Fort Worth

World Facts Index > United States > Fort Worth

A city of unending contrasts, Fort Worth offers a world-class music competition side-by-side with the "world's largest honky-tonk." There are live rodeos (one is indoors!) and cattle drives complete with horses, wagons, and trail bosses; and exhibitions of artists like Monet, Picasso, and Matisse. You can watch a performance of "Swan Lake" by a nationally-recognized ballet company and then go two-stepping to live Country & Western music; experience the tranquility of Japanese gardens or the sprightly splash of a wonderful water garden smack in the middle of downtown. Ride the Tarantula Train to visit historic county communities or tour one of the great zoos of Texas. Enjoy a Broadway play at Casa Manana or a symphony concert at Bass Performance Hall, it's all here! View art exhibitions rivaling those in much larger cities, or gorge yourself on learning at the largest science and history museum in the Southwest- all in one day if you wish.

You can shop till you drop at huge modern malls or small intimate boutiques'there are plenty of both. A monstrous flea market resides just east of Fort Worth on the Arlington-Grand Prairie border, and huge outlet malls in Hillsboro and Gainesville are each within an hour's drive of the city, not to mention another right downtown. If you're in the market for "real" boots, belts, saddles, and other leather goods, Justin Industries, maker of Justin and Nocona brand boots, is headquartered here. Sundance Square downtown is home to not only unique restaurants and shops but also the downtown annex of the Museum of Modern Art, for those who want a smaller dose of culture than that afforded by the larger museums. The historic Stockyards have everything from turn-of-the-century hotels to wonderful quirky shops to get-down-and-party honky-tonks like Billy Bob's and the White Elephant Saloon, and of course, restaurants where you can get a steak as big as some small towns that melts in your mouth!

Downtown

Sundance Square is a 16-block area of buildings restored/replicated to their turn-of-the-century appearance. Named after the Sundance Kid (Butch Cassidy's famous sidekick), the Square is home to such unique restaurants as 8.0, where the eclectic cuisine includes the fish of the day, pasta, and blue plate specials; Angeluna with its contemporary global menu, modeled after a popular eatery in Aspen; and Billy Miner's Saloon, named for a famous eccentric who also happened to be a train robber, where the hamburgers are hot and the beer and Margaritas cold. There are also the Cabo 'Mix Mex' Grill, offering South/Central American cuisine with a Yucatan influence; Coffee Haus; and Riscky's Barbecue where since 1927 they have rubbed Riscky's Dust on the meat before smoking it in a wood-burning pit, yummy!

Shopping at Sundance Square is a bit limited because of its small size. Still, it's worth a turn around the square. Barnes and Noble Booksellers boasts a two-level store with 180,000 titles as well as a Barnes & Noble café with soups, salads, sandwiches, and of course, Starbucks coffees. Earth Bones is a delightful boutique for the young and young at heart, with a great mixture of gifts and décor items with a nature-friendly flair; they also offer a large selection of Sterling silver jewelry and semiprecious stones. You can order flowers or choose a unique gift for that special someone at Flowers on the Square; or find something small and shiny in Haltom's Jewelers' collection of fine jewelry, gifts, and watches. You'll find original and limited edition prints by world-famous Californian Thomas Kincade at the Main Street Gallery; Milan Gallery features graphics, paintings, sculptures, and art reproductions from the Czech Republic, South Africa, Europe, Mexico, Asia and Russia'to the accompaniment of live piano music. Larry's Shoes has returned to where it began in the mid 20th century, still offering high style in footwear, designer boots, and accessories for both men and women. You'll recognize the names of DKNY, Anne Klein, Bally, and Kenneth Cole at Larry's. Main Street Outfitters/ORVIS is a unique blend of fashion and sporting equipment, featuring high-end outdoor clothing and unique fashions for women as well as top lines in fly-fishing equipment. The Nature Store surrounds you with warm woods, tall trees, and the soothing sounds of moving water and hand-tuned wind chimes, as well as the music of the world - Flamenco, Celtic, and Andean flute. The fragrances of aromatherapy candles and pure essential oils complete the pleasant assault on the senses. For business and casual wear for men, Norman Tailors is the place to go. Parfumerie Marie Antoinette will pamper the whole body, with fragrances for men and women in bath and body lotions, and even relaxing massages. With headquarters right here in Fort Worth, Pier 1 Imports is one of the largest specialty retailers in North America. Its unique concept invites customers to see, hear, and touch home decorating items, gifts, and related goodies handmade in 44 countries. Finally, the Modern at Sundance Square offers an excellent opportunity to view smaller, more intimate exhibitions than those at the Modern Art Museum. Housed in the historic 1929 Sanger Building, the space is devoted to traveling exhibitions and part of the permanent collection, plus a larger branch of the museum's gift shop. A variety of decorative items, toys, books, posters, stationery, greeting cards, and handmade jewelry and crafts await you at the shop; museum members get a 20% discount.

