Monday, March 19, 2012

Playing Down by the Tracks

Texas & Pacific Terminal, Fort Worth, 2012

In all the years I’ve been traveling to Dallas on business, I’ve never had the chance to go over and visit the neighboring city of Fort Worth. Dallas people like to portray themselves as all uptown and sophisticated, what with their with Neiman-Marcus and swanky malls. They look upon Fort Worth as, well, a cowtown, the kind of place where people use steer long horns as hood ornaments.
It’s true, Fort Worth thinks of itself as a gateway to the American West. The old stockyards are one of the city’s leading tourist attractions. But there’s a lot more to Fort Worth than cowboys and cattle. One morning last week I had a chance to go over and see some of it.
To be honest, cows weren’t high on my list. Instead, I’d hoped to do a quick walk-through of either the Kimbell Art Museum or the Amon Carter Museum. I’d especially wanted to see the Kimbell’s original building, an elegant example of the work of architect Louis Kahn. There’s also a recent addition by Renzo Piano. The pictures I’d seen of the latter didn’t seem to do justice to the addition, so I was anxious to see it for myself.
Warehouse, Post Office, Terminal, 2012
But that’s not what I ended up seeing in Fort Worth. The first things that caught my eye as I drove into Fort Worth were three old buildings along the railroad line that skirts downtown. I hadn’t planned to visit downtown. But these buildings were too rich to pass by without a closer look. So off the Interstate I went. Good-bye culture. Hello snooping around old buildings.
The first building is the 15-story former passenger terminal of the Texas & Pacific Railroad, a terrific example of the zig zag moderne art deco style. Opened in 1931, it’s a giant slab of a building, skinny and long, like a bunch of Pullman coaches stacked on top of each other. Passenger trains haven’t run out of this building since 1967. The lobby, however, has been restored and some of the upper floors are being made into apartments.
T&P Terminal - West End, 2012
A block away from the terminal is an abandoned warehouse. It, too, is tall and skinny and long and built in the same zig zag moderne style. So it was no surprise to learn that this building was the T&P Railroad’s freight warehouse.
Tucked between the terminal and the warehouse is the main Fort Worth post office, also opened in the early 1930s when the mail moved by rain, and as grand and ambitious of a Beaux Arts edifice as you ever saw.
It turns out all three buildings were designed by the late Wyatt Hedrick, who I was surprised to learn was not only a Virginia native, but also the designer of Eudora Welty’s house, which I visited in Jackson, Mississippi, last summer. Small world, eh?
T&P Warehouse Corner, 2012
So I didn’t get to either of the museums. I did, however, nearly ruin a pair of good dress shoes wandering around in the mud behind the T&P warehouse. But that’s the kind of thing that happens when you thick you’re going to visit a nice museum and instead ending up hanging around old buildings down by the tracks.
T&P Warehouse Detail, 2012

T&P Terminal Entrance, 2012

T&P Terminal Ticket Hall Ceiling, 2012

T&P Terminal Doors, 2012

1 comment:

  1. Wow! Sounds like a fascinating detour. Love the photos you took. Joe's daughter lives in FW, and she teaches cello and plays with the orchestra there. He said the art museum is fabulous, incidentally...