The Great Drafting Table in the Sky (Part 6): Patients and the Press

(Part 1: “Some Pretty Good Work”)

Narrator: Shhh. The angels Sanguinet and Staats are in Heaven, looking down at Fort Worth and remembering some of the buildings they designed. Let’s listen in:

Sanguinet (peering down and pointing): “Look, Carl. There on Main Street is one of our first works and a real crowd-pleaser: the little Knights of Pythias lodge hall. Our old friend, mason-turned-mayor William J. Bryce, built it in 1901. Now it’s overshadowed by those glass-skinned blue boxes.”

Staats (wrinkling his nose but then pointing): “Just like City-County Hospital over on East 4th Street. We designed that one in 1913 to have beds for twenty-five indigent patients.”

Sanguinet: “We worked for a varied clientele, all right. Look there on Belknap Street at the Criminal Justice Building. When we designed it in 1917 it had cells for county and federal prisoners, a ward for the criminally insane, and a hospital ward with an operating room.”

Staats: “And don’t forget the Star-Telegram building in 1920. One thing you can say about Amon Carter: He was never a dull client to work for. I ran into Carter the other night at heavenly choir practice. He and Bob Wills were trying to teach the heavenly choir to sing ‘Big Ball’s in Cowtown.’”

Sanguinet (taking from his alabaster-white robe a golden wallet, from which he withdraws a creased, yellowed newspaper clipping): “Carl, I’ve kept this Star-Telegram article of June 6, 1920 ever since our earthly sojourn ended. It shows that downtown was a veritable Sanguinet and Staats hard-hat zone that summer of 1920: Four of our designs were under construction at one time: Star-Telegram, W. T. Waggoner, Neil P. Anderson, and Farmers and Mechanics National Bank buildings.”

Staats: “We were smokin’ that year, eh, Marshall? But the years soon caught up with our mortal selves. In 1926 came one of our final projects: the Fort Worth Club. You were a charter member of the club in 1885, as I recall, when it began as the Commercial Club. And speaking of Amon Carter Sr., he had his own personal suite in the Fort Worth Club building. The other night he told me that in that suite he hosted public figures like President Franklin Roosevelt, Gene Autry, and Bob Hope. They were after my time on Earth, of course, but I see Roosevelt up here now and then. He’s the star of the heavenly track and field team.”

Sanguinet is still peering down at the planet Earth over the edge of the golden drafting table.

Sanguinet: “Fort Worth would look very different now had you and I not spent our mortal careers there, Carl.”

Staats (repeating the word softly): “‘Mortal.’ How long ago that seems now.”

Sanguinet reaches into a pocket of his celestial robe and takes out another yellowed newspaper clipping.

staats obit“You were the first to go, Carl. You died on June 2, 1928. Your final years were not easy for you, remember? You were injured in a building-site accident in 1922 and also suffered from tuberculosis. In your final years you were an invalid.”

Staats smiles and rises from his chair. With celestial robe flapping and wings fluttering he executes a half-dozen jumping jacks and then falls forward onto the fingertips of his right hand and executes a half-dozen one-handed push-ups.

Sanguinet watches and chuckles approvingly.

“All better now, though! Nothing like Heaven to put a little spring in your step, eh, Marshall? Heck, I’m on the heavenly track and field team with FDR.”

Staats then reaches into a pocket of his celestial robe and takes out two yellowed newspaper clippings.

sanguinet funeral

“Marshall, you died on July 25, 1936 at your lovely home in Arlington Heights.”

sanguinet editorial

Staats (poking Sanguinet gently with the tip of a drafting pencil): “‘The Star-Telegram in an editorial eulogized you as the ‘dean of Southwestern architects.’ Not too shabby, Marshall.”

sanguinet grave

staats carl 2

The angel Sanguinet smiles but then clears his head and becomes again businesslike. He turns to the unfinished design plans spread out on the drafting table and sharpens his drafting pencil.

Sanguinet: “Well, enough looking back at our laurels, Carl. Back to work. Gotta finish these designs for the new cloudbank for the Big Client Himself.”

Staats (again looking down at the Fort Worth Club on Earth): “I miss the Fort Worth Club. I was a member, you recall. The club served great food. Hey, do you think they might still do room service for us, maybe send us up a tray of sandwiches? Maybe some nice pastra—”

Sanguinet (interrupting): “Work, Carl, work. The Big Client Himself wants these designs on His desk by nine o’clock tomorrow morning.”

Staats (flustered): “Nine o’clock? Tomorrow? But, Marshall, there is no time in Heaven. Surely He—”

Sanguinet (interrupting again): “Work, Carl, work.”

The End

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9 Responses to The Great Drafting Table in the Sky (Part 6): Patients and the Press

  1. Fred Shepard says:

    What a wonderful story. Carl Staats was my great grandfather. I am so glad to have stumbled about this. In 1993 I moved to Dallas and got acquainted with his daughter, a nun at Ursuline Academy. Until she died in 2000, at age 101, her mind was sharp and she tell stories of growing up in Ft Worth in the teens
    Thank you for this rememberance

    • hometown says:

      Thank you, Fred. Your great-grandfather and his partner left us a great legacy, especially considering how long ago they worked in a town that loves the kiss of the wrecking ball. Fort Worth is a more beautiful city because of Sanguinet and Staats.

  2. Suzanne Newell says:

    Is there any evidence that Sanguinet everbuilt any homes in the downtown Grapevine area. I’d heard that rumored. Perhaps around 1890 before he began the work in Ft. Worth?

    • hometown says:

      I don’t know of any, but he certainly could have. He and his partners designed buildings all over the state at greater distances than Grapevine. I do not know what became of his records.

  3. Mellinda Timblin says:

    I regret the loss of beauty. The belief that elegant design is not needed by people has given us a landscape of as you put it, ” glass skinned boxes”. A very elegant phrase by the way.
    I laughed at this installment but it made me sad too.

    • hometown says:

      I try to be objective about this. In cosmic terms, the first quarter of the twentieth century was a blip of a blink of a hiccup. But to me, those buildings are special. Timeless. In contrast, the modern glass-skinned skyscrapers (and every metropolis has them) don’t move me. And yet, some very talented architects were paid a lot to design them by smart people with a lot of money. Today’s architecture must have its devotees. A century from now, after architecture has moved on to something else, will such devotees look nostalgically upon the surviving glass-skinned skyscrapers, just as we do upon the masonry buildings of a century past? I wonder.

    • Joan Gambill says:

      Mellinda, thanks for saying that about the glass boxes. As a person who is from the late 1920’s, I so regret “modern art and architecture”. The wonders we enjoy are crafted after the Greeks, Romans and classics. Light is so valued to them that they forget the power of the sun. Heat! Glare! Reflection! If we were in Oregon, or Maine we might treasure warmth and light but in Texas, we need protection from the heat and glare of the sun. Architects from the north have not the experience in our Texas summers.

  4. Ruth says:

    Great job! Very informative and interesting! I didn’t realize they built so many buildings in Fort Worth.

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