The Jarvis Building: Our Little Rhapsody in Blue

Yesterday we looked at the colossal (Masonic Temple). Today we look at the cozy.

The little Jarvis Building at 506 Main Street today is wedged between—and overshadowed by—the 1914 Burk Burnett Building and the 1930 Sinclair Building:

jarvis sandwichEven the trees are almost as tall.

jarvis building wideAh, but when the Jarvis Building was built about 1884, at two stories it stood shoulder to shoulder, cornice to cornice among its contemporaries.

Downtown had only a few buildings—mostly banks and hotels—of three or four stories. For example, the building at Houston and West 3rd streets, which housed City National Bank and the telephone exchange, was a veritable skyscraper at four stories.

jarvis portraitThe Jarvis Building is named for civic leader James Jones Jarvis.


Jarvis had helped to develop the block where his namesake building is located. Jarvis and John Peter Smith were law and real estate partners. The two men also were officers of Tidball, Van Zandt and Company, an early bank that was the forerunner of Fort Worth National Bank. Jarvis and Smith owned several blocks of Main and Houston streets, including the Smith & Jarvis Block between 4th and 5th streets. In 1884 Smith and Jarvis built their namesake building at 506 Main, labeled with a blue “J.” Across Main Street, where Mi Cocina is today, was the post office. On this map there are only three buildings of three stories. (Sanborn maps used a lot of abbreviations: Sal. is saloon, B&S is boots and shoes, Ins. is insurance, Off’s. is offices, Conf’y is confectionery, Gro. is grocery.)

jarvis-84-schoolsIn its first year the Jarvis Building—early on called the “Smith & Jarvis Building”—housed the superintendent of Fort Worth’s nascent public school system of thirty-eight teachers, twelve hundred students, and eight buildings funded by a tax of one-half of one percent.

jarvis-84The building in its first year also was the scene of a fair and supper hosted by “the Catholic ladies.”

Some closer views of the Jarvis Building:

jarvis-1948-utalThis photo shows the Jarvis Building in 1948 when it housed a recreation club, luggage shop, sandwich shop, hatter, and a magic shop. (Photo from University of Texas at Arlington Library.)

jarvis magnet1The Jarvis Building is one of the few remaining with cast-iron architectural elements: Even with several coats of paint, its cast-iron columns hold a one-pound magnet. (On the 1889 map the building at 510 and 512 Main Street is labeled “iron front.”)

jarvis-89-ironApparently the cast-iron front of the Jarvis Building was not original, was added in 1889. Note that a new ball park was being built at the Spring Palace grounds on the Texas & Pacific railroad reservation, that Fort Worthites were traveling to Dallas to witness a game of baseball, and that Fort Worth was transitioning to electric streetcars.

jarvis two postsjarvis detail postjarvis-frog

jarvis detail 3

jarvis corniceThe cornice also is metal.

Fort Worth’s Street Gang

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8 Responses to The Jarvis Building: Our Little Rhapsody in Blue

  1. anita says:

    As always, Mike, you give me a new appreciation of my hometown, it’s history, landmarks, and people. Thank you!

  2. Nancy Brownlee says:

    Mike, what is the tiny 2-storey building behind/beside the old Barber’s Book Store building? I think it’s an attorney’s office now- if it hasn’t been knocked down while I wasn’t paying attention.

  3. John Roberts says:

    One other interesting thing to mention about the building is that the facade on the upper floors is constructed out of stone. It has also been painted several times, but beneath the paint is sandstone. Until they were covered or coated, the two remaining exterior walls facing the alley and the Burk Burnett Building were also stone. This is probably the only remaining load bearing stone and cast iron commercial building left in Downtown.

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