Saturday, September 19, 2009

Fort Worth Sundance Square

Located in the heart of downtown Fort Worth, historic Sundance Square is a 20-block commercial, residential, entertainment and retail district where people work, live, shop and dine. Most buildings around Sundance Square have preserved their early 20th-century facades. Sundance Square's beautiful landscaping, red-brick streets and turn-of-the-century buildings make it a pedestrian's delight. Named after the famed Sundance Kid, who used the Fort Worth area as a hideout, Sundance Square has been hailed as a monumental achievement in urban redevelopment.

"150 Years of Fort Worth" traces Fort Worth's development, from its beginning as a frontier outpost, through its rowdy youth as a cattle town, to present day. The exhibit was originally opened in 1984 as part of the Texas Sesquicentennial Celebration. Some of its features include a scale model of the original Fort Worth established in 1849, a display case containing the uniform and writing desk of Maj. Gen. William Jenkins Worth, a display of some of the accomplishments of Amon Carter, a display of the prehistoric Clovis people and other western displays and models. It only takes a few minutes to go through this small museum – don't miss it if you're in Fort Worth.

One of the displays states the following about Amon Carter: "During the first half of the Twentieth Century, the man who gave events in Fort Worth a helping hand was Amon Giles Carter. President and publisher of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Amon made his city the mythical capital of West Texas and pushed, pulled and prodded Fort Worth toward a future he saw clearly. At his death, wrote Amon's biographer Jerry Flemmons, 'fully half of Fort Worth's population worked for companies he had lured to the city.'"

The Jett Building c. 1902 above closely resembles Frank Lloyd Wright's Larkin Building in Buffalo, New York. "The Chisholm Trail" is a trompe l'oeil mural created by Richard Haas that spans the building's southern facade, and commemorates the Fort Worth segment of the Chisholm Trail cattle drives of 1867-1875. The mural attracts many tourists into Downtown Fort Worth. The Jett Building was once home of the Northern Texas Traction Co. which operated the Interurban Railway with service to Dallas and Cleburne.

95.9 The Ranch and Country Legends FM radio station and Jamba Juice are the primary tenants of the Jett Building.

The attractive high-rise building on the left in the previous photo is The Tower. It was originally built in 1974 and named the Fort Worth National Bank Tower. It is 454 feet tall and 37 stories with a sloping base, making it the city's 4th tallest building. It was heavily damaged in the March 28, 2000 tornado. A local developer purchased the building and converted the building into condominium apartments with retail tenants on the first floor. The upper two floors feature four "Super Penthouses". Current retail tenants are: Potbelly Sandwich Works, Texas Capital Bank, Qdoba Mexican Grill, Cantina Laredo, and The Vault.

The red high-rise building on the right in the previous photo is the Sundance West Building built in 1991. It is a mixed use structure that was the first apartment building built in Downtown Fort Worth during its renaissance. It wraps around the Reata Restaurant. The 12 story building contains 59 apartments with four distinct facades that give the impression that there are four separate buildings facing different streets. The apartments begin on the sixth floor. On the ground floor of the building are shops and restaurants including Pizzeria Uno, Etta's Place Bed and Breakfast, Washington Mutual, Charles Schwab, and Daddy Jack's Lobster & Chowder House. Norris Conference Centers uses floors two through five as a multi-use conference center.

Reata at Sundance Square in the previous photo is a new building built behind the original facades of two 1880's buildings surrounded by the Sundance West Building. The four story restaurant has nearly 20,000 square feet that includes several private dining rooms and a rooftop grotto bar and dining patio. The Reata moved to Sundance Square after the 2000 tornado destroyed their original home on the 35th floor of the Bank One Tower. The Reata restaurant has a menu that contains everything from steaks to Creole and Southern dishes. The rooftop offers excellent views of Sundance Square. The Marble Slab Creamery and Four Day Weekend Theater are also located in this building.

