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Opinion Struggling to maintain our history

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Robert Francis
Robert is a Fort Worth native and longtime editor of the Fort Worth Business Press. He is a former president of the local Society of Professional Journalists and was a freelancer for a variety of newspapers, weeklies and magazines, including American Way, BrandWeek and InformatonWeek. A graduate of TCU, Robert has held a variety of writing and editing positions at publications such as the Grand Prairie Daily News and InfoWorld. He is also a musician and playwright.

Texas Wesleyan University wants to tear down the Dillow House on East Rosedale Street near Vaughn Boulevard and build a new office building for the Central Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church.

Historic Fort Worth is suing the city of Fort Worth over removing the historic designation on the prairie-style house, built by Samuel S. Dillow, a grocer, banker and philanthropist. He must have been Poly’s Marvin Leonard of his day. Dillow lived in the two-story house until he died in 1931. His daughter, Audrey Dillow, graduated from Wesleyan and donated the house to the university in 1979. She lived there until her death in 1982.

In 1938 a new elementary school was built on Avenue N and named S.S. Dillow. I finished the fifth grade at Sagamore Hill in that year and was transferred to be in the very first student body of the new school.

Our sixth grade English teacher asked the class to write poems about the new school. My poem was adjudged the best and was posted on the bulletin board at Open House for all the visiting parents to admire. The world has turned over many times since then, but I still remember the words of that prize-winning poem that proclaimed most proudly:

We have a school that beats them all. It stands straight, erect and tall. It is built of yellow brick And it took more to build it than a hoe and a pick. It took witty brains, not Jello, To build our school, S.S. Dillow.

Six years later in 1944 I was a freshman at Texas Wesleyan. We were at war. Duty called. I answered.  I joined the Navy and shipped out on the Attack Transport USS Bowie APA-137, which sailed in Balboa’s shining Big-Sea-water to practice troop landings days on end at Maui and then  landed Marines and supplies at Eniwetok, Guam, Saipan, Leyte, Okinawa and Japan.  As Marines climbed over the Bowie’s railings and into the boats that would carry them to the beach, their last earnest pleas to us sailors: “Don’t forget to come back and get us.” Now I am caught in the middle of this titanic struggle between college and the historians. Being naturally a pacificator, I see both viewpoints. But what is not clear to me is why Historic Fort Worth, defender and protector of old man built homes, has remained mute over the unimaginable scheme, aided and abetted, it is hard to imagine, by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, to cover the preeminent landmark of our city, the God-given confluence of the Clear Fork and West Fork so admired by Ripley Arnold, Robert E. Lee and Amon Carter, with a man-made stock pond called Town Lake. The Dillow house is 100 years old.   How old is the Confluence?  

Don Woodard Sr. is a Fort Worth businessman.


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