A look under downtown Fort Worth's Main Street Bridge at the new Radio Shack Headquarters.
Fort Worth, Texas. Home of Tandy Radio Shack, American Airlines and Pier One Imports, located in a town with no ports and no piers. A shortcoming soon to rectified with the building of a lake with canals.  Fort Worth is a town with pretensions of culture so highly developed an entire district was created just to contain it. But we aren't going to go into the Cultural District or to the Stockyards in this look at Fort Worth. 

We are going to stay in the Downtown area, the location of one of the most notorious high crime Red Light Districts of a different type culture, the infamous Hell's Half Acre, home to Butch and Sundance and thousands of cowboys on their days off from working the Chisholm Trail. Those days are long gone, well, maybe not long gone, but gone for a couple decades at least, Downtown Fort Worth has been revitalized from its troubled past with a shopping / restaurant / nightclub zone called Sundance Square which has made other towns near and far Green with Envy. A large flying saucer landed a few years back, as you shall see, in the area that was Hell's Half Acre. 

Click here for a map of downtown Fort Worth
The downtown Fort Worth skyline seen from the east.

  click a thumbnail to view a photo 

Looking west across miles of open prairie land towards the 'skyline' of downtown Fort Worth.


For a more scenic look at the wild prairies of east Fort Worth we hiked Tandy Hills Park on New Year's Day to get an up close look at the United State's largest expanse of wilderness located so close to the downtown of a major American city.
Photo taken from the Trinity Trails looking south at the Main Street Bridge on the left and the Tarrant County Courthouse towered over by a pair of nondescript skyscrapers in downtown Fort Worth. The Tarrant County Courthouse building sticking up above the trees. Looking across the Trinity River at beautiful downtown Fort Worth, known far and wide for making cities near and far Green with Envy due to its total fabulousness. We are on the Trinity Trails in this photo. That is the Main Street Bridge on the left.
The sign for the world's shortest subway in downtown Fort Worth. It no longer exists.

Note: The Tandy Subway is no more. Replaced by the new Radio Shack Corporate Headquarters which is a beautiful cluster of new buildings that Radio Shack occupied for a short time before it was taken over by Tarrant County College.

At a time not long ago Fort Worth had the world's shortest subway, a free ride via rickety rail through a tunnel into the now closed Tandy Center in downtown Fort Worth. A convenient, albeit slightly clunky mass transit system, sort of a very apt metaphor for the difference between Dallas and Fort Worth. Dallas has a modern high speed rail system called DART. Fort Worth does not have a high speed rail system. Well, there is the TRE (Trinity Railway Express) Train that runs between FW and Dallas a couple times a day.  And there is public transit in the form of Molly the Trolley which runs from Downtown to the Cultural District to the Stockyards.

One of the now gone downtown Fort Worth Tandy Subway trains making its mile long journey to the heart of downtown Fort Worth.

Here comes the former Tandy subway now. The entire line was at least a mile long. Maybe two. Now relegated to history. Maybe a Texas State Historical sign will soon mark the spot.

Visiting downtown Fort Worth used to be so much easier when one could park at the free Tandy parking lots and ride the free subway to the heart of downtown.

Here we see a billboard touting the Free Tandy Center Subway years after the downtown Fort Worth subway ceased to exist. On the right in this photo we see a billboard all these years after its demise, touting the 'Free Subway' to Tandy Center. Neither of which is still in existence. We also see in this photo a view of the new Radio Shack Corporate Headquarters, the cluster of buildings for which the world's shortest subway was sacrificed and hundreds of citizens were forced out of their homes in yet one more incident of eminent domain abuse in Texas, the #1 worst example of such abuse until it was replaced at #1 by the Dallas Cowboys. Radio Shack, had to sell its corporate headquarters shortly after moving in. Radio Shack's corporate headquarters will soon become Tarrant County College's downtown Fort Worth campus.
A look under downtown Fort Worth's Main Street Bridge at the new Radio Shack Headquarters. Another look at the new Radio Shack Headquarters before it became Tarrant County College, looking under the Main Street Bridge over the Trinity River---in the background we can see the former Pier 1 Imports Corporate Headquarters. Sadly, both businesses are having a hard time of it, laying off people, closing stores and having to rent out space in their new buildings to try and help the faltering bottom-line. Pier 1 even had to turn off the beacon of light that made the building look so nice at night. 

