One City, Two Downtowns (Part 2): Survivors

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. Many of the landmarks have been demolished (see Part 1). Here are some buildings and locations that have survived.



  1. Allen Chapel A.M.E. Church
  2. Greater St. James Baptist Church
  3. Knights of Pythias Lodge Hall
  4. Morning Chapel C.M.E. Church
  5. Mt. Gilead Baptist Church
  6. Grand United Order of Odd Fellows
  7. Colored High School
  8. East Eighteenth Street Colored School No. K
  9. Baker Funeral Home
  10. Baker Chapel A.M.E. Church
  11. Mount Zion Baptist Church
  12. James E. Guinn School
  13. Drake’s Cafeteria
  14. Grand Theater
  15. Greenway Park
  16. Harmon Field

east allen chapel1. Allen Chapel A.M.E. Church (1912), 116 Elm Street. Established 1870.

east st james2. Greater St. James Baptist Church (1913), 210 Harding Street. Established 1895.

east key of the west3. Key West Lodge No. 5, Knights of Pythias (1925), 900 East 2nd Street. The African-American Knights of Pythias organized in 1880. The building has been restored and converted to apartments.

east morning chapel4. Morning Chapel C.M.E. Church (1938), 903 East 3rd Street. Established 1868.

east mount gilead5. Mt. Gilead Baptist Church (Sanguinet and Staats, 1912), 600 Grove Street. Established 1875.

east church listingsIn 1907 J. A. Hamilton published his History and Directory of Fort Worth, a book listing African-American businesses and community leaders. As these church listings show, the four churches listed above on the map are older than the buildings they now occupy, and two of the fourMt. Gilead and Morning Chapel—moved to their current locations after 1907.

east odd fellows6. Grand United Order of Odd Fellows (1925), 415 East 6th Street. The African-American branch of Odd Fellows was organized in 1843. This lodge was organized in 1880. I. M. Terrell was an officer. (More on the golden age of fraternal lodges.)

east linksThe three-link chain is the Odd Fellows symbol. The three links stand for friendship, love, and truth.

east householdThe Household of Ruth is the African-American Odd Fellows women’s auxiliary.

east 13th street school-FWHA7. At 1201 East 13th Street is this building, built in 1910 in the Third Ward as the “Colored High School.” In 1921 it was renamed for I. M. Terrell, who had been its principal. The building now houses the Fort Worth Housing Authority.

east terrell school8. At 1411 I. M. Terrell Circle South this Third Ward school building (1910) originally was named for Texas legislator Andrew J. Chambers and accommodated white students. Chambers had owned the land where the school was built. But in 1931 the building was designated for African-American students and renamed “East Eighteenth Street Colored School No. K.” In 1937 I. M. Terrell High School, having outgrown its East 13th Street building, moved a few blocks southeast to the Chambers/No. K building. A large addition to this building was built on the north. Today the complex houses I. M. Terrell Academy for STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math] and VPA [Visual and Performing Arts].

east baker funeral9. In 1926 former Pullman porter James Nathan Baker, who owned a funeral home in Cleburne, opened a funeral home in Fort Worth at 301 East Rosedale in his father’s house. In the 1940s Baker bought People’s Burial Park on Northeast 28th Street (now called “New Trinity Cemetery”).

baker cd The Baker funeral home continues in operation. (More on local undertakers.)

east baker chapel mug10. In 1908 former slave Henry Baker, father of James Nathan Baker, organized Baker Chapel A.M.E. at his home, where the funeral home his son founded stands today. Today the church is located at 1050 East Humbolt Street. The building dates to 1936. Henry Baker image is from History and Directory of Fort Worth.

east mt zion11. Mount Zion Baptist Church on Evans Avenue was organized in 1894. The grand building, with its two classical porticos, was built in 1922.

mt zion 2-13-22Clip is from the February 13, 1922 Star-Telegram.

