The year was 1928. Mickey and Minnie Mouse first appeared on film. Governor Al Smith of New York became the first Catholic nominated by a major political party for president (he would lose to Herbert Hoover, a Quaker). The first machine-sliced and machine-wrapped loaves of bread were sold. Fats Domino was born. English writer Thomas Hardy died.
In Fort Worth, William Bryce was mayor. The population was about 160,000. Twelve railroads served the city. The city had 492 miles of sanitary sewer; 650 miles of streets (185 miles of them paved). No freeways. There were 176 churches, 60 public schools, and 3 vaudeville theaters. Building permits for the year totaled $13 million ($177 million today).
Indeed, during the years of 1926-1934, despite the Great Depression, Fort Worth was transforming downtown, adding the Petroleum Building, Sanger Building, First United Methodist Church, Lone Star Gas Building, Sinclair Building, Star-Telegram Building, Public Market Building, Western Union Building, Central Fire Station, Blackstone Hotel, Fort Worth Club Building, Texas & Pacific passenger terminal and freight terminal, Masonic Temple, U.S. Courthouse, Central Post Office, Worth Hotel and Theater, Medical Arts Building, Electric Building/Hollywood Theater, and The Fair Building. Heck, Jesse Jones built the last four of those, and he lived in Houston!
By 1930 Jones’s Fort Worth Properties Corporation had built the Worth Hotel and Theater, Electric Building, and Medical Arts Building and was working on The Fair.
And yet despite the building boom, 1926-1934 was a time when several grand old buildings, some from the previous century, still stood. This 1928 aerial photo (larger image at bottom of post) shows the downtown of our parents or maybe our grandparents. The photo is a fascinating freeze-frame of history, showing dozens of buildings that now are gone, including these twenty-one:
2. Federal Building/Post Office (1896) on Jennings Avenue. Our current city hall (1971) is there now.
3. City Hall (1893) on Throckmorton Street. Our 1938 city hall building is there now. The 1938 building is now the A. D. Marshall Public Safety and Courts Building. (Photo from private collection of Joe E. Haynes, Dallas.)
4. Central Fire Station (1899) on Throckmorton Street. The plaza of Fritz G. Lanham Federal Building is there now.
5. Carnegie Public Library (1901) on West 9th Street. The north half of Hyde Park is there now.
6. Majestic Theater (1911) on Commerce Street. In 1966 demolition to make way for the Tarrant County Convention Center razed the Majestic Theater along with fourteen blocks of the south end of downtown (the old Hell’s Half Acre). The convention center’s mechanical systems building is on the site of the Majestic now.
7. T&P freight depot (1908) was located on Lancaster Avenue just west of the Al Hayne Memorial. The 1908 depot replaced the 1902 depot, which burned in 1908. The 1908 depot was replaced by the behemoth T&P freight depot of 1931. In 1905 people sat on the roof of the 1902 depot to see President Roosevelt speak at the passenger station. A parking lot of Texas & Pacific Lofts is there today. (Charles Swartz photo from University of Texas at Arlington Library.)
8. Medical Arts Building (1927) on West 10th Street.
Medical Arts Building was imploded in 1973. Forty-story Burnett Plaza stands there today.
10. First Methodist Church South (1908) was in the southeast corner of 7th and Taylor streets. Note the streetcar tracks. The Oil and Gas Building stands on that location today. What Sunday Looked Like a Century Ago
11. Grand Temple Building (1907) on Jones Street in the African-American “downtown.” Home of an African-American Masonic lodge and Grand Mason William “Gooseneck Bill” McDonald’s Fraternal Bank and Trust and drugstore. The Intermodal Transportation Center is there now.
12. This is the Texas & Pacific turntable and roundhouse on South Main at Railroad Avenue (Vickery Boulevard), built to replace the roundhouse that burned in the South Side fire of 1909. In 1928, the year the aerial photo was taken, T&P opened its new Lancaster yard (now Union Pacific’s Davidson yard) southwest of downtown. The site of the roundhouse is now a parking lot for freight trailers.
13. Where the Bank of America building is today at West 7th and Lamar streets, in 1910 lodge 124 of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks built its home. In 1928 the Elks would build a new home at West 4th and Burnett streets. That building still stands as the YWCA.
14. In 1910 a new Second Ward school was built on West 2nd Street at Florence Street on the homestead of John Peter Smith, who had died in 1901. John Peter Smith School was torn down in 1970. Today the property is a parking lot. (Photo from FWISD Billy W. Sills Center for Archives.)
15. Winfield Scott built the Metropolitan Hotel on Main Street in 1898 as a haven for visiting cattlemen. The lobby featured carved mahogany, cut glass, fluted columns, marble stairway, hand-carved oak chairs. There was an artesian well in the courtyard, tuxedoed waiters in the dining room, gas heaters in the guest rooms, a French chef in the kitchen. Fort Worth society gathered in the ballroom. The Metropolitan was just south of the Hotel Texas, which originally was called the “Winfield Hotel” after Scott. (Photo from University of Texas at Arlington Library.)
Look at the architectural detail of a corner of the building in about 1911. (Photo from University of Texas at Arlington Library Special Collections.)
In 1936 the Metropolitan became the Milner. The building was demolished in 1960, a parking lot sprouting from its rubble. Today the property is part of General Worth Square and features a statue of Fort Worth’s best-remembered hotel guest: John F. Kennedy.
Like many a once-proud Fort Worth building, in the end the Metropolitan Hotel was reduced to a classified ad and “parted out” like an old car.
16. Westbook Hotel (1910) at 408 Main Street. Imploded in 1978. Reincarnated as a parking lot. But today Sundance Square Plaza occupies that space.
17. This grand building (1886), with its corner clipped to conform to the nonperpendicular intersection of Main and Lancaster, housed first wholesale grocer Joseph H. Brown and later McCord-Collins Company and Well Machinery Supply Company. Torn down in 1958 to make way for the I-30 overhead. (Image from 1886 Wellge map.)
18. The Natatorium (1890), our indoor “swimmin’ hole,” at 112 East 3rd Street. The Commerce Building (2013) stands there now.
19. On the southwest corner of East 2nd and Commerce streets was “Holmes Castle,” a hotel built by serial killer Dr. Henry Howard Holmes. The Natatorium can be seen behind the “castle” in the upper right. (Photo from Library of Congress.)
Holmes built the hotel in 1894, but an appointment with a noose in 1896 kept him from dispensing his brand of “check in, never check out” hospitality in Cowtown. (Photo from Wikipedia.)
Despite its sinister genesis, the Holmes Castle building later housed the nonlethal LaClede and St. Elmo hotels. By 1928 the building housed mostly automobile-related businesses and smaller hotels. By 1947 the space was a parking lot. Today the space is occupied by an outdoor dining area. Bon appetit!
20. Okay, technically Burnett Park still “stands.” But it’s not the park—designed by George Kessler and opened in 1919 on land donated by Burk Burnett—that many of us remember. Best fish pond ever. The park was redesigned in 1984 and 2010. (1940 photo by W. D. Smith.)
21. In 1890 wholesale merchants Sidney Martin and Joseph H. Brown built a new home for their dry goods partnership on Main Street at 8th. At six stories it was among Fort Worth’s first “skyscrapers.”
In 1901 Joseph G. Wheat bought the building, renamed it for himself, and added a rooftop garden restaurant. Because the building was among the tallest in town, the view must have been impressive.
The rooftop restaurant offered live entertainment. The restaurant was later converted into a seventh story for office space. The Wheat Building was demolished in 1940.
Here is a larger version of the 1928 aerial photo without my numbers.