Update: The light is back on at the former Pier 1 Imports building. The building has been bought and occupied by Chesapeake Energy

Looking at Pier One Headquarters from downtown Fort Worth's Radio Shack's Headquarters. Looking at the former Pier One Corporate Headquarters while standing on the campus of the new Radio Shack Corporate Headquarters.

It seems sort of sad that in such a short time both Radio Shack and Pier One lost their new headquarters. Radio Shack the sadder of the two, due to so much lost due to its construction. Hundreds of people forced from their homes. Huge, convenient, free parking lots, gone. And the free subway that connected those parking lots to the heart of downtown, also gone. And now Radio Shack is gone.

A Welcome to the Holidays sign at Sundance Square in downtown Fort Worth.
click to view photos of downtown Fort Worth taken at noon on November 25th, the day after Thanksgiving, the busiest shopping day of the year....
This Sundance Square "Welcome to the Holidays!" sign says "the most exciting downtown in Texas is also the brightest." A few months ago a Texas magazine had an article that compared Texas downtowns and claimed Fort Worth's downtown was the most exciting. It is not known if the writer had been to San Antonio. The Fort Worth local press made a big deal about this 'exciting' description, including one editorial which declared Dallas was "green with envy". How a city can be green with envy was not explained. Nor was it explained how this conclusion was reached. We have long noted that downtown Fort Worth, to our eyes, does not seem all that exciting, at least compared to other downtowns we've visited. At times downtown Fort Worth appears virtually deserted. For example, on the busiest shopping day of the year, the day after Thanksgiving, downtown Fort Worth is not busy. Which is no surprise due to the fact that Fort Worth is the only American downtown in a city of over a half million which does not have a single department store. No Nordstroms, no Macys, no Neiman Marcus, not a single large store.
A letter to the Editor in the January 16, 2008 Fort Worth Star-Telegram said in part, "My experience has been mixed. Downtown Fort Worth has no grocery store, no liquor store, no department store---all necessary components for a satisfying life as a townie." The writer goes on to explain why he is moving from downtown Fort Worth to downtown Dallas saying "In downtown Dallas, no more than a few blocks walk will get you a supermarket, post office, pharmacy, convenience store, department store, liquor store, world-class restaurants and cultural attractions. It is a bit of midtown Manhattan without the price."

Eyes on Texas note: Fort Worth is the only city in America with a population over 500,000 without a department store or grocery store in its downtown area.

The restored Cash America building and the new Pier One headquarters at the west end of downtown Fort Worth.

A look at part of Fort Worth's new downtown, part tornado caused urban renewal, part corporate headquarter upgrades. Here we see the formerly tornado damaged Cash America building on the right. On the left the former Headquarters for Pier One Imports. And in the middle you can see the former tornado damaged Bank One building, no longer a bank with a restaurant at the top, it is now a condo residential tower. If  we were able to see what is to the left of the Pier One building we would see the former headquarters of Radio Shack, that will soon be a college campus. 

A closer look at the new Cash America building and Pier One's new corporate headquarters on the west side of downtown Fort Worth. A closer look at the 'new' Cash America building on the left and Pier One Import's former corporate headquarters in the middle. 
The Tower. The restored tornado damaged former Bank One building in downtown Fort Worth. The new Tower, formerly known as the Tin Can Tower and before that it was the Plywood Skyscraper and before that, before a tornado severely damaged it, the Tower was known as the Bank One Building. The Tower's major facelift has turned it, arguably, into Fort Worth's most attractive skyscraper, admittedly a narrow field of competition since Fort Worth has few skyscrapers.
From the November 28, 2007 Static column in FW Weekly...

The Houston Architecture Forum recently posted a thread (“The Most Overshadowed City in America”) asking members what they thought of Fort Worth. The Space City conclusion: Fort Worth’s kind of blah — not well known for much of anything even in Texas and now pretty much a suburb of Dallas. “FW is FW’s biggest problem,” wrote one member about the obsession with Dallas. Others said they disliked the “slow pace” and someone said that “downtown was cute, but I would hardly call it cosmopolitan or big city ... everything seems vanilla and [has] no real soul.”

Well, that all seems a bit harsh. By the first week of  2012 Fort Worth Weekly had an article in which it was mentioned that Fort Worth is a World Class City.