The Burk Burnett Building in the previous photo was Fort Worth's first true skyscraper. The 12-story building is on the National Historic Register. It was built in 1914 for banker Earl Baldridge to house the State National Bank. One year later in 1915 it was sold to legendary cattleman, Samuel Burk Burnett, whose 6666 Ranches are famous in Texas history for cattle, oil, scientific breeding and thoroughbred bred horses. Worthington National Bank is now located in the Burk Burnett Building.

Window cleaning

The Nancy Lee and Perry R. Bass Performance Hall complex is the crown jewel of a city which
boasts the nation's third largest cultural district. It is also an important symbol of one of the most successful downtown revitalization efforts in the country. Built entirely with private funds, Bass Performance Hall is permanent home to the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, Texas Ballet Theater, Fort Worth Opera, and the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition and Cliburn Concerts. It also hosts special productions of Casa MaƱana Musicals, and presents Performing Arts Fort Worth's "Hall Series", a popular array of eclectic entertainment.

The Land Title Building located at Commerce and Fourth Street, is one of the oldest buildings in Fort Worth. This brick, sandstone and cast iron building was built in 1889 and is decorated with an owl, sandstone and stained glass windows. The current tenant, The Flying Saucer Beer Emporium, retained much of the original architectural flavor of the building during renovation.The Sanger Building was originally built to house Sanger Bros. Inc., the first department store west of the Mississippi River to feature "manufactured weather" (air conditioning). The new $1 million-plus department store opened on June 25, 1929. Bad timing. The Depression was not kind to Sanger's, and within a few years after its opening, the store had closed. Throughout its history, the building has been named the Color Tile Building, Meacham's Department Store, and Sanger Bros. Department Store. The Fort Worth Convention & Visitors Bureau Modern and the Milan Gallery are currently located on the ground floor and the basement is home to The Circle Theater. The top five floors feature 59 loft apartments that tie into the adjacent Fakes Building. The City National Bank Building was built in the early 1870's for the John S. Andrews Loan, Land & Livestock Company. In the 1880's it became Fort Worth's first bank, City National Bank, which was forced to liquidate ten years later during the 1890's Depression. Two restaurants - Billy Miner's Saloon and Cabo Grande – currently occupy this building.

The Knights of Pythias Castle Hall was constructed in 1881 as the first Pythian Temple erected in the world and the only one with a cornerstone laid by Justus H. Rathbone, founder of the order. The building is now home to Haltom's Jewelers and the 8.0 Restaurant & Bar.

The Domino Building, next to the Sid Richardson Museum, is an exact replica of "Buck's Domino Parlor," a popular gaming house. It was a favorite hangout of such famous personalities as Butch Cassidy, The Sundance Kid and Luke Short, who was the king-pin of honest high stakes gambling in Fort Worth. The original building was built in 1885 and reconstructed in 1981.

Sid Richardson was a Texas oilman, cattleman and philanthropist known for his association with the city of Fort Worth. The Sid Richardson Museum has one of the finest and most focused collections of Western art in America. The museum features paintings of the Old West by Frederic Remington, Charles M. Russell and other artists. Since opening in 1982, the museum has been one of Sundance Square's top attractions, drawing more than 50,000 visitors a year from all over the world. Don't miss this museum if you visit Fort Worth.

You have to look closely under the Woolworth Building sign to find the Scat Jazz Lounge sign. This popular cabaret/jazz club is located in the underground/basement of the historic Woolworth Building. Entertainment is traditional jazz and features locals to national touring acts.

Scat Jazz Lounge was named in the February 2009 issue of Downbeat magazine as one of "the Best 100 Jazz Clubs in the World!"

This mixed-use facility was constructed in 1996. Each tenant of the building has a separate facade, although a retro Art Deco style is present throughout the building. Located in the structure are the AMC Palace 9 Theater which features stadium seating, Barnes & Noble Booksellers, Barnes & Noble Cafe, and Ferre Ristorante e Bar. City Streets, a multi-themed night club, with its unique entrance depicting a skyline, is open in the basement. One of the interesting features of the building is the red brick & turret corner portion that houses the Barnes & Noble Cafe. This corner is reminiscent of the Land Title Block across the street and the Knights of Pythias Castle Hall. The last picture is the back of the Barnes & Noble bookstore.

