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.)
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 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.
Jones was busy in Fort Worth from 1927 through 1930. He also built The Fair Building (1930). Aerial photo shows the locations of the four buildings built by Jones. Two of the four survive.
By 1940 the Worth, Hollywood, Palace, and Majestic, along with the Bowie, Tivoli, Varsity, and Parkway, were Interstate theaters. (W. D. Smith photo in Fort Worth in Pictures.)
The Worth Hotel in 1940. (W. D. Smith photo in Fort Worth in Pictures.)
The Worth Hotel was flanked by the Star-Telegram building and the Fort Worth Club Building, whose main tenant was Fakes Department Store. (Photo from Jack White Photograph Collection, University of Texas at Arlington Libraries.)
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 pipe organ with “Fort Worth’s own joy boy,” Billy Muth, at the keyboard.
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.”
Through the years the Worth Theater premiered movies about local subjects: Edna Gladney, Consolidated Aircraft, Vernon Castle.
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 1965 James Stewart led the cast of Shenandoah in a personal appearance at the Worth.
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 with that use in mind.
In October 1971 the Worth Theater presented its last movies, a double bill of Butch Cassidy and The Vanishing Point.
And on April 1, 1972 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.(Photo from Jack White Photograph Collection, University of Texas at Arlington Libraries.)
The Demolition Company was Welex a DIVISION OF HALLIBURTON. THE TWO KEY MEN FROM WELEX WAS JACK BROWN A WORLD WAR11 VETERAN THAT FLEW B-25 BOMBER OVER JAPAN AND CARLOS E. BALLARD VETERAN USMC OF KOREAN WAR, ORDANCE EXPERT. THE TEAM DEMO THE THEATER FIRST. I CE BALLARD HAVE A BRASE PLATE FROM HOTEL THAT HAS A EMBOSED ( W ) WITH TEXAS CATTLE BRANDS EMBOSSED. SOME OF THE OLDER LADIES THERE AT THE DEMOLITION WERE VERY SAD TO SEE THE OLD HOTEL DESTROYED
You will be pleased to know that someone thought highly enough of the Worth Hotel to take a souvenir with them all the way across the pacific to Australia during WW2. I found a key fob buried in the dirt more than 70 years after
My father Ray B Jones was the manager of the Worth Theater when it opened in 1927 and except for a period when Interstate Theaters sold, managed the theater until his illness and death in the 60’s.
I have many fond memories of the theater.
Some of the stars that made personal appearances stayed in our home instead of a hotel.
On many saturday nights when I was in high school I was able to join a get together at Anders Cafe with theater people and Star Telegram folks.
Wow. Movie stars staying at a theater manager’s house! It truly was a different world back then. You must have so many great memories. So many people who lived in Fort Worth during the era of the Show Row theaters remember them fondly.
When I was about 6 years old, my father decided to move his gift shop to the southeast corner of 7th and Taylor. By the time I was 8, on Saturdays, I would get to the “store”, then to a movie in one of the three theaters on 7th St or over to the Downtown YMCA. I had freedoms back then that parents today will not allow and kids will never know. My grandmother would occasionally take us to eat in the “club” that was near the top of the hotel. Of course, when she did that, we were more formally dressed than Saturday run around clothes. You bring back a lot of good memories with your posts about Fort Worth!
Thanks, Wiley. Those 7th Street theaters hold a lot of memories for us AARP-age kids.
another great one, mike. i was doing my thing this morning … hometown by armored car. the new and improved Henderson st to jax beer hwy. road. what a nightmare. there is a 500k monstrosity in the middle of the thing. the current leaders have no vision, just dreams of remaking Cowtown to a new age, euro trash heap.
Thanks, Earl. I drove through the circle for the first time last week. Hard to grasp the enormity of that Panther Island project. New bridges, lake, bypass channel, canals. Venice on the Prairie. There is also an ambitious plan to vastly enlarge Gateway Park on the East Side, even restoring the orphaned original river channel that arcs to the north near the screen of the drive-in theater.
I seem to recall an old Bud Kennedy column, about one of the 7th street theatres still being there, but now covered and only 1 way to get in….can’t recall theatre name, might be worth looking into
John, the Worth post has a link to the Hollywood Theater post with photos I took inside recently. Cowtown Goes Hollywood: “Fort Worth’s Newest Movie Cathedral”
The church I grew up in held Good Friday services at the Worth theater in the 1960s. The theater and seats smelled musty to me.
I was in the children’s choir and we practiced at the Worth on Saturday mornings a few weeks prior to the Tres Ore / Good Friday services. We practiced while standing in a circle around the Wurlitzer’s console just like we did at our church’s Kilgen organ which was from the Majestic.
There were no Fort Worth style shootouts or fan dancers at the services I attended as far as I can recall.