Other attractions at Sundance include horse-drawn carriages for tours around the area; Gourmet Cinema at AMC Sundance Theatres; Jubilee Theater, the southwest's premier African American theatre; and the Sundance Square Street Performers, a group of mimes, musicians, artists, clowns, and jugglers who entertain nightly year round. Then there's the Sid Richardson Collection of Western Art, an intimate museum featuring a permanent exhibition of 60 works by Charles M. Russell, Frederic Remington, and other portrayers of the American West. Bohlin parade saddles and a collection of wax models and bronzes on loan from the Amon Carter are typical of traveling exhibits. You'll find books and gift items relating to Western art as well as prints, canvas and bronze reproductions in The Museum Store.

Just south of the Tarrant County Convention Center is the Fort Worth Water Garden, a 4 ½ block, 4.3 acre park with a 38-foot deep lake, a 20-foot high mountain, and assorted other lakes and waterfalls. Built in 1974 with funds from the Amon Carter Foundation, the park features 500 species of plants and trees; 32,000 individual plants; 7 miles of retaining walls; and 10 miles of pipe. Each minute, 440-horsepower pumps shoot 19,000 gallons of water through the five major water features and numerous smaller ones.

If you're hooked on malls for shopping, there's a pleasant surprise for you in downtown: the Fort Worth Outlet Square. Housed in an towering skyscraper across Throckmorton Street from Sundance Square and the Worthington Hotel, the huge mall is home to many name brand outlets, funky eateries, and even an ice rink. You'll find bargains in Spiegel's Ultimate Outlet Store, Bugle Boy, Carter's for Kids, Nine West, Samsonite, Mikasa, and Radio Shack to name just a few. Parking is plentiful a couple blocks away with a shuttle subway to take you into the square.

For entertainment in the downtown area, the possibilities are almost endless, from the fabulous Bass Performance Hall to J & J Blues Bar; from Aardvark to the Stage Coach; Caravan of Dreams to the Wreck Room; and Will Rogers Auditorium to Ridglea Theatre.

Bass Hall, on the corner of 4th Street and Calhoun, is home to Fort Worth's premier performing arts organizations as well as the venue of choice for top cultural artists from all over the world. Rock and Roll legends, Dixieland bands, bagpipers and pop singers, bluegrass musicians and ballet companies perform here. So do amateur and professional concert musicians in world-class competitions as well as contemporary dance troupes.

The Botanical Research Institute of Texas, the largest independent herbarium in the Southwest, is home to 450,000 dried plant specimens from around the world. Used primarily for research, the institute is open to the public. There's an exceptional collection of flora from Texas, Arkansas, and the southwestern United States.

Fire Station No. 1, the first fire station in Forth Worth, is now home to the "150 Years of Fort Worth" exhibit.

Eddleman McFarland House, a century-old late Victorian residence on a high bluff overlooking the Trinity River, is one of only three enduring examples of the homes of Fort Worth's Cattle Barons. Occupied by only two families since it was built, it has not changed appreciably from its original appearance. The exterior features a marble and sandstone porch, slate tile roof, turrets, and gables. The interior's elegance is characterized by ornate mahogany and oak mantelpieces, coffered ceilings, cornices, and parquet floors.

Cultural District

A few minutes west of downtown is the third largest arts and cultural district in the USA. Numerous museums, theatres, and galleries reside in an area bounded by West 7th Street, Montgomery, Interstate 30, and University Drive.

The Amon G Carter Museum was founded by the pioneer to house his collection of paintings and sculpture by Frederic Remington and Charles M. Russell. Now featuring pre-1940 works by premier 19th and 20th century artists, the museum is home to both a large permanent collection and numerous traveling exhibits of paintings, books, sculptures, prints, and photographs.

