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Stockyards, Top O’Hill Terrace top Historic Fort Worth’s endangered list

🕐 3 min read

The Fort Worth Stockyards National Historic District, the city’s Cultural District, a World War I flying field and a former illegal casino in Arlington have been added to Historic Fort Worth Inc.’s 2015 list of the city’s “Most Endangered Places” list.

The nonprofit organization announced its annual endangered list during a news conference May 6 at the historic 1904 Thistle Hill cattle baron mansion.

The list of at-risk properties includes: Top O’Hill Terrace, dating to the 1920s; Barron Field, constructed in 1917; the 1937 Meissner-Brown Funeral Home, a City of Fort Worth Historic and Cultural Landmark; and a majority of public and private buildings in the Stockyards and the Cultural District.

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.

Among other distinctions in aviation history, Fort Worth was home to the first commercial airline in the United States, the site of the world’s only helium production plant, was headquarters of the U.S. Army Air Forces Training Command during World War II, and was the departure and arrival point for the first non-stop around-the-world flight.

Barron Field, located at 1180 Everman Parkway, was a training site for American Air Service and Canadian Royal Flying Corps pilots from 1917-1919. Also used as Fort Worth’s first municipal airport, Barron Field is owned today by Weyerhaeuser Co.

“This is the second year in a row that an historic resource reflecting the stature of Fort Worth’s national aviation history has been nominated for this list,” said Historic Fort Worth’s Executive Director Jerre Tracy.

Last year, World War I aviation history sites at the Taliaferro Field Site and Hicks Station north of Fort Worth were placed on the list.

“Most people don’t know that Fort Worth’s aviation heritage started with World War I,” Tracy said.

Built along the Bankhead Highway in the early 1920s as a tea room, Top O’Hill Terrace was transformed in the 1930s into an infamous gambling operation, replete with secret rooms and tunnels where the rich and famous partied and hid from the law. In 1956, the property was purchased by Bible Baptist Seminary, now Arlington Baptist College. What remains of the site requires much-needed repairs before it is lost.

Constructed by the Shannon family in 1937 as the Shannon Funeral Home, the Meissner-Brown Funeral Home, a Spanish Eclectic-style building in the Polytechnic neighborhood owned by the city of Fort Worth, has been heavily damaged by fire. In January, Fort Worth Code Compliance requested demolition of the building after being unable to find a buyer willing to rehab the structure.

“Fort Worth’s Cultural District is the gold standard,” Tracy said.

The city owns all of the land and some of the buildings in the district, while nonprofits own the other buildings. Many of the buildings date to 1936. Home to three world-class art museums, the Will Rogers Memorial Center, 11 arts organizations, the Botanic Garden and the Botanical Research Institute of Texas, the entertainment area brings visitors from all over the world.

Historic Fort Worth says all of the stakeholders and the nearby neighborhoods should be working together on parking solutions and master planning for the district.

A $175 million, 1 billion-square-foot redevelopment in the Stockyards would be among the most significant changes to Fort Worth’s history and culture, HFW said.

The redevelopment project, an agreement between the Hickman family’s Heritage Development LLC that owns many of the buildings and Majestic Realty of California, could permanently alter what is the country’s last intact stockyards.

HFW says it is unaware of previous historic district projects by Majestic Realty. The nonprofit said local designation protects buildings from demolition, and less than 10 percent of the buildings in the Stockyards are locally landmarked.

Since 2004 HFW has tracked the outcome of properties featured on its endangered list. For more information about the 2015 Most Endangered List or to see previous lists, visit www.historicfortworth.org.

Betty Dillard

bdillard@bizpress.net

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