East Side Story (Part 2): Incorporation and Annexation

The community that became known as “Polytechnic Heights” (just plain ol’ “Poly” to you and me) boomed during the 1890s with the coming of the college and the cotton mill (see East Side Story (Part 1): The Mill and the Methodists). The new college built a fine church on its campus in 1891. In 1892 a post office was built near the mill, and Samuel Selkirk Dillow opened a grocery store across Avenue F (renamed “Rosedale” about 1938) from the college.

In 1894 Richard L. Vickery, George Tandy, and others formed a streetcar company and laid tracks from the college along Nashville Avenue and Vickery Boulevard to Boaz Street southeast of downtown Fort Worth. The cars were pulled by mules. But first the streetcar line, as had the T&P railroad in 1876, had to bridge “the Sycamore.”

Communication, like transportation, advanced: The college had a telephone by at least 1893.

In 1902 the interurban connected Fort Worth and Dallas, with stops in Poly near the creek, the college, and Tandy Lake. A sign from the Tandy Lake stop—located between today’s Collard and Ayers streets—has remained in the Tandy family. (Bottom photo from Bert Tandy.)

By 1905 lots in Polytechnic Heights addition were selling for as little as $25 ($677 today). The college, the ad crowed, was located “on a slight eminence 75 feet above Fort Worth . . . it is one of the most healthy locations in the State, and has all the advantages of a city without its disadvantages.” The ad shows the streetcar line ending at the college. (Plat from Pete Charlton’s “The Lost Antique Maps of Texas: Fort Worth & Tarrant County, Volume 2” CD.)

In 1906 the Polytechnic Heights school district was created.

The first Polytechnic school was built in 1907 on Nashville Avenue at Avenue C, about where William James Middle School stands today.

Poly HS Yearbook 1921This sketch of the 1907 building appears in the first Poly High yearbook.

poly public schools 11-12 fac UTALMeet the 1911-1912 faculty of Poly public Schools. (Photo from University of Texas at Arlington Library.)

Poly HS Yearbook 1921 adminThe 1921 yearbook shows the Polytechnic district school board members, including Samuel Selkirk Dillow and Lewis Tandy, son of George and grandson of Roger.

Here is how the Telegram defined the boundaries of Poly in 1908.

poly magic head 1908In 1908 the population of Polytechnic was seven hundred.

poly pop 2-12-09 stEarly in 1909 Polytechnic, now with a population of two thousand, hoped to reach five thousand in 1910. Clip is from the February 12 Star-Telegram.

poly incorp 11-6-10 stPolytechnic didn’t have five thousand residents in 1910, but on November 5, 1910 the residents of Polytechnic did vote to incorporate. The new city, with a population of three thousand, formed a volunteer fire department in 1911. As with the first streetcars, mules pulled the fire wagon. Firemen walked along behind. In 1918 the city furnished firemen with trousers and boots. Clip is from the November 6, 1910 Star-Telegram.

By 1912 Polytechnic Public School had added an eleventh grade and graduated its first senior class. Thus, the high school celebrated its centennial in October 2012.

The second Poly High School building (Clarkson) was built in 1922 on Nashville Avenue just south of the first Poly High School building. In 1938 the second high school building was replaced by the current Poly High School building on Conner Street and became Poly Elementary School. A handsome building, the Poly Elementary School was torn down in the 1970s to make way for a vacant lot. That vacant lot still stands.

cornerstone polyThe cornerstone of the second Poly High School building now resides in the third Poly High School building.

building poly city hallIn 1914, just south of the college on Vaughn Boulevard behind Dillow’s grocery, Polytechnic built a building that would house a fire station, city hall, and water department office.

Cornerstone of Polytechnic’s city hall.

The new city grew quickly. By 1919 its population reached five thousand. In 1920 Poly was given postal carrier delivery service.  Residents increasingly realized that their city needed more such public services—services it could not provide for itself.

poly annexed 1 1-31-22

poly howdy 1922In 1921 residents of Poly began debating the idea of Polytechnic being annexed by Fort Worth. Petitions were circulated. Meetings were held. Finally, on January 31, 1922 Fort Worth annexed Polytechnic. Clips are from the January 31 Star-Telegram. 

But apparently there was some uncertainty about the legality of the January 31 annexation. On July 22 voters approved annexation of Polytechnic Heights, Arlington Heights, Washington Heights, and Mistletoe Heights, among other suburbs. “Greater Fort Worth” was born as Cowtown exploded in area and population, adding an estimated forty thousand to fifty thousand people. With the expansion Fort Worth had to rename hundreds of streets to avoid duplication. Arlington Heights Boulevard was renamed “Camp Bowie Boulevard.” Clip is from the July 23 Star-Telegram.

poly life cycleHow compact and self-contained was Polytechnic? In the area of less than a square mile shown in this aerial photo you could attend (1) Poly Elementary, (2) William James Junior, and (3) Poly Senior High School, go to college at (4) TWU, get married in (5) Poly Methodist Church, be healed by (6) Dr. John W. Hewatt, have your funeral at (7) Meissner Funeral Home if Dr. Hewatt failed, and be buried in (8) Polytechnic Cemetery.