The Forest Park Miniature Train, the longest miniature train ride in Texas, begins opposite the Fort Worth Zoo and winds through beautiful Trinity Park. It runs year round, weather permitting.

Fort Worth Botanic Gardens features 114 acres of gardens where more than 2,500 species of native and exotic plants are displayed. Among the 21 specialty gardens are those featuring roses, cacti, and perennials. The International Begonia Species Bank is housed here as well as a 10,000 square-foot Conservatory containing tropical plants form Central and South America, Asia, and Africa. The Japanese Garden, a tranquil setting within the Botanical, features a teahouse, moon-viewing deck, pagoda, and meditation garden surrounded by six acres of tropical plants and trees and pools filled with colorful Koi fish.

The Kimbell Art Museum is itself a work of art, thanks to the use of natural light, space, and materials by architect Louis Kahn. From antiquity to the 20th century, the Kimbell is home to several unusual collections, featuring European art from 1920 forward and American art since 1940. There are works Gainsborough, Leighton, and other Renaissance, 18th and 19th century masters as well as Cézanne, Matisse, and Carvaggio. Meso-American and African pieces and Mediterranean antiquities join a solid collection of Asian arts. For a delightful Friday evening, enjoy a light buffet with live music at the Kimbell.

One of the oldest art institutions in Texas, the Modern Art Museum was chartered in April 1892 as the Fort Worth Public Library and Art Gallery. Its stated purpose was "the accumulation of paintings and artistic works." After a series of different names, the museum was finally named Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth in 1987. Home to masterworks of post-World War II American and European artists in all media, the museum boasts a permanent collection of 2800 objects. The Modern also offers free lectures by renowned artists, scholars, and critics every Tuesday from September through November and February through April.

The largest science and history museum in the Southwest, the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History was chartered in 1941 as the Fort Worth Children's Museum to give children an appreciation of history, science, and culture. Its permanent exhibits include Hands-on Science, ExploraZone, Lone Star Dinosaurs, Dino Dig, Kidspace, Comin' Through Cowtown, and 150 Years of Fort Worth History. The Noble Planetarium offers many multi-media programs for 'kids' of all ages; the addition of the Omni Theater in 1983 enhanced its already broad scope of learning opportunities. The Omni screen is an 80-foot-diameter dome tilted at a 30 angle to the horizon. With the world's most advanced super 70 MM multi-image projection system and a sound system of 72 giant speakers, the Omni offers the viewer a unique entertainment experience available in only a couple of other places in the world.

The National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame, founded in 1975 in the Texas panhandle town of Hereford and moved to Fort Worth in 1994, is the only museum in the world honoring distinguished women who exemplified the pioneer spirit of the American West. Its Hall of Fame, currently numbering 145, includes names like artist Georgia O'Keeffe, author Laura Ingalls Wilder, sharpshooter Annie Oakley, and musicians Patsy Cline and Dale Evans. The museum is to open a new 32,000 square foot facility near the Will Rogers Memorial Center in 2001. The new area will be known as the Western Heritage Center.

The Cattle Raisers Museum, established in 1980, preserves and continues to educate about the history and heritage of the Texas livestock industry. With displays like the Leonard Stiles Branding Iron Collection, the Ken Spain Saddle Collection, and the Joe Russell Spur Collection and stories of people who built some of Texas' most famous ranches and caught cattle thieves for 100 years, the museum is a treasure trove of interactive learning opportunities.

Will Rogers Memorial Center, a multi-purpose entertainment complex on an 85-acre site with 45 acres under roof, is home to some of the world's most prominent equestrian events. The Will Rogers Coliseum, built in 1936, was the first domed structure of its kind in the world and was followed in 1988 by the Will Rogers Equestrian Center. Not only the Southwest Exposition and Livestock Show, but also world-class events like the National Cutting Horse Association finals, American Quarter Horse Youth Association World Show, American Paint Horse World Championship Show, and the Appaloosa Horse Club World Championship Show are held here.

Casa Manana was the first permanent theatre designed for in-the-round performances. Chartered as a non-profit organization in 1958, it now offers a wide variety of entertainment from Broadway musicals to dramas to concerts and children's theater. Small family-owned boutiques provide most of the shopping in the Cultural District, places like Chimney Pot Antiques and Collectibles and Leigh-Boyd are good sources for gifts and collectibles to take home. Ladies' apparel from casual to evening wear, accessories and jewelry can be found at a.hooper, and unusual or traditional stationery, greeting cards, and gifts at Inscriptions on the Boulevard. Outdoor adventurers will find Backwoods a must'they outfit adventurers from backpacking to fly-fishing to climbing with top quality merchandise. For furniture, antiques, lighting, and accessories for the home there are House of Tuscany, Kabin Fever, and Domain XIV; and for beer, wine, or liquor for any occasion, visit Chicotsky's.

