Bud Kennedy

Fort Worth landmark restores the red

Worker Juan Ortiz puts the last touches on the restored red chimney and modern roofline of what is now the 6421 Camp Bowie building.
Worker Juan Ortiz puts the last touches on the restored red chimney and modern roofline of what is now the 6421 Camp Bowie building. bud@star-telegram.com

Fort Worth’s own splash of “Frank Lloyd Wright red” came back to the west side Tuesday.

A red chimney was restored to a Camp Bowie Boulevard office building, the way one of Wright’s architect friends designed it in 1956.

The former Commercial Standard Insurance Co. building is often called one of the city’s “unknown landmarks.” Generations of residents passed the long, sprawling building on 4 acres sloping back from Camp Bowie Boulevard, but only lovers of midcentury modern architecture knew how it changed.

When the late Houston architect Karl Kamrath designed the building, he chose an eye-catching chimney in Wright’s signature color.

[The old white paint] offended me greatly. … It was almost like defacing it.

Fort Worth architectual engineer Frank Sherwood

But long ago, sometime after the old Western Hills Hotel next door went away but before artist Nancy Lamb sculpted an 8-foot-tall Jackalope up the boulevard, the chimney was painted cream.

“It offended me greatly,” said Frank Sherwood, 88, a Fort Worth architectural engineer.

“That took away the signature element. … It was almost like defacing it.”

An ‘unknown landmark’ except to architects, the building is now hidden by tall trees.

The red was restored Tuesday, with Randy Trice Painting and original builder Thos. S. Byrne Construction sharing the cost with a Benbrook owner.

When the $2 million building went up at 6421 Camp Bowie, it was one of two Wright-like buildings on a boulevard still paved in red brick as the major highway across Texas. (The Champlin Oil Building at 5301 Camp Bowie was demolished for Interstate 30 widening.)

At the groundbreaking, according to the Star-Telegram archives, noted Southern Baptist pastor and musician Albert Venting, then 72, “reminded listeners how rapidly the city is growing, with urban development taking over the ground once occupied for cow pastures.”

Tall trees now hide a building that once stood on the edge of rolling prairie.

Now you can’t miss the red.

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

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