Heritage, Volume 02, Number 04, Fall 1985

A national trend has surfaced in the wake
of the 1970's suburban construction wave:
today's urban dweller has begun to see
that a city's central business district must
be alive and vibrant in order for that city
to flourish. City Center Development
Company, the Fort Worth real estate firm
best known for its painstaking renovation
of many of the city's historical downtown
structures, agrees with the premise that
downtown is the geographic, symbolic
center of a community. In addition, while
skyscrapers and contemporary mid-rise
office buildings certainly contribute to
downtown commercial success, it is the
charming historical structure that embues
an area with character and diversity.
When faced with the option of ignoring a
city's decaying urban core in favor of the
low-priced, underbuilt suburbs, a company
choosing to embark upon a major
renovation project has the opportunity to
make a substantial commitment to a city,
both in terms of finance and of time. Almost
a decade ago, City Center Development
Company made that commitment
in deciding to improve downtown Fort
Worth through preservation, rather than
demolition, of some of Texas' most important
historical buildings. In March of
1978, City Center announced its plans to
restore two square blocks centered on Fort
Worth's Main Street corridor. This announcement
enabled the city to qualify
for an Urban Action Development Grant
in the sum of $3 million. Fort Worth used
the grant to restore the original brick surface
to Main Street, widen sidewalks,
plant trees and flowers and install replicas
of turn-of-the-century lampposts. The
Main Street Project, as it has come to be
known, not only served to preserve Fort
Worth's heritage, but actually spurred renewal
of the city's decaying urban core.

Richard Haas' mural, Chisholm Trail, creates
enormous excitment on the southern facade of an
original structure at 400 Main Street, Fort Worth.
Photo courtesy of City Center Development
Company.
HERITAGE * Fall 1985

During the late 1800's, Fort Worth was experiencing
a transition from a rural frontier
town to a major urban center of
oil, cattle and commercial trade. Main
Street-as the hub of business activitywas
populated in part by some of the
city's most prominent citizens. Oilmen,
bankers, cattlemen and politicians met
here on a regular basis, to build fortunes,
choose leaders and shape the future of
Fort Worth.
Yet Main Street had another side, with its
fair share of boisterous cowboys and
rowdy saloons. Here was a place where

the ill-starred and infamous could lose
themselves in the crowd. Legends such as
George Leroy Parker, Harry Longbaugh
and Harvey Logan (or Butch Cassidy, the
Sundance Kid and Kid Curry, as they
were better known) walked this street as
late as 1901, rubbing shoulders with
dance-hall girls and refined ladies, cowpokes
and cattlebarons. Sundance Square
was named for this period in its colorful
history, because it was during this tumultuous
time-before and after the turn
of the century-that most of the buildings
in Sundance Square were erected.
The Sundance Square renovation project
originally consisted of twelve turn-of-thecentury
buildings facing Main Street. The
emphasis in Sundance Square was on
adaptive re-use of historic buildings; as a
result, some structures were restored
brick-by-brick, while others, because they
were structurally dangerous or simply uninteresting,
were replaced with replicas,
or by modern structures whose simple
lines did not compete with the old
architecture.
As research and subsequent construction
began to unfold, each of the restored
buildings revealed secrets and historical
anecdotes all its own, as well as presenting
special problems which required creative
solutions. The following paragraphs
tell the stories of four Sundance Square
structures with interesting historical
significance.
Knights of Pythias Building
The original Knights of Pythias Building,
circa 1881, was the world's first Pythian
temple, and the only one dedicated by the
founder of the Order, Justus H. Rathbone.
The two upper floors of the building were
destroyed by fire in 1901, but were redesigned
and rebuilt later that year. An
adjoining annex was constructed in 1920.
When restoration began, it was discovered
that the third floor walls were being
pushed apart due to failure of the roof
scissor trusses. Its stairway was sagging
because of improper modifications made
to the building when the annex was constructed
in 1920. These were corrected

and knee braces were placed against the
adjacent Domino Building, to prevent
possible racking of the Knights of Pythias
Building in high winds. The original
stone work had weathered badly and was,
25

Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 02, Number 04, Fall 1985. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45445/. Accessed March 4, 2015.