If all this learning and shopping have worked up your appetite, you've lots of choices: Sardine's Ristorante Italiano offers a romantic atmosphere and live jazz. For more casual dining, try Tommy's Hamburgers for ½ lb. Burgers, fresh catfish, or Texas staple chicken fried steak or Kincaid's Hamburgers, which was originally a grocery/market and now offers up what's considered the best burger in Texas by several publications. There's Michael's for contemporary ranch cuisine from Mexico and the American Southwest, or long-time fixture for late-night hunger attacks, Ol' South Pancake House with its 39 flavors of melt-in-your-mouth pancakes and waffles.

Thistle Hill on Pennsylvania near the Cultural District is one of 'few remaining examples of Georgian Revival architecture in the Southwest, according to the National Register of Historic Places. Built in 1902, Thistle Hill is associated with prominent Texas families the A. B. Whartons (she was Electra Waggoner) and the Winfield Scotts. Guided tours are available with anecdotes of family and local history and information about the house itself.

Texas Christian University, founded in 1873, now boasts six colleges and more than 6,000 students. With a strong reputation in Division 1-A Western Athletic Conference collegiate athletics, academics, and especially fine arts, TCU is considered one of the finest private universities in the Southwest.

The Fort Worth Zoo is home to more than 5000 native and exotic animals in their natural habitats. Built in 1909, the zoo is one of the top zoos in the nation and is the oldest continuous zoo site in Texas. Exhibits like the James R. Record Aquarium, Thundering Plains, Koala Outback, and Penguin Island will delight young and old alike. You can also enjoy the Fujifilm Komodo Dragons, African Savannah, Raptor Canyon, Asian Rhino Ridge, and World of Primates.

Historic Stockyards

Fort Worth Stockyards National Historical District is a living museum depicting life in both the Old West and the new. Designated an historical landmark in 1976, the Stockyards are one of the state's most popular tourist attractions.

Cattleman's Museum depicts the history of the ranching industry in Texas through film, photos, and cowboy memorabilia. Cowtown Coliseum, begun in 1907 and completed only 88 working days later in 1908, is the home of the world's first indoor rodeo, which was held in 1918. Five years later the coliseum hosted the first live radio broadcast of a rodeo. Serving as a cultural center for Fort Worth through the years, the coliseum has also boasted appearances by President Theodore Roosevelt, Chief Quanah Parker, the Russian Ballet, Chicago Grand Opera, Enrico Caruso, Elvis Presley, Bob Hope, and Doris Day.

The Livestock Exchange Building opened in April 1903 as offices for the many cowboys and livestock traders who did business in the Stockyards. Because the atmosphere resembled stockbrokers, buying and selling shares in New York, the Livestock Exchange became known as "the Wall Street of the West." No longer in use for its original purpose, the building now houses the Stockyards Collection Museum.

Stockyards Station, now a real depot for the Tarantula Train, is not only the largest train station in the Southwest but also a delight of dining, shopping, and entertainment for the whole family. Shop for everything from clothing (Western, of course!) to antiques; Indian jewelry to Texas wines; or leather goods to music (guess what kind?). Kids of all ages will enjoy the vintage amusement park rides, even an antique merry-go-round, and the boisterous re-enactments of Western shootouts where the last gunfighter standing is the winner. Living History tours ensure a fun learning experience, and party facilities are available.

The Tarantula Train steams into and out of the Stockyards from the Stockyards Station Depot. The Chisholm Trail Route is 10 winding miles that follow the famous trail used to drive cattle north to market. Traveling across the western edge of downtown, the train crosses both the West and Clear Forks of the Trinity River on high trestles offering spectacular views of Fort Worth's skyline. Passengers ride over tracks belonging to the Fort Worth & Western Railroad through the industrial districts so important to the city's economy. The other route connects the historic communities of Grapevine, Colleyville, and Smithfield to the Stockyards over the old Cotton Belt Route.

