City-County/JPS Hospital: Playing Peek-a-Boo with the Past

These brick walls have a story behind them:

jpr surviving wing

In fact, these brick walls have a story on all sides of them.

jps mugWe can begin their story in 1877. Civic leader John Peter Smith, who was a major property owner in Fort Worth, donated five acres of land south of the city for a hospital, which Fort Worth lacked. (He also donated land for Emanuel Hebrew Rest and Oakwood cemeteries.) But the city did not make use of the donated hospital land for more than a half-century, even though in 1883 Fort Worth’s first general hospital—St. Joseph Infirmary—opened just across South Main Street to serve, initially, workers of the Missouri Pacific railroad.

jps 94 medical school july 26 94 gazFast-forward to 1894. In that year Fort Worth University (founded 1881) opened its Fort Worth Medical College. Among the college’s doctors were William A. Duringer, William Paxton Burts (first mayor of Fort Worth), Julian Theodore Feild (son of pioneer Julian Feild), and Bacon Saunders (who built the Flatiron Building in 1907). Clip is from the July 27, 1894 Fort Worth Gazette.

jps 1896 cdThe medical college originally was located at Commerce and 7th streets. Nearby Hell’s Half Acre kept medical students supplied with patients on whom to practice suturing knife wounds, excising bullets, treating drug overdoses, diagnosing STDs, etc. Clip is from the 1896 city directory.

jps 1907 greater fort worthBut by 1906 the medical college was located at East 5th and Calhoun streets. It included a small hospital where students trained.

medical colleget to tcu 1911Fort Worth University closed in 1911, becoming part of Methodist Episcopal University in Oklahoma City, and TCU took over the medical college.

city county 1913

jps city-county 1914

In 1914 the city and county built City-County Hospital (designed by Sanguinet and Staats) on East 4th Street at Jones Street, just across the alley from the medical college. Soon the medical college was “resolved with” the new hospital. Among the hospital’s early challenges was the flu epidemic of 1918. But that same year the medical college left TCU and became part of Baylor University in Dallas. Note that the news story says the city and county already had plans to build a larger hospital “on the Peter Smith site on the south side.”

jps 4-26-14 spreadThe 1914 downtown building continued to house City-County Hospital until 1939, when a new City-County Hospital finally was built on South Main Street on the land that John Peter Smith had donated in 1877. In 1943 the 1914 City-County building was headquarters for military police stationed here. In the early 1950s it was a polio treatment center. The building is now Maddox-Muse Center, part of the Bass Hall complex. Star-Telegram clip is from April 26, 1914. Note that the nurse was drawn by Plang.

city-county moved to jps 39The new City-County Hospital opened on July 16, 1939 as fifty-five patients were transferred from the 1914 building.

jps polio 48Among the new hospital’s early challenges was treating the polio epidemic of the late 1940s and early 1950s.

jps smith and pattersonThe new hospital was yet another beautiful building designed by the prolific Wiley Clarkson. (Top photo by W. D. Smith in Fort Worth in Pictures, 1940. Bottom photo courtesy of Jim Patterson.)

JPS 52 aerialThis aerial photo was taken in 1952. The original building (the vertical building on the right) already had been expanded.

city-county renamed jps 54City-County Hospital was renamed for John Peter Smith in 1954. 

The original building is on the right. (Photo from Jack White Photograph Collection, University of Texas at Arlington Libraries.)

jps googleExpansion—including an eleven-story tower—continued in the 1960s and 1970s as the 1939 building was swallowed. I have outlined in yellow the part of the 1939 building still visible from the air. (Some of Fort Worth’s original school buildings likewise are hidden inside decades of expansion.)

elevator insetInset is an enlargement of the Patterson photo showing just the top story of the original building. Want a closer look?

1938-31938-1These close-up photos of the exterior of the top story of the original building show Clarkson’s attention to art deco styling where more pigeons than people would see it. (Close-up photos from Jill “J. R.” Labbe, vice president, communications and community affairs, JPS Health Network.)

jpr surviving wingThe end of the north wing is the only part of the original building still visible from street level. Apparently between 1948 and 1952 a bay (for a stairwell or elevator?) was added to the north wing, which today plays peek-a-boo with us from the past.

Bonus Peek-a-Boo with the Past

Here’s another Fort Worth hospital whose original building is largely lost in a sea of expansion:

The top photo, a recent Google aerial, shows the Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth campus, which stretches from Pennsylvania Avenue south to Rosedale Street and from 6th Avenue east to Henderson Street. The bottom aerial photo, from 1952, shows that area when the original Harris Hospital building (left side of photo), designed by—again—Wiley Clarkson in 1930, was the only Harris building. From the sky you can see that the building has what architects call a “radial” footprint. It looks like a letter H doing jumping jacks. The original building’s address was 1300 West Cannon Street. With expansion to a “campus,” the hospital ate part of Cannon Street and a chunk of Pruitt Street for dessert. Now the hospital’s address is 1301 Pennsylvania Avenue. Harris Hospital was a major encroachment on Quality Hill as the city’s original medical district grew.

harris smithW. D. Smith photo of the 1940s from Fort Worth in Pictures.

