From Earl Grey to Zane Grey

Long before the Fab Four and the British Invasion of the 1960s, Fort Worth had its own British Invasion as people such as these six men left England to make a difference way out west.

Richard L. Vickery (1850-1914) was born in Devonshire, England, and moved to Fort Worth from Waxahachie. He was the largest landowner in the Glenwood community southeast of downtown and a major real estate developer in Glenwood and Poly, where he lived—and died—at 867 Conner Avenue. He also was vice president of  the Glenwood and Polytechnic College streetcar line, which ran along the boulevard named for him. R. Vickery Elementary School on that boulevard and Vickery Place in Dallas also are named for him.

Architect Howard Messer came to Texas from England in 1892. He designed the Ball-Eddleman-McFarland house (1899) for Frank Ball and his mother, Sarah C. Ball, widow of Galveston banker George Ball. Messer may also have designed the neighboring Pollock-Capps house (1899) for the physician of Mrs. Ball, Dr. Joseph Pollock. Howard was the brother of Arthur Albert Messer, who was . . .

an architect with his own flair for design: Arthur had designed the flamboyant (but flammable) Texas Spring Palace (see fifth entry). The brothers also designed several houses for the Chamberlin Arlington Heights development (see fourth entry) and partnered with Marshall Sanguinet, who later teamed with Carl Staats to become the most visible architectural firm in Fort Worth’s history.

In 1890 Manchester-born Humphrey Barker Chamberlin (1847-1897) bought two thousand acres of prairie west of downtown and began developing Chamberlin Arlington Heights, envisioning it as an upscale suburb similar to his development in Denver. In the early 1890s he commissioned for Arlington Heights a model mansion, a grand hotel (which burned), a streetcar line down Camp Bowie Boulevard to Fort Worth, and a water system. He impounded Lake Como, around which an amusement park—the Six Flags of its day—developed. But the silver panic of 1893 ruined Chamberlin’s finances, slowing development of Arlington Heights. (Bonus trivia: Chamberlin was president of the national YMCA, died while bicycling in his native England.)

William Alfred Sanderson (1819-1904) of England settled in Tarrant County in 1847 (two years before the fort was established), claiming a republic of Texas land grant on the East Side near the Trinity River and Sycamore Creek. He became a justice of the peace and was a charter member of First Christian Church (1855). He married into the Ayres family and is buried in tiny Ayres Cemetery, once part of the Ayres farm. The cemetery is now enclosed by the parking lot of Hotel Trinity Inn Suites on Beach Street. Sanderson and Benjamin Ayres have streets named after them on the East Side.

Al Hayne, a civil engineer, was born in London in 1849 and had been in Texas, working for various railroads, maybe ten years by the evening of May 30, 1890. The Texas Spring Palace exhibition was ending a successful second season. The exhibition was devoted to all things Texan. Among the highlights were exhibits from every county, a prairie dog village, a miniature lake with fish, and Sam Houston’s walking cane. The sprawling, exotic structure was, in the modest assessment of exhibition ramrod B. B. Paddock, “easily the most beautiful structure ever erected on earth.” And perhaps the most flammable. As a grand ball ending the evening was about to begin, with seven thousand people present, fire swept through the wooden structure. As decorations disintegrated in flames, people were trapped inside. Men and women jumped from the upper floor; children were thrown out windows to be caught by men standing below. The palace burned to the ground, Paddock said, in fifteen minutes—so quickly that firefighters could not save any part of the building. Several hundred people were injured but only forty-three seriously.

And there was only one fatality. Al Hayne refused to escape the burning building and instead rescued trapped women and children. Only after he, too, was on fire did he abandon his mission. He jumped from the second floor but died of burns the next day.

A monument honoring Hayne is located at Lancaster Avenue and Main Street. It was designed by the architectural firm of Marshall Sanguinet and English-born brothers Howard (see second entry) and Arthur Messer (see third entry). Arthur Messer had designed the Spring Palace.

This entry was posted in Architecture, Casas Grande, Cities of the Dead, Downtown, East Side, Heads Above the Crowd, Public Art, West Side. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *