The staircase stays.
The ornamental 1902 side stairs to the old Swift & Co. packinghouse site will be preserved along with up to 10 other Stockyards sites nominated for historic designation, Mayor Betsy Price said this week.
Until 1971, the steps carried thousands of workers from cars, buses and trolleys to work daily in the most efficient hog slaughterhouse and meatpacking plant in the world, one of Texas’ first major corporate prizes and the industrial side of what made Fort Worth “Cowtown.”
“The stairs belong to the city,” Price said in an interview Sunday on WFAA/Channel 8’s Inside Texas Politics, referring to the city easement along Northeast 23rd Street.
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“They’re ours,” she said in a Star-Telegram visit this week. “We’ll save them.”
The staircase, now painted dull gray over the once-handsome red-and-blue Swift arrow emblem, is one of the cherished keepsakes residents wanted to save when much of the old industrial facility is redeveloped for a planned $175 million mixed-use hotel-shopping center.
The City Council is set to vote Tuesday on a historic district preserving at least 15 city blocks along Exchange Avenue through the north Fort Worth business district, plus Rodeo Plaza and Billy Bob’s Texas.
A different, larger proposed district would expand historic landmark protections to more than 40 blocks including some remaining cattle pens, vacant land north of East Exchange Avenue and the former industrial site targeted for development.
With north side Councilman Sal Espino and west side Councilman Dennis Shingleton nodding support, Price said the new buildings would be better regulated through zoning codes requiring a specific design and appearance, not through a larger historic district.
“All of it comes to the council for approval,” she said.
“We feel like we can control how it’s going to look.”
The central Exchange Avenue historic district will help save and support repairs in the familiar business blocks, some of which have begun to collapse.
“If we don’t do something,” she said, “we’re going to have demolition by neglect.”
Other sites that will be considered for historic designation include the brick retaining wall around the former packinghouse site and older commercial buildings along Ellis Avenue or North Main Street north or south of Exchange.
Work is projected to begin first on a hotel and shops in the south phase of the development, basically along Marine Creek north of Northeast 23rd Street and Joe T. Garcia’s.
Developers have also promised to incorporate some ornamental columns and walls from the old Swift plant in any new construction there, Price said.
The question isn’t whether the Stockyards should change, but where and how much, and how it will look for years to come.