The Horse and Mule Barns, built in 1911, and the Hog and Sheep Pens, built in 1902, are still standing and are worth a visit to understand the sheer scope of the livestock business that once supported the economy of Fort Worth. All have been renovated and restored for adaptive reuse, affording the visitor a living history lesson.

No tour of the Stockyards is complete without stopping in at Billy Bob's Texas and the White Elephant Saloon. Billy Bob's, billed as the world's largest honky-tonk, features multiple dance floors and concert venues, an indoor rodeo, mechanical bull, gift shop, and live entertainment almost every night by country music's biggest names. The White Elephant, an authentic Old West saloon, is as plain as Billy Bob's is fancy, with a good-sized dance floor, plenty of booze, and mostly recorded music. It's the place to go if you just want to kick back, have a couple of beers, and snuggle with your honey. The White Elephant was named one of Esquire Magazine's Top 100 Bars in America.

For dining, there are many choices around the Stockyards: from the Cadillac Cantina to Cattlemen's Steakhouse, the Daily Perk to El Ranchito, Joe T. Garcia's, Riscky's Barbecue and Spaghetti Warehouse; the Star Café, and even McDonald's. If you're thirsty for something a little stronger, try the Cuttin' Horse Saloon or the Longhorn Saloon; Roundup Saloon or Rodeo Exchange.

Take lots of money if you're going shopping at the Stockyards'the smell of leather and the look of the fashions will getcha! There are accessory shops, bookstores, candy and pecan sellers, antiques, more than half a dozen Western Wear stores, several leather vendors, and even a New Age shop. And all that is after you've shopped Stockyards Station!

Exhausted after all that touring, train riding, eating and shopping? Numerous lodging opportunities to fit any pocketbook are in or near the Stockyards. Choose from bed and breakfasts, a Holiday Inn, the Hotel Texas, Sandpiper Inn, or of course the famous Stockyards Hotel, a 93-year old landmark listed on the State of Texas Register of Historic Places.

Other Destinations

The areas surrounding Fort Worth hold many other worthwhile places to visit - you'll want to rent a car to get around comfortably.

The Pate Museum of Transportation, on Highway 377 between Fort Worth and Cresson, houses a comprehensive collection of transportation memorabilia and information, boasting of classic and antique automobiles, aircraft, an antique private railroad car, a minesweeper boat, and a library of 1500 volumes. From a 1903 Cadillac and a Pierce Arrow to helicopter, transport, and jet fighter, there is something to whet any appetite for learning about transportation history here.

The American Airlines C.R. Smith Museum is located southwest of Dallas-Fort Worth Airport on Highway 360 at FAA Road. Dedicated to the founder of American Airlines, C. R. Smith, the museum's interactive displays, films, videos, and hands-on exhibits teach how airlines run today and in the past. When more than 80 small airlines merged in 1930 to form American Airways, a new era was born in North Texas. The company name changed to American Airlines in 1934 and remains today as one of the leading airlines in the world with corporate headquarters and a major hub at DFW Airport.

Fort Worth Nature Center and Refuge, located 10 miles northwest of downtown 2 miles past the Lake Worth Bridge, is a 3,500-acre wild life refuge offering an educational center, hiking, and self-guided nature trails. You can often see white-tailed deer and herds of Bison (buffalo, to the newcomer to Texas). There's also a Prairie Dog town where the little critters can be observed in their natural communal habitat (cute if they're not too close to your ranch or garden!).

Vintage Flying Museum at Meacham International Airport offers weekend hangar tours of a vintage B-17 bomber.

Texas Stadium in Irving, where the World Champion Dallas Cowboys play is at Loop 12 and Texas Highway 183. Valley Ranch, also in Irving, is home to the Dallas Cowboys organization as well as the Stanley Cup Champion Dallas Stars. On LBJ/635 freeway just west of Dallas.

Hurricane Harbor is a huge water park across from Six Flags Over Texas in Arlington. Giant slides, monstrous wave pool, inner tube rides down the rapids, and much more.

And speaking of Arlington, there's Six Flags Over Texas, at Highway 360 and IH 30 and The Ballpark at Arlington, just south of IH 30, home of the Texas Rangers American League baseball team.

Traders Village, on the Arlington-Grand Prairie boundary on Mayfield Road, is a giant flea market with 1,600 vendors selling their stuff every weekend year round. From tires to garden plants, puppies to 14K gold, and junk to treasures, it's all here if you look long enough.

