One City, Two Downtowns (Part 1): Demolished

Late in the nineteenth century and into the twentieth century, when Fort Worth’s white community and African-American community were largely segregated, many of the business, educational, religious, and social institutions of the African-American community were located in east downtown or on the near East Side.

Part 1 of this post looks at several buildings of the early African-American community that have been demolished. Part 2 looks at several buildings that have survived.

east side demolished 14


1. Prince Hall Grand Lodge Mosque and McDonald College of Industrial Arts
2. Jim Hotel
3. Dr. Ransom’s Fort Worth Negro Hospital
4. Prince Hall Masonic Lodge, Temple Drug Store, and Fraternal Bank & Trust
5. Ninth Street Colored School
6. McDonald YMCA
7. Gay Street Public School
8. Trinity Cemetery Company
9. M. D. Duncan tailoring shop
10. Publishing company of World’s Messenger and Negro Achievements magazines
11. School No. 13 (South Side Colored School)
12. Home of William Madison “Gooseneck Bill” McDonald
13. Dorsey Hospital
14. Dixie Park

east mosque-26-sanborn1. Prince Hall Grand Lodge Mosque and McDonald College of Industrial Arts, 2213 East 1st Street. In the 1920s African-American Masons who previously had met at the 1907 Prince Hall Masonic Lodge (“4” on the map) built a large lodge hall east of downtown. The building could accommodate three thousand people. The lodge hall later added McDonald College of Industrial Arts, named for African-American politician and business and civic leader William “Gooseneck Bill” McDonald. A gas well and vacant lots stand there now.

east jim 52 cd2. Jim Hotel (1920s), 413 East 5th Street, adjacent to the Fort Worth Press building. “Gooseneck Bill” McDonald built the hotel and named it after his wife Jimmie. Musicians who performed at the hotel included Paul Whiteman, King Oliver, Ella Fitzgerald, Fats Waller, Cab Calloway, Sarah Vaughan, Ray Charles, Billy Eckstine, Errol Garner, Woody Herman, Earl “Fatha” Hines, Billie Holiday, B. B. King, the Ink Spots, Louis Jordan, Pigmeat Markham, the Andrews Sisters, Buddy Rich, Art Tatum, Count Basie, and Louis Armstrong. In the early 1930s T-Bone Walker led the hotel’s house band. The Jim was demolished in 1964. A parking lot now stands there. Listing is from the 1952 city directory. Photo shows a detail of artist Paula Blincoe Collins’s mural depicting Fort Worth African-American history at Fort Worth Central Station.

east ransom-grove3. Dr. Riley Andrew Ransom Sr. opened Fort Worth’s first African-American hospital in 1918. By 1926 his Fort Worth Negro Hospital was located at 509 Grove Street, shown in the Sanborn map. Spur 280 stands there now. Collins’s mural depicts Ransom’s final hospital, located on East 1st Street and named in memory of his wife Ethel.

east mcdonald lodge

cornerstone 3-18-07 tele4. Prince Hall Masonic Lodge (1907), 401 East 9th Street. The African-American Masons of Texas laid the cornerstone for their new grand lodge hall on March 18, 1907. “Gooseneck Bill” McDonald built the building to house Prince Hall Masonic Lodge, of which he was member. He also owned Temple Drug Store on the first floor. In 1912 he added Fraternal Bank & Trust Company, the city’s first African-American bank. Fort Worth Central Station stands there today. Top image is from History and Directory of Fort Worth, a 1907 book listing African-American businesses and community leaders; detail is from Collins’s mural. Bottom clip is from the March 18, 1907 Telegram.

east Colored-School-9th-Street5. Fort Worth’s early schools for African Americans were located in the Third Ward, which included Hell’s Half Acre and the area east of downtown, an area now largely taken over by railroad tracks and freeways. Ninth Street Colored School (1883) on East 9th Street at Pecan Street housed grades one through eleven. The site today is occupied by railroad tracks. In 1906 the school building was moved to East 12th Street at Steadman Street and renamed “Colored High School.” In 1910 the 1883 building was replaced by a brick building that still stands (see Part 2). (Photo from FWISD Billy W. Sills Center for Archives.)

