My hometown is Fort Worth, Texas. Fort Worth is a city of contrast. A city that embraces its “Wild West” roots as an outpost on the Trinity River but today it is the 17 largest city in the United States. It is “where the West begins but is also a city of culture.
Established in 1849 where the Clear and West forks of the Trinity meet Fort Worth was one of a series of forts along a “picket-line” to protect the western frontier from Indians and other dangers.
The Chisholm Trail went through Ft. Worth on its way to Kansas City. As the last major stop on the Chisholm Trail Ft. Worth became a major trading center and its red-light district known as Hell’s Half Acre was infamous. Between 1866-1890 more than 4 million cattle passed through the Stockyards earning Fort Worth the nickname Cowtown.(1) The Texas & Pacific Railroad came to town in 1876. The Ft. Worth Stockyards would be come a major hub for the cattle and meat packing industry. The Livestock Exchange built in 1902 soon became known as “the Wall Street of the West“. With the rise of the trucking industry after WWII the stockyards begin to decline and hit an all-time low in 1986. In 1976, The Fort Worth Stockyards National Historical District was created. Shops and restaurants have replaced cattle in the old cattle pens and The Stockyards National Historic District is now a tourist attraction. The Fort Worth Herd pass through the Stockyards each day at 11:30 am and 4:00 P.M.
The first Fat Stock Show was held in 1886. A bad ice/sleet storm arrived on the first night of the show. (2) I guess some things haven’t changed. The Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo is still held very January.
The discovery of oil in Ranger, located 90 miles west of Ft. Worth had a great impact on the growing town. Fort Worth was strategically located near the oil booms in Ranger and Burkburnett. The central location between the two areas and the rail hub brought an oil boom to Fort Worth as well. My 1920 there were at least 5 refineries in Fort Worth.
Fort Worth played an important role in both World Wars. During World War I Camp Bowie served as the training base for the Army’s 36th Division. In World War II, a Quarter Master Depot, Marine Base and the Fort Worth Army Air Field were located in Ft Worth. In 1948, the Army Air Field became Carswell Air Force Base. It remained an active Air Force base until the 1990s. It then became the Ft. Worth Naval Air Station and Joint Reserve Base. Consolidated-Vultee’s plant was built in Lake Worth producing the 3,000 B-24 Liberator bombers. Although it has changed hands several times the plant is still in operation today as Lockheed-Martin.
Polytechnic College now Texas Wesleyan University was established in 1890. Ft. Worth is also home to Texas Christian University. TCU is home to the 2011 Rose Bowl Champs the Horned Frogs. In case you are wondering a Horned Frog or horny toad is a lizard not a frog.
Fort Worth is the city of cowboys and culture.(3) Fort Worth has several museums and cultural venues including the Modern and the Kimbell Art Museum. One of my favorites the Amon Carter Museum features an outstanding collection of American Art. Oh, yes and it is free. The Fort Worth Science & History Museum features many hands-on, kid friendly exhibits as well as the Noble Planetarium and Omni IMAX Theater. As a bonus paid entry to the exhibits also includes admission to the nearby National Cowgirl Hall of Fame. Another one of my favorites is the Ft. Worth Botanic Garden located near the Trinity River and as bonus most of it is free.
Sundance Square is a 35-block entertainment district located in the heart of downtown that features an eclectic collection of restaurants, music venues, theaters, shops and the Bass Performance Hall. Bass Hall has been named one of the top 10 opera houses in the world. (4)
Oh, yes one last thing. Fort Worth is a unique blend of the old-west and thriving urban city. So the next time you are tempted to lump Fort Worth in with that other place, remember that it is probably much larger than where you call home.