These brick walls have a story behind them:
In fact, these brick walls have a story on all sides of them.
We can begin their story in 1877. Civic leader John Peter Smith, who was a major property owner in Fort Worth, donated five acres of land south of the city for a hospital, which Fort Worth, incorporated only in 1873, lacked. (He also donated land for Emanuel Hebrew Rest and Oakwood cemeteries.) But the city did not make use of the donated hospital land for more than a half-century, even though in 1883 Fort Worth’s first general hospital—St. Joseph Infirmary—opened just across South Main Street to serve, initially, the Missouri Pacific railroad.
Fast-forward to 1894. In that year Fort Worth University (founded 1881) opened its Fort Worth Medical College. Among the college’s doctors were William A. Duringer, William Paxton Burts (first mayor of Fort Worth), Julian Theodore Feild (son of pioneer Julian Feild), and Bacon Saunders (who built the Flatiron Building in 1907). Clip is from the July 27, 1894 Fort Worth Gazette.
The medical college originally was located at Commerce and 7th streets. Nearby Hell’s Half Acre kept medical students supplied with patients on whom to practice suturing knife wounds, excising bullets, treating drug overdoses, etc. Clip is from the 1896 city directory.
But by 1906 the medical college was located at East 5th and Calhoun streets. It included a small hospital where students trained.
Fort Worth University closed in 1911, becoming part of Methodist Episcopal University in Oklahoma City, and TCU took over the medical college.
In 1914 the city and county built City-County Hospital (designed by Sanguinet and Staats) on East 4th Street at Jones Street, just across the alley from the medical college. Soon the medical college was “resolved with” the new hospital. Among the hospital’s early challenges was the flu epidemic of 1918. But that same year the medical college left TCU and became part of Baylor University in Dallas. Note that the news story says the city and county already had plans to build a larger hospital “on the Peter Smith site on the south side.”
The 1914 building continued to house City-County Hospital until 1939, when a new City-County Hospital finally was built on South Main on the land that John Peter Smith had donated in 1877. In 1943 the 1914 City-County building was headquarters for military police stationed here. In the early 1950s it was a polio treatment center. The building is now Maddox-Muse Center, part of the Bass Hall complex. Star-Telegram clip is from April 26, 1914. Note that the nurse was drawn by Plang.
The new City-County Hospital opened on July 16, 1939 as fifty-five patients were transferred from the 1914 building.
Among the hospital’s early challenges was treating the polio epidemic of the late 1940s and early 1950s.
The new hospital was yet another beautiful building designed by the prolific Wiley Clarkson. (Top photo by W. D. Smith in Fort Worth in Pictures, 1940. Bottom photo courtesy of Jim Patterson.)
This aerial photo was taken in 1952. The original building (the vertical building on the right) already had been expanded.
City-County Hospital was renamed for John Peter Smith in 1954.
Expansion—including an eleven-story tower—continued in the 1960s and 1970s as the 1939 building was swallowed. I have outlined in yellow the part of the 1939 building still visible from the air. (Some of Fort Worth’s original school buildings likewise are hidden inside decades of expansion.)
Inset is an enlargement of the Patterson photo showing just the top story of the original building. Want a closer look?
These closeup photos of the exterior of the top story of the original building show Clarkson’s attention to art deco styling even where few people would ever see it. (Closeup photos from Jill “J. R.” Labbe, vice president, communications and community affairs, JPS Health Network.)
The end of the north wing is the only part of the original building still visible from street level. Apparently between 1948 and 1952 a bay (for a stairwell or elevator?) was added to the north wing, which today plays peek-a-boo with us from the past.
Bonus Peek-a-Boo with the Past
Here’s another Fort Worth hospital whose original building is largely lost in a sea of expansion.
The top photo, a recent Google aerial, shows the Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth campus stretching from Pennsylvania Avenue south to Terrell Street and from 6th Avenue east to Henderson Street. The bottom aerial photo, from 1952, shows that area when the original Harris Hospital building (left side of photo), designed by—again—Wiley Clarkson in 1930, was the only Harris building. From the sky you can see that the building has what architects call a “radial” footprint. It looks like a letter H doing jumping jacks. The original building’s address was 1300 West Cannon Street. With expansion to a “campus,” the hospital ate part of Cannon Street and a chunk of Pruitt Street. Now the hospital’s address is 1301 Pennsylvania Avenue. Harris Hospital was a major encroachment on Quality Hill as the city’s original medical district grew.
W. D. Smith photo of the 1940s from Fort Worth in Pictures.