Bud Kennedy

Garden gate gets a new look, and 1965 donors finally get thanks

At age 50, the Fort Worth Botanic Garden’s grand main gate needed some cosmetic help.

Weather, wind and a half-century of morning sunshine had taken a toll on the 20-foot-tall gate and brick fountain, although you couldn’t see it from University Drive.

The Botanic Garden is a civic keepsake, a Fort Worth treasure too often taken for granted amid the museums, Stock Show grounds and busy hike-and-bike trails all around.

It was time to give the old gate a face-lift.

So the company that helped build it in 1965 helped restore it.

“There’s a 100-year warranty on our bricks, so we stepped up,” said Mark Burden of Acme Brick Co.

On Tuesday, city officials and garden supporters will gather to rededicate the gate and thank Acme Brick and another company, Triple M Construction, for rebuilding the wall.

Acme, founded in Parker County in 1884, moved to Fort Worth in 1911. Since 2000, the local company has been part of Nebraska-based Berkshire Hathaway Inc.

Fort Worth architect Bob Adams helped design the gate in 1965 and was at the original dedication that May. He retrieved his records for city parks officials.

Adams, 77, will be one of few guests Tuesday who remember the giant antique lamps from their original home at the front door of the old Montgomery Ward & Co. store on West Seventh Street, now Montgomery Plaza. The 1928 lamps were removed in a 1960s remodeling and were donated to the park.

When he was going over plans with the city, he also solved a mystery: a missing 1965 plaque honoring donors.

“I mentioned the plaque,” Adams said, “and [parks director] Richard Zavala said, ‘I think that’s around here somewhere.’”

The bronze plaque includes familiar but long-gone names of corporate sponsors: primary sponsor Leonards Department Stores, along with Texas Electric Service Co., the Hotel Texas, Southwestern Bell Telephone, Worth Food Mart and others.

But it was never installed because of a couple of misspellings, mainly Jack Williams Chrevrolet (then nearby on University Drive, now in Weatherford as U.S. Rep. Roger Williams’ Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep).

The plaque was in a parks storage facility for years and “even functioned as a doorstop,” gardens supervisor Steve Huddleston wrote by email.

Another long-standing Fort Worth company, Midland Manufacturing, made the changes and restored the plaque.

It is in place behind the gate wall on the north side of what is now Rock Springs Road and will be dedicated Tuesday along with the restored gate.

The Botanic Garden gate is not a classic architectural landmark for the ages. The Forest Park columns on Park Place, the gates on Elizabeth Boulevard and other neighborhood entrances are older and more memorable.

But they look pretty good for 50.

Bud Kennedy: 817-390-7538, bud@star-telegram.com, @BudKennedy. His column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

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