Photo from Barbara Love Logan.

This entry was posted in Architecture, Art Decow, Downtown, Downtown, All Around, Life in the Past Lane, South Side. Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to City-County/JPS Hospital: Playing Peek-a-Boo with the Past

  1. David Miles says:

    I truly enjoy ALL of your “stories & post”. I’m a native of Ft. Worth, born at St. Joseph’s [Class of ’54]. and I’m also a life-long member of St. Andrews Catholic church. As a child, I remember Feliks Gwozdz as the organist at St. Andrews. Everyone at church LOVED Feliks, a truly nice man and a GREAT musician. He was our organist for decades. I was surprised to find out, in my mid-20s, that Feliks’ “Day job” was working as our city’s Medical Examiner.

  2. Jason Owens says:


  3. Jen Hurst says:

    Hello from Kansas City, MO!

    I have frequented this blog in my search for more information on the City-County Hospital. I am assisting a family member in searching for their birth parents. They were born at City-County Hospital in 1951 and I am trying to understand more about hospital and its connection with the Edna Gladney center, if any.

    Without boring you with all of the details, generally speaking would you know any specifics on the hospital or could you point me in the direction of where I could find more information (people, books, websites, etc)?

    Thanks so much for your time!

    Jen Hurst

  4. Ike Renfield says:

    Seems a good study of pre- and post- air conditioning architecture. All those wings and windows to catch breeze, now all solid blocks.
    I’m sure the A.C.’ed solid blocks are better for patients and a more efficient use of land near downtown. But way less imaginative architecture.

  5. Hope says:

    This is so cool! I work at JPS and I’m working on a mini ‘fun’ project about it’s history. Thank you so much!!! And the fun thing is as well, I wanted to do some background on St. Joseph’s since it was part of Fort Worth history and now owned by the district, and you literally put up an article yesterday! Thank you!

  6. Amber Maddux says:

    based on your website and the article regarding R R Ramey 9525 land survey you might have knowledge regarding what is now 3201 Sandy Lane and a very very very old rock fireplace that still stands today. Has the hooks still in it from when a gun was most likely put to rest up top during the night. Our piece of land has great history and we’ve gone through it all but the chimney has no actual records. Owned by waples platter known as the handley farm; owned by Boswell; had the Pike Drive Inn on the property. Please get in touch if anything rings bells or jogs memory.

    • hometown says:

      Amber, thank you for sharing the history of that chimney/fireplace with me. It appears from the research you showed me to be one of the oldest structures in the county, possibly dating even to the days of the republic. Good on Aerospace Optics for preserving it.

  7. Robert Ressl says:

    I have only recently started taking the time to read some of your posts. Thank you so very much for such a well put together site and for doing some really interesting posts on various historic happenings in Fort Worth and surrounding areas. I really enjoyed the story about the March 16, 1885 train wreck at village creek, My grand son (4 years old) delights in me retelling the story.

    • hometown says:

      Thank you, Mr. Ressl. Maybe someday your grandson will FIND that locomotive for us!

  8. James McDonald says:

    Awesome sight, I spent my early years of education and training at these amazing institutions. Thanks for all of your work!

  9. Chuck Harvey says:

    Seeing the images of JPS above reminded me of several years that I was an orderly there.

    I was amazed to see they renamed Myrtle Street by JPS to Feliks Gwozdz Place.
    Probably right after he died. The County Medical Examiner’s office is at 200 Feliks Gwozdz Place. I knew his son, Ricky, in Boys Choir, who himself became a marvelous musician, as well. Dr. Gwozdz was the founder of the Oktoberfest in Fort Worth.

    • Michael Sanderson says:

      Actually, the Fort Worth Oktoberfest was started by the Symphony League. It was the vision of Lorene Cecil, assisted by my grandmother, Arlene Smith. Dr. Gwozdz was performed as an entertainer, but that was the extent of his involvement. My father and General Cecil ran the beer committee up until their deaths. I worked every Oktoberfest, from the first at the T&P station until the final at the Fort Worth convention center.

    • Day Vee says:

      On what date were parts of W. Myrtle St. officially renamed “Feliks Gwozdz”? Was there a ceremony? I cannot find anything on the Internet elaborating about it.

    • hometown says:

      All I have found is a notice in the November 13, 1988 Star-Telegram that city council would discuss the name change.

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