A flattering view of the Fort Worth Convention Center. Looking more like a prison than a place where one might want to schedule a large get together, the Fort Worth Convention Center sits secured behind a barbed wire fence. Very few conventions seem to take place in the Fort Worth Convention Center, which may be one reason why it took a long time, a lot of effort and a big subsidy from the city to get someone willing to build a Convention Center hotel. Meanwhile, up in Grapevine the Gaylord Texan Resort and Convention Center has plans to add a couple hundred more rooms. While across the street from the Gaylord Texan, Great Wolf Lodge will open in a few months with an indoor water park. The owners apparently felt the Grapevine market could support another large resort and did not need the town of Grapevine to subsidize the project.

A photo of the waiting to be fixed Lancaster Avenue at the south end of downtown Fort Worth.
Here we see the view to the south of the Fort Worth Convention Center. This is Lancaster Avenue. Interstate 30 previously towered over Lancaster Avenue, but the freeway was re-located slightly to the south a few year's ago. Talk of re-developing Lancaster Avenue into something attractive so far has seen no results. Likely not a big selling point to bookers of conventions or hotel builders.
The Mixmaster I-30/I-35W exchange on the east side of downtown Fort Worth, 11 years in the making. A view of part of the re-built Interstate 30 intersection with Interstate 35W known as the Mixmaster, looking from the east side of the Fort Worth Convention Center across yet more barbed wire fencing. The Mixmaster took 11 years to build. Road construction seems to go slow in Texas. Other things seem to get built at hyperspeed, the new Dallas Cowboy Stadium, for example.
A pimped up ride sporting the U.S. flag by downtown Fort Worth's Convention Center. This vehicle was seen driving by the Fort Worth Convention Center the same day the above three photos were taken. It somehow would have seemed more appropriate, maybe, if a Texas flagged had been waving, rather than the American flag.
New Man in Fort Worth

Briefcase Man in Burnett Park, Lamar and 7th Street in downtown Fort Worth.

New in August of 2002, Briefcase Man made his appearance on the skyline of downtown Fort Worth. A more fitting symbol would seem to be Cowboy Man with cowboy hat and a lasso. But there have probably been a few men in downtown Fort Worth, over the years, carrying a briefcase, but likely far more sporting a swagger and wearing a Stetson. You can find Briefcase Man in Burnett Park, located at Lamar and 7th Street.

SHOCKING UPDATE: Fort Worth's Heritage Park has become
 Fort Worth's Lost Heritage Park. 
See what has happened to the Park and to the Heritage Trail

The brick paved path to Heritage Park at the north side of downtown Fort Worth. San Francisco has Lombard Street. The closest like thing in Fort Worth is this red brick paved Lombard-like trail that leads to Heritage Park, the site of the original Fort Worth, overlooking the Trinity River just across from the Tarrant County Courthouse. This is worth finding if you've not seen it. As was Heritage Park before the city decided to put chain link fenced and a park closed sign up..
This photo shows a trio of temporary dwellers at Hertiage Park in downtown Fort Worth near the courthouse. A trio of temporary residents at their home in Heritage Park. There's a hotel space shortage in Downtown Fort Worth or they'd likely be staying elsewhere... maybe they have a court date at the courthouse across the street.
The view from downtown Fort Worth's Heritage Park of the Trinity River and the location of the Trinity River Vision and Town Lake. The view from the overlook at Heritage Park, looking north towards the Stockyards. The body of water is the Trinity River. That is a jogging/bike path along side the river. There are many miles of riverside paths in Fort Worth. The building on the right is a power plant, one of many reasons Texas has no California-like power shortage. Yet. There are bizarre plans afoot called the Trinity River Vision, to turn the area you see here into what they are calling Town Lake, along with a flood diversion channel and canals. This will  turn Fort Worth, according to local civic propagandists, into the Vancouver of the South. It is not known if anyone from Fort Worth has actually been to Vancouver.
A pair of young ladies enjoying the lunch time sun in Sundance Square in downtown Fort Worth.

We're at Sundance Square now. And it's lunch time, as we can see, with these ladies enjoying the ambience with a little al fresco dining. Newcomers to Fort Worth may be confused by Sundance Square, expecting some sort of downtown plaza common to many large cities. However, Sundance Square basically is a series of parking lots surrounded by a small downtown area with some restaurants, stores (no large department store) and a performance hall. 

