Ryan Place: “Beautiful, Artistic and Exclusive”

By March 12, 1911 John C. Ryan had already been developing parts of Fort Worth for twenty years: Washington Heights, Prospect Heights, Lexington Heights.

ryan prospect 1891Ad is from the 1891 Fort Worth Gazette.

ryan washington 1903

Ad is from 1903.

ryan 10 censusRyan, born in South Carolina in 1865, had moved to Fort Worth in 1883 and had worked for merchant B. C. Evans briefly before entering real estate. Ryan was buying and selling land before he was twenty and eventually was the largest owner of suburban property in town. Before he was forty years old he had developed Washington Heights, Lexington Heights, and Prospect Heights. And by 1910 in terms of his residential address Ryan indeed had reached the heights: Ryan, wife Elizabeth, four sons, and three servants lived at 1302 Pennsylvania Avenue on Quality Hill.

ryan 09 cdOn one end of the block was Dr. John H. McLean, a partner of Dr. Clay Johnson. At the other end of the block was millionaire capitalist James F. Moore. In between were architect Louis B. Weinman, who had designed the Moore house, cotton broker Morris E. Berney, and Dr. W. B. West, whose son would marry James F. Moore’s daughter.

But John C. Ryan was about to develop Fort Worth’s “next Quality Hill” . . .

On March 12, 1911 John C. Ryan announced his most ambitious project yet: Ryan Place. This clip is from the March 12, 1911 Star-Telegram.

The area now bounded by Jessamine Street and Berry Street and by 8th Avenue and College Avenue was just grassland when Ryan envisioned a restricted (whites only) residential development for Fort Worth’s bankers, oilmen, ranchers, and others who prospered during the boom of the early twentieth century.

(By October there was still plenty of grassland in Ryan Place: On October 17 barnstormer Cal Rodgers landed his biplane, the Vin Fiz, in “Ryan’s pasture” as Rodgers made the first transcontinental flight across the United States. “Vin Fiz” was also the name of a grape soft drink bottled by the meatpacking company Armour, Rodgers’s sponsor.)

Cal Rodgers, left, and John C. Ryan, right.

The showcase street of Ryan Place, of course, would be Elizabeth Boulevard, named for Mrs. Ryan, the former Elizabeth Willing, who had the distinction of having an intersection named for her in a subdivision named for her husband.

One of those “prominent Fort Worth oilmen” who lived in Ryan Place was Richard Otto Dulaney.

elizabeth dulaney 1porch dulaneyDulaney’s house (1923) is at 1001 Elizabeth Boulevard, the first property on the left inside the east entrance.

dulaney contract 1922The total cost of the house, designed by Raphael E. Nicholais, was expected to surpass $100,000 ($1.4 million today).

nicholais interlocking 1922The Cobb-Harris brick company supplied the interlocking tile.

nicholais 20 censusThe house was designed in Mediterranean revival style with many building materials imported from Italy. Architect Nicholais knew a thing or two about Italian style: He was a native of Italy.

nicholais 22 cdnicholais 1909Nicholais had been a student of the Society of Beaux-Arts Architects in 1909.

clarkson house 2517 ryan place 1928The seven blocks of Elizabeth Boulevard have only forty-four homes, several of them designed by architect Wiley Clarkson. At 2517 Ryan Place Drive, this was Clarkson’s own house (1928).

The entry gates (west gates shown in top photo) at each end of Elizabeth Boulevard were designed by Sanguinet and Staats. The larger piers of the east gates (middle photo) have been replaced with street lamps since the 1911 sketch. Bottom photo shows the gates on 6th Avenue at Jessamine Street.

The house at 1112 was the first built on Elizabeth Boulevard, finished in 1911. Note the hitching post.

Elsewhere around Ryan Place, this was the home (1926) of numismatist Max Mehl at 2512 South Adams, designed by Charles O. Chromaster of the firm of Wiley G. Clarkson.

The home (1928) of Lionel W. Bevan, owner of The Fair department store, at 2900 6th Avenue. This house is one of several in Fort Worth designed by dentist Michael Joseph Bisco.

The entry of the home (1922) of Dr. William C. Duringer at 2508 Ryan Place Drive. Clarkson is thought to have designed the house.

The Melat house (1923) at 2600 Ryan Place Drive, designed by Joseph R. Pelich.

house 2622 5th 1922 pelichAnother Pelich house (1922) at 2622 5th Avenue.

porch 2616 ryan place 1922 2Again Ryan Place Drive, 2616.

The Holmes house (1922) at 2516 Ryan Place Drive, designed by Clarkson.

The Davis house (1919) at 2416 Ryan Place Drive.

grand sandidge-walker 1921 collegeAt 2420 College Avenue, the Sandidge-Walker house (1921).

A detail of 2508 College Avenue.

The Steele house (1926) at 2512 College Avenue.

house james-fujitaThe James-Fujita house (1915) at 2530 College Avenue. Thomas B. James owned the Board of Trade saloon. Kanetaro Fujita was president of a cotton-exporting company.

house 2601 college 1917Across the street from the James-Fujita house.