Principal was Isaiah Milligan Terrell (1859-1931).

east ymca 52 cd6. McDonald YMCA (1944), 1600 Jones Street. “Gooseneck Bill” McDonald donated a building to house a YMCA branch for African-American men. The branch was named for McDonald’s son, who had died in 1918 at age nineteen. A parking lot stands there now. Today the McDonald YMCA is on Moresby Street in Poly. Clip is from the 1952 city directory.

east gay sanborn 19117. Gay Street Public School. This school originally was the Third Ward school for whites, also called the “Reagan School,” probably in honor of John H. Reagan, who was a U.S. senator from Texas and postmaster general of the Confederacy. Reagan was the last surviving member of Jefferson Davis’s cabinet. Several public schools in Texas were named for him. Because of changing demographics, the school’s enrollment was changed from white to black. I-30 frontage stands there now.

east trinity cemetery company8. Trinity Cemetery Company, 1406 Calhoun Street, was managed by undertaker R. C. Houston Jr. His mortuary was next door to the cemetery office. The cemetery company maintained Trinity Cemetery, a separate section of Oakwood Cemetery (even in death we were segregated). The obelisk in the center background marks the grave of “Gooseneck Bill” McDonald. A parking garage stands at the Calhoun Street office location now. Black-and-white images are from History and Directory of Fort Worth.

east tailor duncan9. Across the street at 1405 Calhoun Street was another African-American small businessman, tailor M. D. Duncan. A parking lot stands there now. Images are from History and Directory of Fort Worth.

east blackwell10. Publishing company of World’s Messenger and Negro Achievements magazines, 1200 Harding Street. Horace J. Blackwell, an East 10th Street haberdasher, founded World’s Messenger (1944) and Negro Achievements (1946) magazines. After George Levitan (who was white) took over the two publications in 1949, Negro Achievements became Sepia magazine. Sepia would sponsor John Howard Griffin’s odyssey across the South and serialize his reports, which later were published as Black Like Me. Interstate 35 now stands where Blackwell’s publishing company stood. Clips are from the 1947 and 1949 city directories.

east demo south side 191111. School No. 13 (South Side Colored School) was built in 1894 at the corner of Rosedale and Louisiana streets (I-35W displaced Louisiana Street in 1952). The 1894 buildings were replaced in 1918 by James E. Guinn School (see Part 2).

east mcdonald house12. The home of “Gooseneck Bill” McDonald at 1201 East Terrell Avenue, built before 1925, was demolished soon after his death in 1950. (One block north on East Leuda Street, next to a building that housed Adolph Schilder’s neighborhood grocery store in the 1920s and 1930s, lived Hattie Cole, who was born into slavery in 1854.) Image is from Life of William Madison McDonald.

13. Dorsey Hospital at 401 East 6th Street, next door to the African-American Odd Fellows lodge at 415 East 6th Street.

dorsey mugDr. Eddie Lorenzo Dorsey moved to Fort Worth in 1944 to escape threats to African Americans made by the sheriff’s department of Iberia Parish in Louisiana.

dorsey 59 cdFort Worth’s Dr. Marion Brooks recalled that Dr. Dorsey’s hospital “offered medical services that were not thought to be available to the [African-American] community.” Dr. Brooks said Dr. Dorsey also established the first nursing home to provide long-term care for elderly African Americans in Fort Worth.

Dr. Dorsey died in 1991 at age eighty-five. A police department parking lot occupies the site of his hospital site today.

dixie park aerials14. Dixie Park, on East Rosedale at Fabons Street, across from the Grand Theater, was one of Fort Worth’s few city parks for African Americans.

dixie park 26Dixie Park included a swimming pool (white rectangle in the 1952 aerial photo).

