Petroleum Building: At the Corner of Oil and Owl

Richard Otto Dulaney accomplished much in his life. He sold real estate. He held public office. He owned oil wells. He owned a uranium mine. He invented drilling and mining equipment. He built one of the handsomest houses on a street lined with handsome houses. But perhaps his greatest legacy is Fort Worth’s Sinclair Building (1930) on Main Street and, nearby on West 5th Street at Throckmorton, the Petroleum Building (1927).

petro building wideBoth buildings were designed and built when Fort Worth was flush with oil money and when art deco style was popular in architecture. The Petroleum Building (above) was designed by Wyatt Hedrick. It has some art deco elements, but they are not nearly as prominent as those of Wiley Clarkson’s eyeful tower: the Sinclair Building.

elizabeth dulaney 1porch dulaneyJust inside the east entrance to Elizabeth Boulevard in Ryan Place stands Richard Otto Dulaney’s home (1923).

dulaney contract 1922The architect of the Dulaney house was Raphael E. Nicholais, a native of Italy who had been a student of the Society of Beaux-Arts Architects and worked in Fort Worth during the early 1920s. The house was built by Harry B. Friedman, who also built Dulaney’s Sinclair Building. The article says the cost of the house was expected to surpass $100,000 ($1.4 million today).

dulaney 1910Richard Otto Dulaney was born in Fannin County in 1882 as one of ten children of Thomas Jefferson Dulaney and Sarilda Slaughter. In 1892 Dulaney’s family moved from Fannin County to Cornish in Indian Territory (Oklahoma). In 1903 Dulaney married a cousin of future Governor James Allred (1935–1939). In Cornish, Dulaney was elected mayor and began to sell real estate. (Note the enumerator of the 1910 census.)

dulaney 30 cddulaney 30 censusThen Dulaney gambled on oil production. His gamble paid off with gushers in Texas and Oklahoma. He moved to Fort Worth in 1919. Above are the 1930 city directory and 1930 census. Dulaney listed the value of the Elizabeth Boulevard house at $50,000 ($700,000 today; 2017 TAD valuation $1,292,000). Note that the census form has a column under “HOME DATA” for “Radio set.” Yep, the Dulaneys had one.

In 1949 Dulaney acquired controlling interest in a mine in Colorado that produced 60 percent of the uranium mined in the United States.

dulaney obitRichard Otto Dulaney died in 1966. He is buried in Greenwood Cemetery.

When the Petroleum Building opened in 1927 the Star-Telegram printed a special section.

Some more views of the Petroleum Building (another XTO restoration):

cornerstone petroleum hedrickpetro 2 owlspetro 4 owlsentry petroleumpetro toppetro verticalpetroleum smithThis photo is by W. D. Smith in Fort Worth in Pictures, 1940. Long gone: the awnings at the bottom and the spires at the top of the building.

Crave more owls? “The Clamorous Owl That Nightly Hoots and Wonders at Our Quaint Spirits”

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4 Responses to Petroleum Building: At the Corner of Oil and Owl

  1. Holly Lile says:

    My Grandfather J.P. Johnston was the co-owner of the building. He sold out his interest in the building before he died in 1935

  2. Noel Coward says:

    That was my Great Grand Father

  3. Pamela Parsons says:

    I feel like I struck oil myself with this article about Richard Otto Dulaney. Genealogy is a favorite hobby, and just lately, I’ve been looking into some far-flung Dulaney relatives – Richard Otto is my fifth cousin, one time removed – and ran across this site. His 1942 WWII draft registration card states he was self employed with offices in the Petroleum Building – something of an understatement, now that I see these photos! Running into surprising (to me) information like this is what makes genealogical research so much fun. Thank you for making it available.

    • hometown says:

      Pamela, your fifth cousin was a Big Deal in Cowtown. Left us with one of the loveliest commercial buildings and one of the loveliest private residences. Not to mention the greatest concentration of owls in town.

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