The Electric Building: There’s No Place Like Ohm

To some it represented the home of Reddy Kilowatt. To others it represented the home, if only on screen, of John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, Marilyn Monroe.

Fort Worth’s nineteen-story Electric Building on West 7th Street at Lamar Street began life in 1929 as the headquarters of Fort Worth Power & Light, which soon became “Texas Electric Service Company.”

electric pcThis postcard shows the Electric Building and the Hollywood Theater, which in 1930 was built as an annex on the north. To the left of the theater can be seen the 1914 Chamber of Commerce Auditorium and First Christian Church. To the right, at the mouth of the 7th Street “canyon,” is the Neil P. Anderson Building. The Electric Building and Hollywood Theater were designed by Wyatt C. Hedrick in the then-popular art deco style. And both were financed by Houston capitalist Jesse Jones, who in the late 1920s went on a building binge—the Great Depression be hanged!—in a four-block area of downtown Fort Worth. His Fort Worth Properties Corporation built the Electric Building and Hollywood Theater, the Medical Arts Building (1927), the Worth Hotel and Theater (1927), and The Fair Building (1930, now home of the Star-Telegram).

Aerial photo shows the locations of the four buildings built by Jones from 1927 through 1930. Two of the four survive.

medical pantherGround for the first of the Jesse Jones Four, the Medical Arts Building, was broken in 1925 as the new Panther Park (LaGrave Field) was being built.

medical worth petroleumIn 1926, as the Medical Arts Building was almost completed, also going up were R. O. Dulaney’s Petroleum Building and Jones’s second building, the Worth Hotel and Theater.

medical tenantsTenants moved into the Medical Arts Building in April 1927.

electric gas ad jones 11-27-27 dmnThis ad by the gas company in the November 27, 1927 Star-Telegram congratulated Jones on his first two Fort Worth buildings: the Medical Arts Building and the Worth Hotel and Theater.

President Roosevelt in 1933 would appoint Jones chairman of the federal Reconstruction Finance Corporation, making Jones so powerful that he was sometimes called “the fourth branch of government.” Jones also later was secretary of commerce.

electric building planned-11-27-27Also on November 27, 1927 Jones announced plans to build the Electric Building between the Medical Arts Building and the Worth Hotel.

lamar at 6th sanborn w photosIn 1910 the site of the Electric Building was occupied by the sanitarium (later Southwestern Hospital) of Dr. Clay Johnson of Chase Court and St. Paul’s Methodist Episcopal Church.

The electric company moved into its new home in June 1929. But by the end of the year Fort Worth Power & Light had been taken over by Texas Electric Service Company, which had operated mainly in west Texas.

electric sold 6-7-34 dmnOn June 7, 1934 the Dallas Morning News announced that the Electric Building had been sold. It was the third of Jones’s Fort Worth buildings to be sold in an reorganization during the Great Depression.

Reddy Kilowatt first appeared in a Star-Telegram TESCO ad in 1937.

The Electric Building now houses apartments. Part of the Hollywood Theater was converted into a parking garage for tenants. Part of the theater survives.

Some views of the Electric Building:

electric wide

The entrance on West 7th Street.

electric boltsThe hand of Zeus? A fistful of lightning.

electric bolts on doorThe bolts image is repeated on the entrance to the elevator lobby.

electric look up steepelectric bird

look up electric top

electric marker

electric flower 2electric flower 1A flower motif.

holly parking detail 3

The flower motif was repeated inside. This detail was in the Hollywood Theater auditorium. The Hollywood Theater post has more interior photos.

electric handtoolElectrical worker’s wire stripper or crimper?

electric at -s-tJunction of the Electric Building and the former Star-Telegram Building.

look up electric detail 2 window electric detailglass st andrews electricThe Electric Building between St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church and the old Fort Worth National Bank Building.

Some details of the foyer on West 7th Street, which served both the Electric Building and the Hollywood Theater:

electric foyer detail 4 electric foyer detail 3 electric foyer detail 2 electric foyer detail 1

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2 Responses to The Electric Building: There’s No Place Like Ohm

  1. John Olthoff says:

    You know what I like besides the history, all the images you and I have missed when looking at the building that Mike has found and brought to us. Thanks Mike

    • hometown says:

      Thanks, John. I think Hedrick designed buildings that were intended to be studied, explored, not just occupied or walked and driven past. Detail everywhere, from the foundation to the cornice. Looking at his Electric Building or his old Central Post Office or his T&P passenger depot is like going on an Easter egg hunt.

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