In any city most of its buildings live and die, as do most of its residents, without much public notice. Even a building that survives but is abandoned can become a brick-and-mortar Claude Rains, acquiring a mantle of invisibility and hunkering unseen and anonymous just twenty feet from a four-lane thoroughfare that each day is traveled by hundreds or thousands of people—people who neither notice nor wonder “what that old building yoostabe.”
South Main Street, in its 800, 700, and 600 blocks, has four such yoostabes. A brief and incomplete biography of these buildings (labeled here S, A, E, C) follows.
S: Celebrating (quietly) its centennial in 2016 is the Sealy Building at 801 South Main. James Larkin Sealy (1868-1963) owned a grocery store and butcher shop at 901 South Main. After it burned, in 1916 he built a new building at 801 South Main to house a grocery store and fifteen apartments.
In 1917 Mrs. M. O. Sealy operated the Octavia Apartments upstairs.
The Octavia Apartments were accessed on the north side of the building from East Leuda Street.
In 1918 the Octavia Apartments were upstairs over Sandegard’s grocery. Apparently the first operator of the grocery store in the new Sealy Building was Alex J. Sandegard, who operated fifteen “economy cash” neighborhood grocery stores in Fort Worth in 1918. But Sealy soon took over the store. Note that there were four neighborhood groceries in those three blocks of South Main.
By 1921 the apartments in the Sealy Building were the Hotel Octavia. Mrs. Betts boasted of hot and cold running water, streetcar service, and “hot biscuit three times a day.” (We can but wonder if Mrs. Betts kept re-serving that one “hot biscuit” over and over.)
By 1938 the Sealy Building housed a drugstore downstairs and a hotel upstairs. By 1968 the building housed Dill’s Café downstairs and apartments upstairs. Today the building is vacant.
A: One block north the building at 701 South Main yoostabe American Laundry.
A house and then the Bluebird Café had occupied the lot at 701 South Main until 1937.
That’s when American Laundry moved from its location on Clinton Street on the North Side to its new home on South Main and remained there about twenty years. By 1968 the building housed Goodwill.
During the mid-1980s the building housed Dave Gorman’s Super Pros Gym. Today 701 South Main is vacant.
E: The building at 665 South Main, built in 1895, yoostabe Eagle Steam Bakery, one of the largest bakeries in Texas at the turn of the century.
This 1918 ad listing local sellers of Eagle Steam Bakery’s Big Butter-Nut “sanitary wrapped” bread included Sealy’s market. Another seller was S. S Dillow in Poly. And the Cobb brick brothers. Note the ROsedale telephone exchange.
Eagle Steam Bakery owner Walter Joseph Doherty died in 1934. By 1937 the bakery passed to new owners and a new name: “Surebest.”
The bakery was three blocks south of the “burn zone” of the South Side fire of 1909 and thus spared. Today the building is vacant.
The Sealy, American Laundry, and Eagle Steam Bakery buildings have been shuttered for years. Let’s try one more:
C: At 650 South Main, this was the Coca-Cola bottling plant about 1940. (W. D. Smith photo.)
Some history: Coca-Cola began bottling in Fort Worth about 1906 on West Weatherford Street. Clip is from the 1907 city directory.
Ad is from 1908.
By 1908 the bottling plant had a baseball team in the Junior City League. In May 1910 the Glenwood team defeated the Coca-Colas.
Early on, of course, Coca-Cola, invented by pharmacist John Stith Pemberton (1831-1888) and originally marketed as a temperance drink, contained cocaine. Ad is from Wikipedia.
But in 1910 the Coca-Cola company placed this apparent news story in newspapers. It was actually an ad declaring that Coca-Cola now contained “no ‘dope’ of any kind.”
By 1920 Fort Worth’s Coca-Cola bottling plant was located at 1510 East Front (renamed “Lancaster” in 1931) Street. ( Yes, those are the Thomas J. Brown and Charles A. Lupton for whom the TCU union building and the Brown-Lupton Foundation are named.)
In the 1920s the Fort Worth bottling plant even had its own company orchestra, which performed on WBAP radio.
By 1923 the bottling plant had relocated to 650 South Main Street. The bottling plant office was built in 1926.
In 1941 “the pause that refreshes” was still being bottled at 650 South Main.
Today the old Coca-Cola yoostabe has been given new life: The rest of the bottling plant has been demolished (and the warehouse is now Rahr Brewery), but the office building has been renovated as part of a commercial-residential complex called “Highpoint.”
Inside the building is a reminder of its past life.
By 1941 soft drink bottler, bakery, laundry, and hotel were still operating in their respective buildings, but by 1949, although the bottling plant and laundry held on, the bakery building was a warehouse, and the Sealy Building housed a roofing company and a sheet metal company. If the original occupants of the four old buildings had formed a tontine—a last-man club—the bottling plant would have won, outlasting the original occupants of the other three yoostabes: In the late 1960s the Coca-Cola plant was still in operation at 650 South Main Street. And today, although the plant long ago bottled its last belly-wash, its office building is occupied again.