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.
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
1. 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.
2. 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 the Intermodal Transportation Center.
3. 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.
4. 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. The Intermodal Transportation Center 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.
5. 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).
6. 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 Miller Avenue in Poly. Clip is from the 1952 city directory.
7. 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.
8. 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.
9. 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.
10. 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.
11. 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).
12. 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.
Dr. 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.
Fort 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 included a swimming pool (white rectangle in the 1952 aerial photo).