The roots that those early East Side settlers—the Lovings, the Ayreses, the Tandys and Halls—had put down in the prairie sod seventy years earlier with no plans of community had nonetheless grown into a community, then a suburb, then a town, and now a part of the big city to the west.

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18 Responses to East Side Story (Part 2): Incorporation and Annexation

  1. Melissa says:

    Do you know the history of the building on the corner of Ave I? It is currently a YWCA child care center, but from google maps street view I can see a historical marker sign (a cheap steel one) and the building looks like it is quite old.
    Btw, I found this site when I was trying to find out what was this history of the numerology building on Magnolia, I appreciate your work!

  2. Stan Crider says:

    I lived in Poly until my parents moved to Handley when I was 10.
    My dad built our house on the corner of Ave J and McKinze.
    All my uncles graduated from Poly High.
    Poly elementary was a beautiful school. I remember the gem in the basement and the beautiful auditorium.
    It was sad to see it torn down.

    • hometown says:

      Don’t get me started, Stan. That vacant lot has stood almost as long as the school building did. What was the rush?

  3. Rachel says:

    Hello, i am writing a research paper on Poly, your posts are some of the few that really detail the past. But i need some of the original articles, i understand they are online in databases but i am having trouble finding them. Is there anything you have to help me?

    • hometown says:

      Rachel, the newspaper archives are online in three places. If you have a FW library card (or a card from selected suburbs) you can access the Star-Telegram archive through the library’s website. You also can access the archive via Newsbank for a monthly fee. And you can access the nineteenth-century papers (Democrat, Gazette) via the Portal to Texas History website.

  4. This was wonderful to read!
    I am a descendent of D. McRae, my great grandfather. So our family has deep roots in Poly.

  5. earl belcher says:

    correction on poly elementary.i rode my new swhinn latour around the building in 1986 .it had to still be there.

    • hometown says:

      Earl, aerial photos at Historic Aerials show the big E-shaped building west of Poly Baptist Church across Binkley Street there in 1970, gone in 1979. I remember that house at Nashville and Avenue E had used bikes for sale in the yard. My first–a sixteen-inch–came from that place.

  6. Ann Bastable says:

    Thanks for another memory-stirring article. We lived in Poly-on Vickery and Avenue G-until I was in the 4th grade (attended grades 1-4 at R. Vickery Elementary). Decades later, I returned to Poly to be part of a Texas Main Street Project sponsored by TWU. At that time, the old fire station was an art studio run by a TWU professor, Joe Brown, and Mrs. Douglas owned the Poly Grill next door (serving the best home-made lunches and her famous bread pudding.) Mary Lou Watkins held court at Mama Lou’s in the old Rexal drugstore nearby). Main Street offices were in the Dillow House, sadly now gone. Thanks again.

    • hometown says:

      Thanks, Ann. My family was on Burton Street for fifty-two years. Poly will always be “the ‘hood” for many of us.

  7. Steve A says:

    Maybe it is being in Colleyville, but I think of the “East Side” as that part of Fort Worth that is east of the 360 Freeway. Don’t ask what I think of as the “North Side.”

    • hometown says:

      Yeah, those compass labels for parts of town are so subjective. For example, Poly folks generally do not include Riverside, to the north, in “East Side,” but Riverside is just as east as Poly is. In fact, Riverside is more due east than Poly, which is southeast of downtown. I have never asked a Riversider if he or she answers to “East Sider.” Poly folks also debate the boundaries of Poly, which is why I was glad to include that 1908 Telegram description. It’s still valid.

  8. Nancy Brownlee says:

    Oh, Mike, thank you for writing about Poly! My Poly has all but disappeared. There’s a lot of rebuilding/refurbishing/renewing going on right now- but a lot of my Poly is sinking under that tide, too.

  9. Ramiro Garza says:

    Hi Mike. Love the ariel view showing the compactness of Poly institutions. As you know, as a kid, it seemed much bigger. I have good memories of Poly Elementary (maybe the time period). I should have paid more attention. I do remember training for relay races running around the block, lol. I must not have trained very hard because I do not remember a lot of suffering in Texas heat.

    • hometown says:

      I remember walking home at night from near Poly Elementary. That was only about a mile, but it seemed like an adventure in the dark. We were bulletproof, weren’t we? I do not recall that the heat fazed us as kids. Houses, cars, schools were not air-conditioned. We played outside all summer. I remember the taste of water from a garden hose. Relays were about the only school sport in elementary. It was a BIG deal among us boys. Every day after lunch we had one-on-one races on the “green” at D. McRae. The winner took on challengers. The coveted title of “fastest boy in school” was constantly being transferred.

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