Lone Star Park in Grand Prairie offers live and simulcast world-class horse racing 313 days a year on grass and dirt tracks. Million-dollars purses are not unusual here, and you're as likely to see Derby-winning jockeys as hometown favorites.

Palace of Wax/Ripley's Believe It or Not, off IH 30 in Grand Prairie, is a collection of oddities from around the world joined by more than 175 life-like wax figures. Queen Maria Riverboat, a 400-passenger paddle-wheeler on Lake Worth, offers public dinner cruises from the Highway 199 bridge from April to October, weather permitting.

Studios at Las Colinas is a modern museum showing the history of radio, TV, and film. You'll see famous sets, props, and other memorabilia from well-known movies and television shows filmed here and maybe even get to watch a real production in progress.

Grapevine, located north of Highway 114 east of Fort Worth, is the oldest settlement in Tarrant County; named for the wild mustang grapes growing wild in the area, it is official home to the Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association and three wineries/tasting rooms. Grapevine's Historical Museum is in the Cotton Belt Depot, located in the Heritage Center Complex. Joining the depot is the Heritage Artisans Center where you can see live demonstrations of 150-year old techniques like weaving, chair caning, quilting, glass staining, rug hooking, woodcarving and much more.

Colleyville was settled in the mid-1800s by a few pioneer families. Once Texas joined the Union in 1845, the area in northeast Tarrant County grew by leaps and bounds. The town in named for pioneer physician Howard Colley.

Smithfield, the area now known as North Richland Hills, has roots going back to 1807. A local farmer, Eli Smith, donated part of his land to the Zion community in 1876 to be used for a church and cemetery. Citizens then renamed the town in his honor.

History of Fort Worth

Welcome to Fort Worth, known for many years in Texas as "Where the West Begins." Established in 1849 as an army post to protect East Texas settlements from Indian attack, Forth Worth was named for General William Jenkins Worth, one of the first commanders of the outpost and a veteran if the War of 1812, the French and Indian War, and the Mexican War. The little outpost quickly developed a rowdy reputation, which was intensified with the establishment of a stage line from Fort Worth to Yuma, Arizona in 1850. But by 1853, the frontier had moved to the west and the fort was abandoned. The buildings from the fort housed the town of Fort Worth as settlers, soldiers, cowboys, and even outlaws took up residence.

Tarrant County's first county seat was in Birdville (now part of Haltom City), which was actually a larger community than Fort Worth; the courthouse, used from 1850-1856, was a log cabin. As Fort Worth gained in population, its citizens forced an election in 1856 to decide where the county seat should be. Tradition being to "reward" voters who made the effort to get to the polling place with a little something to quench their thirst, both towns stashed kegs of whisky near their voting sites. The night before the election, voters from Fort Worth stole Birdville's keg, with the result that on Election Day, Birdville had no refreshments to offer while Fort Worth had two kegs. Fort Worth won. Despite Birdville's protests and another election four years later, the county seat remained, and still is, in Fort Worth.

As the demand for beef in the East rose after the US Civil War, cowboys rounded up millions of free-ranging longhorns and drove them north to market along the Chisholm Trail. Fort Worth was the last bit of civilization before the long lonely trail drive, so by 1866 the town had a new nickname, "Cowtown," and a new prosperity in the cattle business, not to mention an even rowdier reputation and a famous (or infamous!) neighborhood known as Hell's Half Acre. It is said that even Butch Cassidy, Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, and the Hole-in-the-Wall Gang stopped here to enjoy food and fun!

By 1872, Fort Worth was ready for a new step into the future, bringing the railroad through. In 1873, Captain B. B. Paddock developed a map showing Fort Worth in the center of a circle and proposed rail lines radiating in all directions from that center; representatives of the city began lobbying the railroad builders to route their lines through Fort Worth. As more track was added and the map began to resemble a giant tarantula, it was fittingly named the Tarantula Map and became the main plan used to attract the railroads to the city. Despite many difficulties and delays, the Texas and Pacific Railroad pulled into Fort Worth in 1876, and by 1900 nine railroads were operating through the town. The first true effort to establish an extended rail system in North America was a narrow gauge route from St. Louis, Missouri through Eagle Pass, Texas (on the Mexican border) and into the interior of Mexico; it was known as the Cotton Belt Route. The route was extended into Fort Worth in 1887 as an outlet for lumber, and passenger service continued until about 1930. The Tarantula Train is now a popular tourist attraction, operating over about 21 miles of the Cotton Belt Route and connecting the communities of Grapevine (the oldest settlement in Tarrant County), Colleyville, Smithfield, and the historic Stockyards of Fort Worth. It boasts a small fleet of vintage engines and coaches including "Puffy," an 1896 steam engine restored in the early 1990s at a cost of $1,000,000.

