Worth Hotel and Theater: 300 Rooms, 2,284 Seats, 1 Mighty Wurlitzer

On September 24, 1927 the Worth Hotel opened at the corner of West 7th and Taylor streets.

worth hotel to open 9-24-27 dmnThe 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.

worth 1st UTAL 12-23-94 2-4-45But 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.)

worth theater has opened page 1 11-27-27The 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.

worth theater has opened p1 lead 11-27-27“‘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.

worth theater has opened photos 1 11-27-27Photos showed the opulent interior.

worth jones ad and story 11-27-27The 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 [1908], 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.

shows smithBy 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.)

worth hotel smithThe Worth Hotel in 1940. (W. D. Smith photo in Fort Worth in Pictures.)

worth theater unit show 11-26The 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.)

worth theater ads 25-26-27On 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.”

worth gladney consolidated castleThrough the years the Worth Theater premiered movies about local subjects: Edna Gladney, Consolidated Aircraft, Vernon Castle.

worth rand preacherThe Worth Theater stage featured acts that ranged from pinup girls to the Andrews sisters to Sally Rand to a preacher.

worth movie starsStars 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.

worth-organ-72But 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.

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10 Responses to Worth Hotel and Theater: 300 Rooms, 2,284 Seats, 1 Mighty Wurlitzer

  1. Ray B Jones Jr says:

    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.

    • hometown says:

      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.

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