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.
This H. D. Conner image shows the depot from a different angle. (Photo from Tarrant County College Northeast, Heritage Room.)
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 tower on the north and the train station 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.
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.”)
The 1899 depot replaced the 1882 Union Depot, built after Fort Worth’s second railroad, the Katy, 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.)
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 Carrie Nation, Pavlova, Caruso, and Paderewski, Dempsey and Valentino.