I will be doing two more Fort Worth posts. One to cover some final comments and interesting places I missed. The other will cover the Texas Civil War Museum.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Fort Worth Stockyards

The Fort Worth Stockyards are a former livestock market which operated under various owners from 1866 until the 1960s. It was once the biggest and busiest cattle, horse, mule, hog and sheep marketing center in the Southwest, where more than 160 million head of livestock were sold. Today, the 125-acre Stockyards National Historic District attracts more than 2 million visitors a year and is home to restaurants, hotels, saloons, galleries, shopping, an opry, a rodeo and other family-type entertainment. The Fort Worth Stockyards are the last standing stockyards in the United States.

Bill Neeley, author of the book The Last Comanche Chief: The Life and Times of Quanah Parker, writes: "Not only did Parker pass within the span of a single lifetime from a Stone Age warrior to a statesman in the age of the Industrial Revolution, but he never lost a battle to the white man and he also accepted the challenge and responsibility of leading the whole Comanche tribe on the difficult road toward their new existence." Quanah Parker was a fascinating man. He was the son of Comanche chief Peta Nocona and a European American woman, Cynthia Ann Parker. After the last of the Comanche's led by Parker surrendered in 1875 and moved to a reservation in southwestern Oklahoma, Parker embraced much of white culture, except for monogamy and traditional Protestant Christianity. He was well respected by whites and through wise investments, he became the wealthiest American Indian of his day. He went on hunting trips with President Theodore Roosevelt, had five wives and twenty five children and founded the Native American Church. Click on his name above for more information.

Billy Bob's Texas, the world's largest honky tonk, has 127,000 square feet of space (nearly 3 acres) inside and 20 acres of parking. The building now known as Billy Bob's was built in 1910 as an open air cattle barn - it now provides fun for 6000+ people with a concert stage, dance floor, restaurant, arcade, casino, live bull riding arena and more.

Stockyards Station below, located in the heart of the Stockyards Historic District, provides over 100,000 square feet of shopping, dining, western entertainment, festivals and other special events.
Texas Trail of Fame Plaques
There are dozens of plaques in the sidewalks throughout the Stockyards honoring western actors, singers, cowboys, lawmen, pioneers, politicians, heroes, artists and other personalities.

Amon Carter deserves special attention. He did more than any other person to create the image we have of Fort Worth. He was the creator and publisher of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and a nationally known civic booster for Fort Worth. A legacy in his will was used to create Fort Worth's famed Amon Carter Museum. The newspaper created WBAP, the first radio station in Fort Worth, in 1922; and followed it with Texas' first television station, WBAP-TV, in 1948. This near-monopoly on news in such a large service area gave Carter, the Star-Telegram publisher and two-thirds owner, the money and power to become a major political force in both Fort Worth and Texas. Carter parlayed this money and power into celebrity as a national spokesman for Fort Worth and West Texas (Carter popularized the description of Fort Worth as "Where the West Begins"). During the 1920s and 1930s, Carter personified the image of the Texas cowboy in the national mind: an uninhibited story-teller, gambler, and drinker, generous with his money and quick to draw his six-shooters. Major magazines such as Time and the Saturday Evening Post ran profiles of Carter, and he counted Will Rogers and Walter Winchell among his friends. The well-publicized hospitality of his Shady Oak Farm near Lake Worth was open to any major celebrity or businessman passing through Fort Worth. Carter used his national stage to drum up business and government spending for his home region. From the Texas state legislature, he got a four-year college (now Texas Tech University) for Lubbock. He persuaded Southern Air Transport (now American Airlines) to move its headquarters from Dallas to Fort Worth. Several oil companies moved or kept their headquarters in Fort Worth after personal interventions by Carter. Carter's disdain for Dallas, Fort Worth's larger and richer neighbor, was legendary in Texas.


Joe T. Garcias is a highly regarded Mexican restaurant located at 2201 Commerce Street less than five minutes from the Stockyards. I had their delicious Chile Rellanos for lunch. Their tortillas are also very good with a strong corn flavor. Jeff – thanks for the recommendation. If you come to the Stockyards don't miss this restaurant.