Prime Meridian of the South Side (Part 1): Boots to Bathtubs

Stretching five miles from Vickery Boulevard to Interstate 20, Hemphill Street runs north to south through the South Side as straight as the prime meridian:

A tour of Hemphill Street reminds us of what homes and commercial buildings of ninety, even one hundred years ago looked like. Seen along Hemphill Street, from north to south:

building justin bootThe huge Justin Boot Company building occupies most of the block bounded on the west by the 200 block of Hemphill and on the east by the 200 block of Jennings at Daggett Avenue. Fort Worth High School stood on that block until the school burned in 1910.

building justin reimers 12-19-15But the Justin building began life in 1911 as the Reimers printing plant. Clip is from the December 19, 1915 Star-Telegram.

Gustavus Adolphus Lutheran Church at 400 Hemphill.

The building, designed by Conrad Hoeffler, was completed in 1912.

mural paris coffeeMural, circa 2011, on the wall of the venerable Paris Coffee Shop (circa 1927) at 704 West Magnolia Avenue at the 1200 block of Hemphill.

The Paris Coffee Shop began life one block to the east on West Magnolia. The 1925 city directory shows Our Cafe at 602 West Magnolia. At 704 West Magnolia in 1925 were a beauty shop and apartments. Note William B. La Cava (see below) across the street.

In 1942 the building at 704 West Magnolia had become Safeway store no. 335.


At 1302-1304 Hemphill, this little building housed neighborhood grocery stores early in its career.


William Burts La Cava was a prominent entrepreneur of the near South Side. He lived next door at 1300 Hemphill in the La Cava Building (see below), which he built. He had operated grocery stores at the intersection of Hemphill and Magnolia since 1907. Beginning in 1920 he also owned a dry cleaner business around the corner at 709 West Magnolia Avenue.

1304-hemphill-1920-pigglyIn 1920 1304 Hemphill became Piggly Wiggly store no. 3.

1304-hemphill-1940-safeway2By 1940 1304 Hemphill Street was a Safeway market.

Next door at 1300 Hemphill at West Magnolia is the aforementioned La Cava Building (1927), designed by architect James Black Davies. It housed a drugstore for decades. Davies also designed the South Side Masonic Lodge Building (1925) on West Magnolia Avenue and the Western Union Building (1931) on Main Street downtown.

mac school 10-2-21 stJohn Laneri of Fort Worth Macaroni Company (later “O.B. [Our Best] Macaroni Company”) founded this school at 1400 Hemphill in 1921. The building now houses Cassata High School.

evans hemphill 1423Psychic advisor and palm reader Abagail B. receives clients in a house at 1423 Hemphill. According to Tarrant Appraisal District, that property is owned by the late Joe Evans of the Evans Roma (Gypsy) clan. The bungalow, trimmed in cast stone, was built about 1925 for George Bound, who owned an electric fan company.

entry columns chase 1906The entrance to Chase Court at the 1700 block of Hemphill.

Before texting and sexting came billing and cooing. In 1908, when south Hemphill Street was still sparsely settled and Chase Court was newly developed, Chase Court’s wall along Hemphill was a favorite trysting place.

In 1925 this new sanctuary (Sanguinet and Staats) greatly enlarged Hemphill Presbyterian Church (1911) at 1701 Hemphill at Allen Street.

Some big houses were built on Hemphill in the 1920s. The house (1926) at 2001 Hemphill  is 4,900 square feet.

At 2008-2012 Hemphill is Mary Elizabeth Court apartments (1925).

Deed card shows two identical buildings with a courtyard between them.

The house at 2017 Hemphill was built in 1928.

Reeves-Walker House (1908) at 2200 Hemphill at Lilac Street.

reeves 1908The house was built by banker William Reeves at a cost of $40,000 ($1 million today).

The house later was bought by the Walker family and remained in that family into the 1960s.

In 1967 the house became the second Hemphill Street home of Ray Crowder Funeral Home. In 1963 Ray Crowder had moved to 2836 Hemphill (see Part 3). Funeral homes have repurposed some of Fort Worth’s finest homes: the James F. Moore House, the Neil P. Anderson House, the Walter Scott house (demolished) at 1414 8th Avenue.

The house (1920) at 2237 Hemphill, with a wrap-around porch and porte-cochere, is typical of the larger houses on Hemphill built during the 1920s.

Chimney and strained glass window of 2237 Hemphill.

The Guertler house (1905) at 2257 Hemphill is getting a protracted makeover. Design of the house has been attributed to L. B. Weinman.

