Fort Worth had some beautiful public buildings at the turn of the twentieth century, and if you and I had been teenagers in 1900, this probably would have been our high school:
Fort Worth High School was a veritable castle of education. The school, located at 200 South Jennings Avenue between Jarvis and Daggett streets south of downtown, was designed by architects Sanguinet and Haggart and cost $75,000 ($1.9 million today) to build. The building also contained the office of the school board.
The school was located across Jennings Avenue from the Bicocchi Building (lower right).
In fact, students could rent apartments in the Bicocchi Building. (Photo courtesy of Pointwise, Inc.)
In 1888 city alderman Ephraim Beck Daggett had resolved that the time had come for Fort Worth to build a coeducational high school building (boys and girls had attended separate schools downtown). In 1889 the near South Side location was chosen. On March 28, 1890 the cornerstone was laid. (Five days later Daggett resigned from the city council.) The building was completed in early 1891. Until 1899 the building had no lunchroom, so girls in the domestic science classes made and sold sandwiches and soup.
Fort Worth public schools had only eleven grades at the time.
This was the faculty of the school in 1900 (photo from University of Texas at Arlington Library). The school mascot, not surprisingly, was the panther. The school colors were purple and white. Today’s Paschal High School traces its lineage back even further: to the first graduating class of the boys high school in 1885.
Fast-forward nine years. In early 1910 Fort Worth school trustee E. P. Maddox called the high school building, then only nineteen years old, a “veritable fire trap.” The city was already planning to build a replacement high school and to use the first high school for overflow from the ward schools.
In May 1910 the contract for construction of the new high school was given to Innes-Graham Construction Company. B. B. Paddock sold the school board part of his homestead at Jennings and Terrell streets.
The fear of school trustee Maddox was well-founded. On December 2, 1910—108 years ago today—the first Fort Worth High School burned.
Robert Lee Paschal (1869-1958) had been principal of the school since 1906. The cause of the fire was never determined. The school’s 633 students were transferred to other schools and lost only one day of class.
Six of Fort Worth’s early fires occurred in the area between Lancaster Avenue and Hattie Street south of downtown: Spring Palace (1890), 1882 T&P passenger depot (1896), 1899 T&P passenger depot (1904), Fifth Ward school and Missouri Avenue Methodist Church (1904), South Side (1909), Fort Worth High School (1910). The South Side fire of 1909 had spared the high school building even as three churches located within two blocks of the school (Broadway Baptist, Broadway Presbyterian, and Swedish Methodist Episcopal) were destroyed.
In 1911 the big building that today houses the Justin boot company was built on the site of the high school. The building originally housed Exline-Reimers printing plant.
In 1911 the replacement school, Central High School, opened a few blocks south on Jennings. (After that, things got complicated.) This building still stands as Homes of Parker Commons and is another example of great architecture in Fort Worth school buildings: This view shows the elegant rear of the building.