His was a fortune built on change: nickels, dimes, and quarters.
Samuel Henry Kress was born in Pennsylvania in 1863. In 1887 Kress, then twenty-four, opened a stationery and notions store in Nanticoke, Pennsylvania.
In 1896 Kress opened a “5 and 10c” store in Memphis, Tennessee. His S. H. Kress Company thrived into the next century and eventually had a chain of 250 stores across the country.
Fort Worth’s first Kress store opened on May 5, 1905 at 813 Houston Street. Two prominent cattlemen, brothers George T. Reynolds and William D. Reynolds, built the first Kress building to Kress specifications. Clip is from the May 4 Telegram.
The label of this University of Texas at Arlington Library photo of a “5-10 and 25 cent” Kress store in Fort Worth has no date or street address, but the building may be the first Kress store at 813 Houston.
In the 1905 city directory variety stores were listed as “racket stores.” One theory is that such stores were so-named because of the racket that resulted when their stock (pots, pans, etc.) was handled.
Ad is from the July 23, 1905 Telegram.
In 1911 the store moved a block south to a larger location in the Shelton Building (1900) at 901 Houston Street. A third story had been added to the building in 1910. The building later housed Hogan Office Supply and now FedEx Office. (Top photo from University of Texas at Arlington Library.)
The east side of Houston Street became bargain central for shoppers. Other bargain stores were McCrory’s (at 401 Houston where the Westbrook is today), F. W. Woolworth at 501 Houston, and W. T. Grant at 611 Houston.
Full-page ad is from the August 7, 1919 Star-Telegram. Boy’s moleskin pants 50 cents, Mary Jane pumps $1.25, boy’s suit with Peter Pan collar, silk cord, and tassels $1.98.
Fast-forward twenty-five years and scooch back north three blocks. In 1936 the Kress company opened a fine new store at 605 Houston/604 Main. S. H. Kress wanted his buildings to be viewed as public art. The new Fort Worth building, like more than fifty other Kress buildings, was designed in art deco style by Kress head architect Edward F. Sibbert. The Fort Worth building, like several other surviving Kress buildings, is listed on the National Register.
The store opened for public inspection on August 14, 1936, although, as with the new Montgomery Ward store on West 7th Street in 1924, nothing was sold on opening day. On August 13 the Star-Telegram wrote that only the Kress stores in New York and Nashville could rival the Fort Worth store. The Fort Worth store featured the latest in air-conditioning, lighting, and ventilation. Interior materials included marble from Italy and zebrawood from Africa. Solid bronze was used for doors, stair railings, and other decorative metalwork.
In the August 13 Star-Telegram Texas Electric Service Company swooned over the Kress Building’s air-conditioning and modern lighting.
This full-page ad in the August 13 Star-Telegram showed the progression of buildings during the store’s thirty-one years downtown.
As was the custom at the time, local businesses, especially those that had contributed to the project, congratulated the Kress company via newspaper ads. For example, on the left, Lauritzen & Makin supplied interior fixtures; Morrow Wrecking Company cleared the building site.
Eclectic Avenue: This W. D. Smith photo of 1946 shows, from left, the 1915 Fort Worth Club Building (Ken Davis’s Mid-Continent Supply Company at the time, now the Ashton Hotel), the 1890 Winfree Building (second location of the White Elephant), Kress, and Cox in the much-remodeled 1895 Scott-Harrold Building (as in Winfield Scott). (Photo from University of Texas at Arlington Library.)
The Houston Street side in 1946. (Photo from University of Texas at Arlington Library.)
This photo from University of Texas at Arlington Library was taken in 1957.
But three years later a different kind of change came to the five-and-dime store. By 1960 people were shopping more in suburban stores and less downtown. The downtown Kress store closed on December 31, 1960. The building was converted to lofts in 2006. Clip is from the December 16, 1960 Dallas Morning News.
Samuel Henry Kress, who became a millionaire a nickel and a dime at a time, died in 1955 in his Fifth Avenue penthouse.
Some more views of Fort Worth’s Kress Building:
The intersection of Main and 5th streets is art deco junction. On the southeast corner is the Blackstone Hotel. On the northwest corner is the Sinclair Building. And across Main from the Blackstone is the Kress Building.
The art deco triumvirate from left to right, Blackstone, Sinclair, and Kress reflected in a wall of the 777 Main Building.
The Kress Building is unusual in that it stretches two hundred feet from Main (top photo) to Houston (bottom photo) with entrances on each street but is not on a corner lot.
Sometime in the 1990s the 1895 Scott-Harrold Building was demolished and reincarnated as a parking lot. Demolition exposed rough brickwork where the north wall of the Kress Building rubbed shoulders with the south wall of the Scott-Harrold Building. The fifty-foot-wide parking lot in 2020 was replaced by the AC Hotel Fort Worth Downtown.