east guinn school 1911 1927 195212. The original James E. Guinn School building (Sanguinet and Staats) was built in 1918 at the corner of Rosedale and Louisiana (I-35W displaced Louisiana Street in 1952) to replace School No. 13 (South Side Colored School, see Part 1), which had been built in 1894. Guinn, son of a former slave, was born in 1866 and attended Fort Worth schools. He became principal of School No. 13 in 1900. After his death in 1917 a new building was named for him in 1918. In 1927 an elementary school building (Clarkson) facing north was added beside the original building. In 1937 a middle school building (Withers) facing east was added. The 1918 building was demolished in 1986. The school closed in 1980. The surviving buildings now house the city’s Business Assistance Center. Bottom photo shows the elementary school on the right, the middle school on the left. The 1918 building was in between on the corner.

east drakes13. Built in midcentury, this building at 951 East Rosedale was vacant and neglected for years. The building’s two best-known businesses are long gone.

zanzibarAbout 1946 the Zanzibar Café and Night Club opened there, with performers such as Jackie Wilson, Charlet Pride, and Ornette Coleman performing under the building’s retractable roof. In 1975 Irreasa Drake opened Drake’s Cafeteria there. Drake, herself the daughter of a cook, began her career cooking for others in homes and cafes. In 1952 she was a cook for Mrs. Lily Brown at Brown’s Café at 326 East 13th Street. In 1953 she borrowed $89, bought some groceries, and opened her own café: Drake’s Lunch Room at 911 Jones Street. By 1956 her lunch room was at 307 East 9th Street. By 1960 it was at 1064 New York Avenue. In 1975 she moved around the corner to 951 East Rosedale and cooked there the rest of her life, making Drake’s Cafeteria a mainstay of East Side dining.

drakes-adShe worked six days a week, cooking from the recipes in her head. On the seventh day she rested and ate out—often at other cafeterias so she could check out the competition and their prices. Irreasa Drake died on August 1, 1990. Her granddaughter Vanzanell Edwards took over the cafeteria, but it closed a number of years ago. Obituary is from the August 3 Star-Telegram.

Today the building has been renovated.

theater grand theater14. Four blocks east of Drake’s Cafeteria, Grand Theater on Fabons Street just off Rosedale has not shown a movie in years, but the building still stands as the home of  619 Productions, a charitable arts organization.

grand may 38The Grand Theater opened in May 1938 as “the first complete theater to be built for negroes.” Fort Worth’s African-American population at the time was estimated at eighteen thousand.

map mystery greenway 43 mapgreenway googlegreenway 55 mixed baseball15. Greenway Park has been sliced up and diminished by two freeways—Airport Freeway and Interstate 35W. Because Greenway historically was a park for African Americans, even into the 1950s the idea of “mixed” sports events at the park was controversial.

golf harmon map 1956golf harmon jenkins 6-4-54 fwp

16. Harmon Field, once the site of the first city golf course for African Americans, has been sliced up and diminished by Highway 287 and the Trinity River flood control project after the flood of 1949. Dan Jenkins wrote about the golf course in 1954 in the Fort Worth Press.

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

This entry was posted in Architecture, Bricks and Martyr, Downtown, Downtown, All Around, East Side, Life in the Past Lane, Public Buildings. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to One City, Two Downtowns (Part 2): Survivors

  1. Dan Washmon says:

    The 1918 James Guinn school building was almost an identical twin to the 1918 D.McRae building….I haven’t been able to find any photos of it, though….My mother always drove to doctor’s office on Magnolia and 8th, across from All Saints’ Hospital, by taking Rosedale to 8th….Frequently saw Guinn, Dixie Park (why was it named that, there?), the Grand and Rosedale theaters (the Rosedale was in a mini-down town, much like the two-block down town Poly)….

    • hometown says:

      There is a newspaper photo of 1918 Guinn here. A tiny thing–like the 1918 McRae. Rosedale was our ant trail to the west, too, although I have no memory of the Rosedale Theater. Not much written about Dixie Park–I have never read why it was so-named. Not in Kline’s book on FW parks.

  2. John Agee says:

    I attended school in building # 7.

  3. John Agee says:

    I attended primary school in building #7. Subsequently middle school in historical Como middle/high school. Last two years of high school historical Poly high class of 1970. Happy to see so much history being maintained in Fort Worth.

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