The Club and Its Clubhouse: Membership Has Its Privileges

Fort Worth’s first club for the city’s movers and shakers was the Commercial Club, founded in 1885. The club was a sort of pre-Internet LinkedIn—a face-to-face place for members to network, to wine and dine, wheel and deal.

Among members were people whose names are still remembered: bankers, cattlemen, merchants, mayors, and other business and civic leaders.

The club met in temporary quarters such as the original Knights of Pythias lodge hall until 1887, when the club built its own home on Main at 6th. (Sketch from Amon Carter Museum.)

This 1891 bird’s-eye-view map detail shows the Commercial Club building and the little Winfree Building (1890) next to it.

In 1906 the Commercial Club changed its name to the “Fort Worth Club.” Clip is from the May 16 Telegram.

In 1915 the Fort Worth Club demolished its 1887 building and built a larger building on the site. George W. Haltom’s jewelry store was located on the ground floor when the building opened June 2, 1916.

In 1920 the Fort Worth Club, after occupying its second home on Main Street at 6th Street just four years, was ready for a change.

fwc roe block bought 1-6-20So, on January 6 the club bought the block of downtown called the “Roe block,” bounded by Throckmorton, Taylor, 6th, and 7th streets. In 1907 that block had been the location of A. J. Roe’s lumberyard, where the man who murdered County Attorney Jeff McLean was captured after a shootout with police. The Roe block would have a brighter future: In 1927 the Worth Hotel and Worth Theater would open on the west half of the block. Clip is from the January 6 Star-Telegram.

But on the Roe block the third Fort Worth Club Building would be six years in the making.

fwc old site sold 11-3-22In 1922 the club sold its 1916 building at Main and 6th streets to oilman Floyd J. Holmes. That sale gave the club money with which to build its new clubhouse. Clip is from the November 3 Star-Telegram.

fwc contract 12-7-24In 1924 the club let a contract for construction of the new building. The building was one of the last designs of uberarchitects Sanguinet and Staats. Clip is from the December 7 Dallas Morning News.

fort worth club antenna 1925In 1925 Amon Carter used the roof of the unfinished Fort Worth Club Building to string an antenna for radio station WBAP, then housed next door in the Star-Telegram building.  The domes in the lower left of those of First Methodist Church, South (1908).

fort worth club open 1926On February 1, 1926 the Star-Telegram marked the opening of the new clubhouse with photos of the three buildings and a brief history of the Fort Worth Club.

gehrig fort worth clubThe Fort Worth Club had its own orchestra. Smith Ballew was the conductor. The building’s ballroom measured forty by ninety feet.

Fakes Department Store was the original tenant of the bottom five floors of the building until 1946, when R. E. Cox Department Store moved in and stayed until 1955. The offices of the Fort Worth & Denver City railroad were also in the building.

For club members the building offered a gym, billiard room, bowling alley, swimming pool, library, lounge, dining room and grille, barbershop. Members had forty-four bedrooms, including eight suites (club president Amon Carter had a suite where he entertained folks such as President Franklin Roosevelt, Gene Autry, and Bob Hope). Other club visitors have included Presidents Eisenhower and Lyndon Johnson, J. Edgar Hoover, Eddie Rickenbacker, Will Rogers, Jack Dempsey, and General Douglas MacArthur.

Among the club’s prized relics furnishing the new building is a grandfather clock presented to the club in 1887 by E. E. Chase (as in Chase Court).

In 1926 the club had seven hundred members (and “several” female “associate members”). In 1972 the club expanded its building westward onto the former site of the Worth Hotel and Theater.

(More on the history of the Fort Worth Club and its ties to Haltom’s jewelers and the Ashton Hotel building.)

Some views of the Fort Worth Club Building:

fort worth clubfwc night fort worth club 3

night fort worth club

look up fort worth club detail cropped

night fort worth club two boyscorner fort worth club insidecorner fort worth clubfwc face fort worth club

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