These brick walls have a story behind them. In fact, these brick walls have a story on all sides of them.
We can begin the story in 1877, when civic leader John Peter Smith donated five acres of land for a city hospital. The land was located well south of the city at the time, and the city did not make use of the land for years, even though in 1883 Fort Worth’s first hospital—St. Joseph Infirmary—opened across South Main Street to serve, initially, the Missouri Pacific railroad.
In 1894 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 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 hospital where students trained.
Fort Worth University closed in 1911, and TCU took over the medical college. In 1914 the medical college began using the new City-County Hospital just across the alley at East 4th and Jones streets, designed by Sanguinet and Staats. 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.
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 in July 1939. Among its early challenges was the polio epidemic of the late 1940s and early 1950s. The hospital was renamed for John Peter Smith in 1954. Clip is from the November 7, 1938 Dallas Morning News.
On July 28, 1939 the Dallas Morning News announced that Fort Worth’s new City-County Hospital was open.
The new hospital was yet another beautiful building designed by the prolific Wiley Clarkson. Top photo by W. D. Smith. Bottom photo courtesy of Jim Patterson.
This aerial photo was taken in 1952. The original building already had been expanded.
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. (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 Hospital Peek-a-Boo with the Past
Here’s another Fort Worth hospital whose original building is largely enclosed by 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), also designed by Wiley Clarkson in 1924, was the only Harris building. From the sky you can see that the building has what architects call a “radial” footprint. It looks like an H doing jumping jacks. The original building’s address in 1924 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.