Onetime KKK meeting place, downtown post office listed as Endangered Places

05/06/2014 6:43 PM

05/06/2014 10:26 PM

A former Ku Klux Klan meeting place on North Main Street, last used as a pecan-processing plant, and the U.S. post office building on West Lancaster Avenue downtown were among six additions to Historic Fort Worth’s annual endangered-properties list, released Tuesday.

And in a departure from listing only properties and places, the group of preservationists said Fort Worth’s Preservation Program is now endangered because of budget cuts that decreased staffing and programs.

John Roberts, chairman of Historic Fort Worth, said that adding the city department is a bold move for the typically nonpolitical group and that members debated the decision for two months.

Cuts to the city’s preservation work, including a moratorium on creating historic districts and delays in updating the design guidelines for historic districts, the historic preservation plan and the historic resources survey, have gone too far for the special-interest group.

“We’re very concerned that preservation is not being carried out by the city,” Roberts said. “There are neighborhoods that want to form new historical districts but have been told no. Preservation is economic development. Its value is documented.”

The city has reduced its preservation staff to one full-time employee rather than two full-time staffers and one part-timer, Roberts said. Historic Fort Worth would like to see the staff restored.

The group releases its Endangered Places list every May as part of National Preservation Month. The list is designed to increase awareness of historic properties and sites that have been neglected and are in jeopardy of being demolished and lost for good. The group started the list in 2004.

Topping this year’s list is the Ellis Pecan Co. building at 1012 N. Main St., which is owned by a group of Fort Worth and Dallas arts supporters. The building was supposed to be renovated for the Texas Ballet Theater but has sat vacant for about 14 years.

The building, designed by Earl Glasgow with a 4,000-seat auditorium, was built in 1924 as the local headquarters of the Ku Klux Klan after the firebombing of an almost identical building on the site that was built in 1920, Historic Fort Worth said.

In 1931, Leonard Brothers Department Store bought the building for a warehouse. It was later converted for use as the Fox and Fox Boxing Arena.

Ellis Pecan bought it in 1946 and ceased its operation in 1999. A local engineering firm owned the property for a short time and had plans to renovate the structure for its offices.

The downtown post office building, at 251 W. Lancaster Ave., designed by Wyatt C. Hedrick, was built in 1933. It is still being used by the U.S. Postal Service but has been targeted for sale, leaving its future uncertain. The Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, an independent federal agency, is working to make sure any change to the structure receives a federal review, but the reviews don’t guarantee any physical protection, Historic Fort Worth said.

Three sites were added to the list, including the Chase Court gates and medians at 1700 Hemphill St., built around 1906. Chase Court, the earliest documented planned subdivision in Fort Worth, was the original estate of E.E. Chase, a prominent Fort Worth banker, Historic Fort Worth said.

The second area is Sandage Avenue and neighborhoods surrounding TCU, areas largely made up of single-family homes, including Craftsman bungalows, Tudor and other period revivals, and some Mid-Century Modern homes.

Also added were World War I aviation sites Taliaferro Field, 10121 Hicks Field Road, and the nearby Taliaferro Field gunnery range. They date to 1917 and 1918, respectively.

The site was the first and largest of four aerial gunnery training schools built by the Air Service in World War I, where Army, Navy and Marine aviators trained. From November 1917 to April 1918, Royal Flying Corps Canada’s School of Aerial Gunnery occupied the Taliaferro Field site to train Canadian and American pilots.

“Fort Worth was unique in World War I as far as aviation training goes,” said Bill Morris, director of the Fort Worth Aviation Museum, near Meacham Airport.

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