On December 16, 1899, as Fort Worth residents were doing their Christmas shopping, they took time out to help unwrap a big gift to the entire city: the new Texas & Pacific railroad passenger depot.
The new depot was, the Fort Worth Register proclaimed on December 17, simply “the finest passenger station in the entire South.”
The Register devoted almost a full page to the new depot.
The depot was located at the intersection of Main and Lancaster streets east of the Al Hayne memorial, where the Frank Kent Cadillac dealership later stood.
This H. D. Conner image shows the depot from a different angle. (Photo from Tarrant County College Northeast, Heritage Room.)
This view shows the Al Hayne memorial in the traffic triangle, which no longer exists. (Photo from University of Texas at Arlington Libraries W. D. Smith Commercial Photography Collection.)
The clock tower of the new station was situated so that it could be seen from the north on Main Street. Thus, Main Street downtown was bookended by the courthouse clock tower on the north and the train station clock tower on the south—the two towers almost one mile apart. In this photo the first Worth Hotel is on the left at 7th Street. Just beyond is the block-square Metropolitan Hotel. Both hotels were built by Winfield Scott. Note the giant spectacles sign of optician Charles G. Lord in the lower left. (Photo from the 1905 Panther City Parrot yearbook.)
Railroad officials estimated that fifteen hundred people had come to town for the grand opening of the depot on December 16. The newspaper estimated that 20,000-25,000 people were on hand. A parade marched from the courthouse down Main Street to the new depot. Participants included “secret orders” (fraternal lodges), the fire department, sheriff’s deputies, school children, local militia units.
Bands played. People made speeches: Mayor B. B. Paddock, former Mayor John Peter Smith, T&P railroad officials et al. Paddock broke a bottle of Champagne over one of the building’s columns.
There was a banquet for invited guests. Here is the menu.
The Register noted that on February 1, 1899 George J. Gould, president of the T&P in Texas and son of tycoon Jay Gould, had pressed a button in New York City, symbolically beginning construction of the depot.
Cost of construction was estimated at $300,000 ($8.2 million today). The building was designed by Otto Lang, an architect in the T&P’s engineering department. The exterior was built of Pecos sandstone (like the federal building/post office) and Thurber brick. The roof had Spanish tiles. The waiting room had classical columns supported by marble piers. The floor was tiled in marble. Windows were of cut glass. Clip is from the January 17 Register.
This Sanborn map shows the depot in the upper left relative to Tower 55 to the east and the T&P roundhouse to the south. The roundhouse also was built in 1899. Along four tracks the depot had long sheds for passengers. (From Pete Charlton’s “1000+ Lost Antique Maps of Texas & the Southwest on DVD-ROM.”)
This 1928 aerial photo shows the 1899 depot north of the T&P roundhouse. In 1928 T&P would build a new railyard and roundhouse three miles southwest of downtown.
The 1899 depot replaced the 1882 Union Depot, built after Fort Worth’s second railroad, the Missouri Pacific, arrived. This detail of the 1886 Wellge bird’s-eye-view map shows the Union Depot (labeled U; 81 is Ginocchio’s Hotel) about where Tower 55 is today. The 1882 Union Depot replaced Fort Worth’s first passenger depot, which was located at the foot of Main Street and was dedicated on September 2, 1876.
Texas Rangers who helped keep the peace after the Battle of Buttermilk Junction in 1886 posed at the rear of the 1882 depot. The men are standing about where the U label is in the Wellge map detail. (Photo from East Texas Research Center.)
In turn, the 1899 depot would be replaced in 1931 by Fort Worth’s fourth T&P passenger terminal, the art deco masterpiece of Wyatt Hedrick.
Among passengers arriving at the 1899 station during its career were William Jennings Bryan, generals George B. McClellan and John J. Pershing, presidents Teddy Roosevelt, Harding, and Taft, Jack London and Carry Nation, Pavlova, Caruso, and Paderewski, Dempsey, and Valentino.
The 1899 T&P Depot (Part 2): “Destructive Fire Breaks Out”
Are you familiar with a print of the 1899 T&P RR Depot titled “The Old Station” by John W. Jones?
The undated print that we have is No.4 of 20 and shows the clock tower and the NW corner of the depot with a couple of cars in the foreground that, if accurately depicted, might help date the print. There are people standing on the sidewalk and the rail tracks for the Interurban? and overheard wires cross the foreground.
I would be happy to email photographs of it if you tell me where to send them.
Mr. Holland, I don’t believe I have seen that Jones print. I have sent you my e-mail address. Thank you.
Interestingly, that station had a number of female “special police officers” working for the Travelers Aid Society.
A fine history by itself.
Thanks, Kevin. I just pulled up some articles about travelers aid (apparently operated by the YWCA) at the station, assisting children traveling alone, “country girls” arriving in the big city, passengers who did not speak English, had lost tickets, money, etc.
Here’s the only tantalizing partial photographic view of the first T&P depot I’ve ever found:
Wow. I had never seen that photo. Last time I checked there was still some track down the middle of North Houston Street into the power plant grounds. I assume the track ran through the Cotton Belt yard and supplied the power plant with coal, etc.
OMG! What a treasure. According to the 1886 Wellge bird’s-eye, the depot was L-shaped, so that view is of the inside corner on the north/northeast side of the building. That photo connects to Fort Worth railroad history in general and to the Battle of Buttermilk Junction in particular. I will update with credit to the East Texas Research Center. Thanks to you, sir.
I keep hoping that someday I’ll find a photo of the first T&P depot–the one that preceded the 1899 T&P depot. Plus the adjoining Ginocchio Hotel. I’ve seen nothing but sketches! Meanwhile…
I finally did find a photo of the elusive Cotton Belt depot that both Pete Charlton and I searched for years. It’s in the UTA digital archives! This is the depot the Cotton Belt first used–the one across the Trinity by the old power plant.
All I have seen are rough sketches in the bird’s-eye-view maps of the late nineteenth century. That depot stood well into the era of photography. So did the hotel. The Swartz brothers were here. As one of the busiest public places in town, the depot must have been photographed formally and informally many times. It’s the same old refrain: What became of the photos? Who throws out history? But we do it every single day.