Fort Worth Public Market Building: Our Palace of Produce

When it comes to architectural detail, few buildings in Fort Worth can hold a candle—or a carrot or a cucumber or a cantaloupe—to this building:

building public marketOn June 20, 1930 Fort Worth’s Public Market opened in its grand home on Henderson Street.

public market opens 6-20-30 fwpOpening day was a success. Many farmers sold out of produce and had to go back to their farms for more, the Fort Worth Press reported on June 22.

The building was built by John J. Harden of Oklahoma City. His son John H. Harden managed it.

John J. Harden also built public market buildings in Oklahoma City (top photo, 1928) and Tulsa (1930). Both buildings are occupied today, although only the original front facade of the Tulsa building survives.

public market june 15As was the custom at the time, local businesses bought newspaper ads that congratulated the new business but also pointed out their contribution. For example, Tucker Concrete & Material Company proudly provided the sand and gravel for the Fort Worth building.

public market page 1 6-19-30 fwpOn June 19 the Press had devoted its front page to the market. The Blackstone Hotel orchestra performed at the opening, broadcast by remote on WBAP radio. Note that the Press was not yet a tabloid.

public market photos 6-19-20 fwpThe bottom photo shows the parking area and 145 covered stalls for farmers located behind the building. The building contained twenty thousand square feet of floor space for vendors.

public market full page ad

public market full page ad merchants fwp

These full-page ads in the Press show that the market was not all ’taters and ’maters.

public radio 6-13-30 dmnEven before it opened, the Public Market sponsored a radio program on WBAP. Note also programs featuring the Blackstone Hotel orchestra and the Lake Worth Casino orchestra. Clip is from the June 13, 1930 Dallas Morning News.
But the Public Market struggled during the Great Depression and closed in 1941. Over the years the building housed businesses such as Fort Worth Frozen Food Lockers, AMC Supply, and Cadillac Plastics. The building has been vacant for several years.

Bob Simpson, who restored several historic Fort Worth buildings, bought the building in 2012 but sold it to the Wilks brothers of Cisco in 2014.

The latest: The building will become The Harden at Public Market, an active senior living facility of 199 rooms in a five-story structure that will include a parking garage.
Some views of the Public Market Building, designed to pea-pickin’ perfection by Oklahoma architect B. Gaylord Noftsger (1897-1979):

entry public market3look up public market2 public market window boxpublic market urnpublic market tilespublic market sign public market pubpublic market missionpublic market little manpublic market grapespublic market detail 3public market detail 1public market detail 2

public market 3 towersA tower threefer: two towers of the Public Market Building and the clock and bell tower of the Dr Pepper bottling plant (1938, Crane).

public market marker

More about John J. Harden:
A Lot, a Plot, and, in Between, a Nosh

This entry was posted in Advertising, Architecture, Downtown, Downtown, All Around, Life in the Past Lane. Bookmark the permalink.

27 Responses to Fort Worth Public Market Building: Our Palace of Produce

  1. Gerald Compton says:

    Awesome info, alot of history here

  2. Holly Leake says:

    Love this Building . I would live to see it revived.

  3. mark daniels says:

    Where can I go to see some pictures of the inside of this building ? Do you have any ? Im interested in this building.


  4. sally and tom campbell says:

    WOW–gorgeous photo essay! But where to park if revived?

    • hometown says:

      Thanks, Sally and Tom. Too bad we can’t “click and drag” our endangered buildings to better locations.

  5. SEC says:

    I love this building! I don’t often have cause to drive by any more, but when I do, I always think “Why doesn’t someone restore that exquisite structure?”. It would be such a shame to lose it forever. I’m so glad to read that it is on someone’s radar to save it. Can you tell me if it ever housed space that was rented out as meat lockers. I was born in Fort Worth in 1956 and I recall going into the area with my dad as a small girl to retrieve meat for the home. I thought it was inside this fabulous beauty. Is that possible?

    • hometown says:

      Thanks. Am pretty sure it did include meat lockers at one time. I wish Bob Simpson had held onto that building.

  6. Kelsey says:

    Judy. I don’t know you, but I have the same dream. As a company member of the recently orphaned Trinity Shakespeare Festival, I’m looking for a new home for our theatre. What have you found out about the building and what their plans are? Would you be interested in seeing the building used for the arts? Not just the arts but quality, classical art?

    • Judy Livingston says:

      I have been unable to get any info. Of course my dream for the building is completely different from yours… but any way to revive the building would be better than letting it crumble.

  7. Judy Livingston says:

    yes that is what I found out also. I would love to figure out a way to acquire this property and restore it. I feel like they are just letting it go to waste so they can sell the land for the interstate because they can’t tear it down.

  8. Judy Livingston says:

    I thought I read that a company in OK owned it.

    • hometown says:

      Judy, the last report on the building I find in the Star-Telegram archives is about the purchase of the building in 2014 by the Wilks brothers from Bob Simpson. If the Wilkses have sold the building, I have not heard about it yet.

  9. Judy Livingston says:

    I would like to know the plans , if any for this building.

    • hometown says:

      Judy, the last I heard, the Wilks brothers of Cisco still own the building and plan to renovate. I think the building’s historic designation prevents demolition for some time.

  10. Helen Machala says:

    What are future plans for this building?

    • hometown says:

      Helen, as far as I know, the Wilks brothers still own the building. Restoration was hoped for, but I do not know the status of that. The building was boarded up the last time I checked on it.

  11. Edwardean Harris says:

    As a child, my mother kept unwed mothers, and we used Klien’s meat market to store items. They were inside the building.

  12. Jeanette Simcox says:

    I was about 4 or 5 when I visited the Public Market with my mother, so that would have been in 1938-1939. I remember it looked very shady in there and smelled dusty. I read above there was a mezzanine in there but a little child wouldn’t have noticed that, I guess. I remember being very amazed at everything I did see, though, including potatoes galore!

  13. earl belcher says:

    Orange Knox Age? Drink or put it in the Ford T-model. Thanks, Mike.

    • hometown says:

      That ad probably should read Ade, not Age, but I can’t find anything on it either way. If there was a tie to the Knox gelatin company, I can’t find it.

  14. Sharon Neighours says:

    What are the plans now for the building? Would love to see something positive happen here. Hope there are no plans to demolish.

    • hometown says:

      Sharon, the future looked bright when Bob Simpson, the angel of so many restorations, bought the building. But he sold it. From what I have heard, the new owners do NOT plan to demolish. If worse comes to worst, you and Dennis can stand in front of the bulldozers with me.

  15. Steve A says:

    What about the repurposed Santa Fe Station?

Leave a Reply

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