Once Upon a Parking Lot: “They Paved Paradise”?

Often we bemoan the fact that many of our classic commercial buildings, churches, and residences were torn down to “put up a parking lot.” But sometimes the process has worked the other way.

Before folks traveled by automobile, they traveled by horse, of course—in a saddle or in a buggy or in a wagon. And when folks arrived at their destination, where did they “park” their ride? Often they parked their horse and/or buggy or wagon at a livery stable or a wagon yard. These were the parking lots of the nineteenth century. (Livery stables also rented and boarded horses.) Downtown Fort Worth had several livery stables and wagon yards. Here are four nineteenth-century parking lots and what now occupies their space after they were “torn down”:

Marlow brothers’ livery stable, stretching along 4th Street between Rusk (now Commerce) and Calhoun streets, became the site of . . .

Barnes & Noble bookstore (now closed).

Brown livery stable, stretching along 8th Street between Rusk (now Commerce) and Main, is now the site of . . .

the Hotel Texas (1921).

Here are two more livery stables—the parking lots of the nineteenth century—and what has replaced them in downtown Fort Worth:

parking lot library 1889In 1889 a stable yard was located at Throckmorton and 9th streets, just northeast of the future City Hall and just northwest of the future Flatiron Building.

parking lot library todayWhich means the stable yard was later the site of . . .

parking lot carnegie librarythe Carnegie Public Library, which was built in 1901 and torn down in 1936 to make way for the wedge-shaped library we remember, which was torn down in 1990 and became, for a few years, the site of an automobile parking lot.

parking lot exchange rusk 1889The Exchange Livery, stretching from Rusk (now Commerce) Street to Calhoun Street between Weatherford Street and 1st Street, was later the site of . . .

parking lot 1911 exchange tcuthe temporary campus of TCU.

parking lot ingram flats clipAfter Fort Worth lured TCU back to town in 1910, TCU leased space here in buildings called “Ingram Flats” until its new campus in southwest Fort Worth was ready in 1911.

parking lot family justiceThe site is now the Tarrant County Family Law Center (2005).

Yes, in the auto age we have lost a lot of our city heritage to parking lots. But on these four sites of livery stables—nineteenth-century parking lots—there eventually sprouted a bookstore, a landmark hotel, a library, and a college.

Horse manure is indeed fine fertilizer.

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