Arnold Guertler was a real estate agent and developer. Guertler developed a subdivision of twenty-one lots in the neighborhood of north Evans Avenue.

The Daggett Montessori School at 2300 Hemphill used to be the Edna Gladney Home.

The bungalow at 2321 Hemphill has had a long and varied life. Tarrant County Historic Resources Survey says the Duff-Bartee house was built in 1908 and remodeled in 1920. It was remodeled again after 1986 because a photo of that year shows the front of the house to be bricked up to the bottom line of the wooden gable, with three brick arches across the porch and one brick arch across the porte-cochere. Edmund Travis Duff was a salesman; William Bartee was an engineer for the Cotton Belt (St. Louis-Southwestern) railroad.

At 2400 Hemphill the faded neon sign reads “Fisher & Boone Plumbing established 1914.” Early in the twentieth century the building (1923) housed a drugstore, the Santa Fe Cafe (the railroad track is close enough to have rattled the cups and saucers), a roofing company, and a photo studio. Fisher & Boone moved into the building about 1959.

Let’s pause here at the tracks as a train passes before proceeding to Part 2:

Prime Meridian of the South Side (Part 2: Rails to Bricks


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13 Responses to Prime Meridian of the South Side (Part 1): Boots to Bathtubs

  1. Larry Sams says:

    This post was very satisfying to me because during the late ’80s and early ’90s I lived in the garage apartment to 2929 Hemphill (a half-block north of Hemphill and Bowie Street)…along Hemphill one can still see efforts to preserve the historic architecture of the early 20th century –

    • hometown says:

      Thanks, Larry. Growing up on the East Side, I was not familiar with Hemphill. Now I live in the southwest area and use Hemphill to go north. You can still see reminders of the glory that was.

  2. Troy McKelroy says:

    ‘Passed beside the Lutheran church at 400 Hemphill twice a day going to and from Stephen F. Austin Elementary School a short half-block away. ‘Took-up roller skating as a religion at the Daggett Roller Rink a half-block west of the 300 block of Hemphill. And the view across vacant lots from our front porch at 601 W. Broadway was of the Justin Boot plant and the big, revolving clock atop the Continental National Bank capping-off the downtown skyline not far away.
    Threw (or gently sailed) both the Ft. Worth Press and The Fortt Worth Star Telegram newspapers in that area to pay for my P.F. Flyers, 501’s and extra Brylcream. ‘Once found a murder victim and learned how to keep from becoming one during those years of pre-dawn paper routes there.
    If near-southside along the Hemphill Street lifeline corridor could talk it would have a lot to say. Meanwhile, the resurrected photos above will have to do.

    • hometown says:

      Thanks, Troy. Hemphill remains an eclectic street with lots of reminders of its heyday as the main drag of the South Side.

  3. Norma Flores says:

    I love Hemphill Street. I am glad that it is residential. The few houses on Hemphill are so beautiful.

  4. Ashley Kae Bryant says:

    Southside, Seminary and Hemphil, the former Seminary South Mall, now La Gran Plaza was once a lake called Katy Lake, my grandfather worked for the Katy Railroad, the Steam Engines would fill up with water at that lake.

  5. Doug says:

    My street, especially shopping hub at Berry with myfavorites Western Auto and Motts.
    And don’t forget 2400 Hemphill housed Sweet Shop candies for many years.

  6. Colleen says:

    I have always loved Hemphill. It’s a beautiful avenue and I wonder about so many of the buildings.

  7. Frances Copeland says:

    I drove Hemphill street from 1964 to 1986 to work at Justin Boot Company, where I worked for 41 years. I saw many changes in the 22 years I drove from one end of Hemphill to the other. I have seen many more changes since I moved away from the area.

  8. Lyn (Torrance) Keil says:

    Thanks for the memories. I grew up – First grade at Daggett Elementary – HS at Paschal, class of 1957 – on the south side, just off Hemphill on Page Street, where Alston ended.

  9. JoAnn Collins says:

    i was excited to see the Hemphill reference but you left out the section of I was most interested in. From morningside to seminary was where my dad hung out after my grandfather drove from Leonard to find him at job at General Dynamics and a room at a boarding house. There were several rooming houses along Hemphill. I think one is still operational. My dad’s stayed a rooming house until fairly recently. I took pictures of it last year. It was boarded up then. They even had garage apartments in the back. He lived in various rooms with several other young men who moved to the city to find a living off the farm. Do you have any information about those rooming houses? I have pictures of the one he lived in. I wish I could go look through the house!

    • hometown says:

      JoAnn, I e-mailed you a couple of photos of old multi-family buildings in that stretch of Hemphill.

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