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Thursday, February 25, 2021

Masonic Lodge among Fort Worth’s most endangered places

Historic Fort Worth Inc. revealed its annual list of endangered places on May 3, with the Fort Worth Masonic Temple making the roll for the first time.

This year’s list of at-risk properties includes the Wayside Church of God in Christ built in 1944, and the Three Sisters Bridges on Samuels Avenue and the West Fork of the Trinity River near the Fort Worth Stockyards National Historic District.

The nonprofit organization announced its 2016 “Most Endangered Places” list during a news conference at the historic 1904 Thistle Hill (Wharton-Scott House) cattle baron mansion, a property previously listed and later given to the nonprofit in 2006 to help save and restore.

“This is one of the most important programs of Historic Fort Worth,” said Executive Director Jerre Tracy. “It changes the future of buildings we love.”

Each May during National Historic Preservation Month, Historic Fort Worth – a local partner of the National Trust for Historic Preservation – recognizes historic properties within the community that are threatened by deterioration, neglect, vandalism, encroaching development or lack of financial resources.

Nominations for endangered places are made by the public and HFW’s Public Affairs Committee, which is made up of architects, engineers, Realtors, attorneys, political consultants, former city of Fort Worth commissioners of landmarks and zoning, bankers and others.

The Endangered Places List is a marketing program designed to create positive change for the historic resources placed on it, Tracy said. Properties and places listed may be discovered by new owners or receive renewed investment by current owners, she said.

“HFW’s endangered list is a magnet for change that is good for historic buildings,” Tracy said. “Because we post the list on the homepage of HFW’s website, developers from all over the country contact HFW year round for more information about specific buildings.”

This year, developers and owners of historic properties in Texas have more incentives to restore and rehabilitate historic structures.

During the 83rd Legislative Session, the Texas Legislature passed House Bill 500, which establishes a 25 percent state tax credit for the certified rehabilitation of certified historic structures. This incentive requires that work to a historic property meet the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation to qualify for the credit.

“Texas is on the cusp of a boom for rehabbing historic buildings because the state’s new 25 percent historic tax credit can be combined with the 20 percent federal historic tax credit to restore and adapt historic buildings for new uses,” said Tracy.

Several of the endangered properties on Historic Fort Worth’s current and previous lists could benefit from such tax credits.

The Fort Worth Masonic Temple, located on Henderson Street at the western edge of downtown, is owned by the Masonic Temple Association. It was completed in 1932 and has had few changes made to it since its construction. It is in need of significant modernization upgrades but there is a lack of funding to complete needed projects, HFW says.

“It is a treasure,” said Robert Holmes, the temple’s historian and curator. “It takes preventive maintenance and we see very quickly that we need assistance.”

The building was designed by the architectural firm of Wiley G. Clarkson & Co., which also designed the Stripling Building, U.S. Court House, Sinclair Building and STS Tower in Fort Worth. The building features Neo-classical styling with Art Moderne influences, upper-story Ionic columns and alloy bas-relief doors. Two grand staircases at the main entrance lead to a terrace. The lodge still features a Civil Defense Fallout Shelter sign, which was placed there during the height of World War II. The building became a recorded Texas historical landmark in 1984.

The Wayside Church, on Fort Worth’s Near Southside, is the last remaining building representing the early African American community known as Trezevant Hill. The church was the site of the pioneering African American radio and television ministry of Bishop R.E. Ranger in the 1930s through the 1950s. Ranger was a nationally known gospel preacher for 75 years and one of the longest serving pastors in Fort Worth.

Wayside Church is the site of the first national and international Black Gospel Radio Ministry in America, which at one time reached an audience of six million. The oldest church of its denomination in Fort Worth, Wayside Church is also the site of the first live national African American TV broadcast from a church sanctuary.

This is the fourth time Wayside Church has appeared on HFW’s list. Located at 2100 Beckham Place in the heart of Fort Worth’s medical district, the church is in danger of being consumed as the district continues to expand. The building is in disrepair, and the Ranger family lacks the financial resources and an adaptive reuse plan to save it, Historic Fort Worth says.

Also making the list for the first time are the Three Sisters Bridges. The bridges technically were included when HFW nominated all the historic bridges over the Trinity River in 2004. The three bridges were built around 1900, and had four lines with tracks: the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Railroad; the Fort Worth and Denver City Railway; the Missouri Kansas and Texas; and the Chicago, Rock Island and Texas Railway.

The MKT and the Fort Worth and Denver City tracks joined to cross the center bridge. The land on which these two lines lay was owned at one time by the Fort Worth Stock Yards Co. These steel truss bridges facilitated rail service to the Swift and Armour packing plants in the Stockyards. Today, the bridges lie on lines that belong to the Burlington Northern Santa Fe and Union Pacific railroads. BNSF plans to remove and replace one of the existing bridges and construct a more structurally modern bridge.

Historic Fort Worth says BNSF’s proposed bridge replacement also would have an adverse effect on the sister bridges.

Cecil F. Smith, an architect, engineer and a member of Historic Fort Worth’s board of directors, has studied bridges around the country and believes there is another solution to replacing the historic bridge.

“It can be rehabilitated. And that’s what we hope will happen,” he said. Smith said he recently returned from a visit to Portland, Ore., where 12 bridges, many of them historic, span the Willamette River.

“They celebrate them in Portland,” Smith said. “Our river wraps around our town. I’d like to see our bridges rehabilitated and celebrated.”

Since 2004 Historic Fort Worth has tracked the outcome of properties featured on its endangered lists. Including Thistle Hill, 16 properties “have found a new way and have been brought back to their potential,” Tracy said.

Rescued and restored properties include the Knights of Pythias Hall, Swift & Co. Office Building, Forest Park Gates, Heritage Park Plaza, Ridglea Theater, Getzendanner House, Public Market, and 60 acres out of the 139-acre Stockyards.

Rehabilitation work recently started on the c. 1937 Meissner Brown Funeral Home at 2717 Avenue B., which was listed in 2015.

For more information about the 2016 Most Endangered List or to see previous lists, visit www.historicfortworth.org.

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