On September 24, 1927 the Worth Hotel opened at the corner of West 7th and Taylor streets.
The new hotel was eighteen stories high with three hundred rooms. Each room had a ceiling fan, circulating ice water, and a bath. Clip is from the September 24 Dallas Morning News.
But that Worth Hotel was not our first Worth Hotel. The first had opened on November 7, 1894 at 7th and Main streets, just west of the medical school of Fort Worth University, built in that elegant turn-of-the-century architectural style of arched windows, bay windows, pilasters, corbeling, dentil molding, rusticated stone. The department store of Alphonse August was located on the ground floor. (August later built the building that housed the Majestic Theater.) In April 1905 the Worth Hotel was the temporary White House when Theodore Roosevelt came to town to speak before taking part in a wolf hunt in Oklahoma.
The first Worth Hotel building was eventually converted into office and retail space. Fire damaged the building in 1925 and 1942. It burned one last time on February 3, 1945. (Photo from University of Arlington Library; clips from the November 4, 1894 Gazette and February 4, 1945 Dallas Morning News.)
(The Hotel Texas would be built where the three-story part of the first Worth Hotel stood. An eight-inch-wide “alley” separated the two buildings. In 1932 Trinity River promoter Basil Muse Hatfield, who was far too broad of beam to dock in that alley, nonetheless claimed it, by squatter’s rights, as his “outdoor office” and tried to persuade the phone company to install a phone for him in the eight-inch gap.)
The second Worth Hotel housed “Texas’ finest theater,” the Worth, which opened November 26, 1927. The Star-Telegram on November 27 devoted the top half of the front page to the opening.
“‘First nighters’ literally gasped at the beauty” of the new theater, the Star-Telegram reported that day. The Egyptian motif featured deities, tapestries, friezes, pillars with lotus-blossom capitals. The theater’s capacity—three thousand (2,284 seats)—was the largest in the state.
Photos showed the opulent interior.
The Worth building was financed by capitalist Jesse Jones of Houston, who also financed the Medical Arts Building (1927). The same Star-Telegram front page that announced the opening of the Worth Theater announced that Jones would next finance the Electric Building (1929), which would house the Hollywood Theater, completing the theater triplets of 7th Street’s Show Row. (The first triplet was the Palace, converted in 1919 from the Byers opera house , which was the original home of the world’s second-longest-living light bulb, now brightening the Stockyards Museum.) Architect Wyatt C. Hedrick designed the three Jones buildings.
The Worth Hotel in 1940. (W. D. Smith photo in Fort Worth in Pictures.)
The first film shown by the Worth Theater was the silent She’s a Sheik, starring Dallas-born Bebe Daniels. The theater had a stage band, an orchestra, and, of course, the mighty Wurlitzer organ with Billy Muth at the keyboard. The opening program closed with an organ recessional.
To publicize the theater, in December 1927 an all-Fort Worth movie was filmed in town by a Hollywood film crew. Daniels, along with Adolph Menjou and Clara Bow, selected the script for the movie. (Photo from Wikipedia; clip from the November 26 Star-Telegram.)
On November 25-27 the Star-Telegram ran these large ads for the theater. Stage shows for the opening week included “Dixieland,” “Tokio Blues,” “Gypsyland,” “Out West,” and “Dance Caprice.”
The Worth Theater stage featured acts that ranged from pinup girls to the Andrews sisters to Sally Rand to a preacher.
Stars who appeared at the theater to promote their new movies included Abbott and Costello, Gary Cooper, Gregory Peck, and John Wayne.
In 1956 WBAP-TV was on the scene as bobby-soxers gathered at the Worth to watch Elvis in Love Me Tender. (Film clip from UNT Libraries Special Collections.)
As well known as those stars to Cowtowners was newsboy Monroe Odom, who sold the Star-Telegram outside the Worth Hotel for forty-four years. In fact, Monroe cut the ribbon at the hotel’s opening ceremony.
But not even the Duke could save the Worth from that arch-enemy of architecture: the parking garage. The Fort Worth Club bought the building, and in 1972 the theater presented its last picture show, and the hotel closed, ending a Worth Hotel history in Fort Worth that had begun in 1894.
More than ten thousand items of the hotel and the theater were first auctioned off and then sold piecemeal in classified ads, like items at an estate sale. Chandeliers were sold in lots. Beds, desks, pictures, mirrors. Some of the theater seats went to Kowbell Arena in Mansfield. The thirty-foot flagpole from atop the building sold for two dollars. The theater marquee was sold. The lights and curtains and switchboard of the stage on which John Wayne, Gregory Peck, Bob Hope, Ginger Rogers, Dorothy Lamour, Gary Cooper et al. once stood were sold.
But the theater’s mighty gold and ivory Wurlitzer organ—auction lot no. 2333—was saved, finding a new home at Casa Manana, thanks to Mr. and Mrs. F. Howard Walsh.
Checkout time and curtains for the Worth Hotel and Theater came on October 29, 1972.