One City, Two Downtowns (Part 2): Survivors

Cowtown at Play: African-American Parks (Part 1)
Cowtown at Play: African-American Parks (Part 2)

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20 Responses to One City, Two Downtowns (Part 1): Demolished

  1. Barry W Blackwell says:

    I started out looking for the Jim Hotel because I’m reading a fairly recent book about Ornette Coleman by Maria Golia. Lots about the music of Fort Worth.
    Your site is beautifully done in every way. Thanks.

  2. Debra McKenzie says:

    Thanks Hometown,

    I will research your sugestions about Baptist Hill/Chambers Street. I am very excited to see all your post about this area I grew up during the 1950s-1970s.


  3. Debra McKenzie says:

    Your site sparks a lot of interest for me. I was born and raised on what I knew as Baptist Hill in Fort Worth. A section of town that only Blacks lived between Hwy 35 was on the east, 287 on the west. Also known as Third Ward. I went to G. W. Carver Elementary and I.M. Terrell Jr-Sr High School. Do you have any more stories about this section of town?

    • hometown says:

      Thanks, Debra. I think “Baptist Hill” and “Chambers Hill” are roughly the same area: between 35, 287, and 30 today. If so, I have a two-part post about Mr. Terrell, Henry Butler, Chambers Hill, and the Terrell school that has not been posted yet. Just did a post about WWII veterans housing that includes Butler Place.
      Slightly outside that triangle, I have posts that include Tom Lee/riot of 1913, Harmon Field, Prince Hall Masonic Mosque and McDonald College of Industrial Arts, and Sepia magazine/John Howard Griffin/Black Like Me.
      I have several posts about the Third Ward, but most focus on Hell’s Half Acre, which was in that ward but west of Baptist Hill.
      The blog can be searched by key word.

  4. Pegie Frazier says:

    You do such a great job. Thanks

  5. Sharon Heppler says:

    Does anyone know where Dr Dorsey is buried at? Been looking for an obit on him or locate where he is buried at. Looking for a friend.

    • hometown says:

      He is buried in Cedar Hill Memorial Park in south Arlington. I have added a short form of his obit to the post.

  6. Dorcas Jordan says:

    I was born at this hospital in 1955. And I also had the pleasure of meeting him when I was in college and I had to do a report on Hypertension. Very Nice and was glad that I visited him…..

  7. Rosalind Jackson says:

    Yolanda please share any info you may have on Dr. Dorsey and hospital. Thanks in advance.

  8. Yolanda says:

    Wow! Talking about memories! I, too, was born in Dorsey Hospital. Can you email me additional information as well.

  9. Charles Jackson says:

    I was born at Dorsey Hospital. I would like more info Dr. Dorsey

  10. Kyev Tatum says:

    Thank you for this insightful piece of history. The saddest part is Fort Worth still has little regards or respect for black life. Restitution is out of the question. Now our community suffers from what is known as Hood Disease or a severe form of PTSD. We are sick, poor, hungry and mad. Change must come.

  11. Paul Mastin says:

    It drives me batty to see how black neighborhoods were so often the target of demolition when freeways were built. Highways are inherently race-neutral, but the decisions made about where to place them, what neighborhoods to split up, or what communities will be dispersed were decidedly racist. What a shame. Thanks for the history lesson.

    • hometown says:

      Thanks, Paul. Astute observation. I had not been aware of the artificial partitioning created by freeways until Pete Charlton pointed it out. If you look at those freeways from the air you can see how difficult it is now-—by car or on foot—-for people living in those quadrants to get from one side to another. Few over- and underpasses, even fewer pedestrian bridges. Your neighborhood market may now be in a different neighborhood; you may now have to drive six more blocks to reach your barber or church, etc. Along the frontage road of the South Freeway now the houses that lined Louisiana Street are sixty years gone, but their sidewalks remain, leading to nowhere.

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