Saturday, March 19, 2011


Forth Worth is a walkable city. I know because I spent this morning walking just about every inch of downtown, from my hotel by Houston and 13th, through Heritage Park and across the Trinity River and back. Much of the city was built in the 1890s and, astonishingly, the buildings hardly show their age. Brick rowhouses, art deco high rises ... they all look like they could have been built yesterday. It's a historic preservationist's dream. The Tarrant County Courthouse (pictured above), an impressive pink granite structure, was built in 1895 for a cost of $408,840. The townspeople at the time considered it such an unnecessary extravagance that they replaced the entire county commissioner's court. The city had fallen on tough times after the Civil War and something tells me their wounds never quite healed. Right in front of the Courthouse stands a monument to fallen Confederate Soldiers, erected by the Daughters of the Confederacy in 1953.

Fort Worth was named for Major William Jenkins Worth, a leader in the Mexican-American War in 1846. Worth, who after the war was placed in command of the Department of Texas, proposed a line of ten forts along the Texas frontier, then died one month later of cholera. His uniform (pictured above) is on display in a special exhibit -- "150 Years of Fort Worth" -- at the Fort Worth Museum.

Main Street has always been lined with interesting shops and restaurants, mostly housed in red brick rowhouses like the one pictured above. It was in one of these buildings in 1901 that a local photographer named John Swartz got his big break. A group of young men posed for a photo and Swartz was so pleased with the result that he displayed it in his store window. It turns out he had taken one of the only known photos of Butch Cassidy, the Sundance Kid and their Wild Bunch.

The picture ended up on wanted posters all over the country. The Sundance Kid is seated to the left and Butch Cassidy is seated to the right. They were never captured ... except, of course, in Swartz' photo.

No trip to Fort Worth would be complete without a visit to the Stockyards, the one-time center of the livestock industry which put Fort Worth on the map. Today, the Stockyard is a bit touristy. Every day at 11:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m., weather permitting, a team of cowboys walks a group of bulls from the train station to the Stockyard before a crowd of cheering tourists. The bulls walk slowly ... and you can tell they're well used to their routine. "Pamplona, it's not!," said one of my colleagues, in reference to the famous "Running of the Bulls."

I ended my tour at the site of Hell's Half Acre. In its day, it was the most notorious district in town, known for its saloons, dance parlors and bordellos. The Fort Worth Democrat, a major newspaper in the late 1800s, described the area as a beacon for "lewd women of all ages 16 to 40, the most despicable of citizens and the experienced thief." Today, it's an Aerated Water Pool, designed in the 1970s by architects Philip Johnson and John Burgee. Their vision was to give visitors the impression that they could walk across the pool on tiles made of spraying water. I guess that's one way to clean the neighborhood up ...!


Kattytrick said...

You always make the effort to share the places you travel to...always! I just wanted to tell you thank you, and that I sooooooo enjoy this Bi-proxy trip! I could almost taste the Chili and cold, COLD beer.(& I don't even like Beer much! Only with Pizza or Chili)Thank You again___=^..^=___Kittie

Paula said...

Very interesting entry!

Anonymous said...

Very nice. I lived there for a little while 30 years ago and enjoyed the town very much. -Cin