners of the Bennett house and represented the buyer that now owns the Garvey house.
    Gwen Harper

    • hometown says:

      Gwen, thanks for restoring the Getzendaner-Harper house and preserving some of Samuels Avenue’s grand past.

    • Manuel Saldivar-Aguirre says:

      First and foremost thank you for saving Fort Worth’s History!! Not everyone can see the value in restoring these beautiful homes. That being said, you have a true gem there. Being an architecture student (born and raised in Ft. Worth) I certainly have a deep appreciation for the once vernacular architecture of the area. If it is not too much trouble, I would love a tour; even simply looking at original exterior fixtures up close. Nevertheless, thank you for restoring the house. Amazing!

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