It was only natural for a thriving meatpacking industry to be next to spring up in Fort Worth, after all, the railroads were now in place to bring in the cattle and ship out the meat! Armour and Swift, as well as other lesser-known packers, built regional plants, Swift's on the south hillside of Exchange Avenue and Armour's on the north side. The plants opened in late 1902 and held grand openings in March 1903 in conjunction with the annual livestock show. A month later the Exchange building opened, and the coliseum followed in 1908. By 1909 the new city of North Fort Worth had grown to a population of 12,000 and was annexed by its older sibling. Eight years later, cattlemen decided to hold a contest for cowboys in the coliseum; lacking a name, one rancher suggested the Spanish word for "roundup," "rodeo." When another rancher mispronounced it, calling it "ro dee oh," a new and enduring form of entertainment for participant and spectator alike was born. Fort Worth soon became the second largest livestock market in the country as well as one of its major beef suppliers. It retained that status until the 1960s when Swift and Armour closed their doors. The Stockyards didn't go away, however'the area underwent a complete renovation/restoration in the 1970s and remains one of North Texas most popular tourist destinations as a living tribute to a gone, but not forgotten, way of life.

Fort Worth's commercial role expanded yet again with the discovery of rich oil fields in West Texas in the early 20th century, for here is where the drilling supplies were manufactured, purchased, and sold even as the deals were being struck. Sinclair, Texaco, and Humble Oil and Refining Company (now Exxon) built regional offices, and new skyscrapers sprang up as a result of oil money. Meanwhile, a major flood in 1909 spurred the city to begin the ambitious projects of controlling the Trinity River and ensuring a safe water supply for its residents. These projects resulted in the formation of Lake Worth northwest of downtown. Later the Trinity River Floodway, built with federal funds, was completed in 1956.

The US Army established Camp Bowie as a training site during World War I (1914-1918); Amon G. Carter, Sr., who was one of the city's most prominent movers and shakers, was instrumental in three nearby airfields being converted into aviation training centers. He later co-founded American Airways, which is now American Airlines and is still based at Dallas-Fort Worth Airport. Early in World War II when the US War Department needed an aircraft plant to build bombers, Carter and his partner C. R. Smith sold Washington on the idea of putting it in Fort Worth. The plant broke ground in April 1941. After Pearl Harbor triggered a step-up in the work, an extension was added for the Air Force; and in April 1942, 364 days after groundbreaking, the first B-24 Liberator was delivered. Four months later, the Tarrant Field Airdrome was activated by the Air Force as a training base for B-24 pilots and later it became Carswell Air Force Base. In 1951, an aircraft manufacturer from New York, Larry Bell, brought his helicopter factory to Hurst. Bell Helicopter Textron is still a vital contributor to the area's economy, building Hueys and Cobras of "M*A*S*H*" and war movie fame and recently shifting to the Marines V-22 tilt-rotor Ospreys. In more recent years, the bomber plant has become a fighter plant, producing F-111s and F-16s.

With entrepreneurs like Amon Carter and John Peter Smith promoting the city and being involved in many diversified layers of business and services, wheeling and dealing became, and still is, a way of life in Fort Worth. The city is still one of the last large business centers before the still-vast stretches of prairie to the west.

The collapse of the oil industry in the early 1980s and the shrinking of the defense industry had a negative impact on Fort Worth's economy, but diversification and thriving tourism in all of North Texas have combined to give it a much-needed boost. The much-touted rivalry with Dallas has lessened as the entire Metroplex population works together to contribute to the area's success.

The Weather

  Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Avg. High 54 58 67 75 82 90 95 95 87 78 66 57
Avg. Low 30 34 44 54 61 68 72 71 65 54 44 34
Mean 42 47 55 65 72 78 84 84 76 66 55 46
Avg. Precip. 1.7 in 2.1 in 2.6 in 3.3 in 4.6 in 3.5 in 2.4 in 2.1 in 3.4 in 3.2 in 2.0 in 1.8 in

 

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