And this is the Ryan place in Ryan Place: In 1915 Ryan built this Italian renaissance house for himself and his wife on the street named for her. Five bedrooms, six thousand square feet. The house is 105 years old.

But the Ryans did not live on Elizabeth Boulevard long. By 1920 they were back on Quality Hill, living on 8th Avenue.

By 1928 the Ryans had moved back to his Ryan Place and a house at 2530 Ryan Place Drive, built in 1917 and previously occupied by John C. Ryan Jr.

ryan deathJohn C. Ryan died on February 11, 1928.  Note that Ryan’s doctor was K. H. Beall.

ryan mug John C. Ryan

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17 Responses to Ryan Place: “Beautiful, Artistic and Exclusive”

  1. S Kay Cartwright says:

    What a lovely story!???
    My Grandfather Talbuilt half the street on Cartwright after the War. Not a rich man, but raised 11 kids.
    My dad and Uncle Jerry Cartwright built houses on Cartwright Street..This was the land my Grandfather leased and lived on…Grandfather Cartwright rode to the market with Hall-Johnson. They leased a farm in Venus Texas where my Dad graduated from Venus,Texas.
    In the early 60’s Hwy 121 split Cartwright St. Our house 409 Cartwright St. is still there along with my Uncle Jerry Cartwright.
    Another Uncle Marvin Cartwright built Churches in the Bulerson area! Just some facts about the Cartwright family.
    My Grandfather Talmadge Cartwright also did some oil business in the Ranger,Texas,

  2. Kerry says:

    Hi Mike. We’re there any old pics of the houses on Willing? 2737 in particular. Trying to do a little house research and called the archives but no response. Probably just a background shot of the trolley going down the street or something?

    • hometown says:

      Kerry, I have never seen any photos of Willing. Elizabeth Boulevard, of course, is the Ryan Place street that has been more photographed. I assume you have the deed card for 2737. Ryan Place addition, block 25, lot 17. Good luck. I wish there were a public repository for every photograph that proud homeowners have taken of their house while standing in the front yard with a Brownie.

  3. Enjoyed the article, especially seeing my grandfather’s 1928 Christmas present to my Grandmother (2517 Ryan Pl). About a year ago, I was cleaning out my mother’s attic when I came across a box that had a number of sets of old and becoming very brittle blueprints. Among those blue prints, I found my grandfather’s blueprints for the house at 2517 Ryan Pl. Along with the blueprints were several supporting documents, including a hand drawn landscape of the property with the exact placement of every shrub, tree, etc, around the house and the property. Each shrub or tree was assigned a number. On an attached sheet, there was a numerical list that had the name of each plant on that drawing. His eye for details was really sharp. His hand drawn plans are almost works of art compared to our modern society CAD drawings that can be modified by simply pulling up the image and the resaving it.

  4. WONDERFUL! Wonderful! As a Fort Worth (well, OK, a Haltom City – er, Birdville) native, I’ve been looking for a great place to explore my hometown.

    Thanks so much for the blog and all your efforts! I’ll be spending some serious time now catching up with our history…

    • hometown says:

      Thank you, Kevin. Can’t talk about Fort Worth history without talking about Birdville and Haltom City.

  5. Deborah Carl says:

    Mike, love all your stories but especially appreciate those about Ryan Place & Oakwood Cemetery. I live in Ryan Place and often portray Elizabeth Willing Ryan at the Tarrant County Courthouse tours. Thanks for keeping our history alive!

    • hometown says:

      Thanks, Deborah. I think Mr. and Mrs. Ryan would be pleased with the condition of their Place more than a century later.

  6. SallyCampbell & Ike Renfield says:

    Just to let you know, though we never use the links (shakes fist at our cheesy dial-up ISP) on the “Remember in Fort Worth . . .” FB page, but we appreciate the previews nonetheless. They are good cues on what will be a fun search for our weekly visits to “Hometown. . . “

  7. Mellinda Timblin says:

    I walked by this house often as a kid. I always thought of it as the wedding cake house.

    • hometown says:

      They are just wonderful, especially when you consider their age, changes of ownership, etc.

  8. Paul Mastin says:

    Beautiful neighborhood! What do you think: in 1911, did “judiciously restricted” and “exclusive” indicate “non-whites need not apply”?

    • hometown says:

      Good question, Paul. Formal restrictions may have applied to more than just building materials and minimum square footage, but social customs of the time (and costs) alone may have ensured that the subdivision would be “exclusive.” Either way, Ryan Place indeed remains a showcase, and I’ll bet John C. Ryan would approve of how it weathered its first century.

  9. Steve A says:

    I guess back then, the term “McMansion” hadn’t been invented. So, when does the first “Hometown by Handlebar” tour take place?

    • hometown says:

      Considering that 1911 was closer to Fort Worth’s frontier beginning than to Fort Worth’s present day, Ryan Place has aged remarkably well. Hitching posts and curb appeal.

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