UPDATE: November 1, 2013 Sundance Square Plaza opens. One of the downtown Fort Worth parking lots has been turned an actual square. A square plaza. I am guessing most tourists will be assuming this plaza is what is meant by the term "Sundance Square."

Etta's Place, where Butch and Sundance hooked up with her in Hell's Half Acre.

Butch and Sundance hooked up with Etta Place in Fort Worth at an Inn she operated in Hell's Half Acre. The word 'Inn' may be candy coating the actual nature of Etta's establishment.  You can stay at a current version of Etta's Place. But Etta hasn't been seen for about 100 years.

At the center of the parking lots known as Sundance Square in downtown Fort Worth is a mural depicting the Chisholm Trail. The centerpiece of Sundance Square. A giant Longhorn mural celebrating Fort Worth and the Chisholm Trail. 
Q: We are now home from our first trip to Dallas/Fort Worth. When we were at downtown Fort Worth we saw signs pointing to Sundance Square. We walked all over downtown but found no Square. We asked a couple people where Sundance Square was and they told us we were there. But there was no Square. Can you explain?

A: We have been asked the same thing by visitors. Basically there is no Square in the usual sense of the word. Sundance Square is pretty much several parking lots downtown surrounded by restaurants, theaters and other businesses. Apparently a couple decades ago downtown Fort Worth was pretty much a run-down ghost town with a high crime rate. Sundance Square was part of a downtown renewal that included a convention center at the other end of downtown, where Hell's Half Acre was. There has been some talk of turning Sundance Square in a real Town Square, but so far it remains several parking lots with usual downtown type businesses surrounding the parking lots.

UPDATE: The area of Downtown Fort Worth known as Sundance Square, after decades of confusing tourists, has finally gotten around to converting one of its downtown parking lots into an actual town square, called Sundance Square Plaza.

Topiary in the form of a longhorn in Sundance Square in downtown Fort Worth.

Cows are sacred in India. Longhorns are similarly treated in Texas and no more so than in Fort Worth as you can see in this nicely done topiary.

A photo of the libation resupply of the Flying Saucer Emporium in downtown Fort Worth's Sundance Square.

There are some elements of current day Downtown Fort Worth which mirror the days of Hell's Half Acre. The consumption of libations being one. Here we see the daily re-supply by multiple vendors underway at one of the Sundance Square libation providers. 

The former Caravan of Dreams, now the Reata in downtown Fort Worth.

Speaking of libation suppliers. Here we see the Caravan of Dreams, formerly a big nightclub at Sundance Square, now taken over by the Reata Restaurant after the Fort Worth tornado turned its location into the World's Biggest Plywood Skyscraper. 

A photo of a mounted policeman. Downtown Fort Worth has cops on bikes as well.

Downtown Fort Worth is heavily policed, mostly on bikes, with a few horses. It is a very safe feeling downtown.

Bass Performance Hall located at Sundance Square in downtown Fort Worth.

The Bass family, noted Fort Worth philanthropists, with a fortune based on many interests, with rumors of their wealthy start coming from the infamous Sam Bass Gang. Here we see the Bass Performance Hall, a place for symphonies, operas, plays and other such cultural activities. It is not known why this was built at Sundance Square and not in the Cultural District.

A photo of a cowboy hat store in downtown Fort Worth.

To be more like a native Texan this Downtown Fort Worth business can supply your most necessary accoutrement, that being a well-fitted cowboy hat.

A window washer on a downtown Fort Worth skyscraper.

Would you want to be a window washer on a high rise in a town with heavy winds and tornadoes

Looking south on Main Street to the flying saucer shaped part of the Fort Worth Convention Center.

At the end of Main Street opposite the Tarrant County Courthouse,  first time visitors to Downtown Fort Worth may be startled to see what looks like a giant flying saucer blocking the way south. But, a UFO it is not. It is part of the Fort Worth Convention Center.

A street preacher testifying to his flock in downtown Fort Worth.

On the way to the Convention Center we pass this street preaching eccentric, screaming the gospel to an empty street. 

Another view of the Fort Worth Convention Center in downtown Fort Worth.

Close-up the Convention Center doesn't look so much like a space vehicle. The Convention Center was part of a revitalization project to finally clean up the remnants of Hell's Half Acre.

The Water Gardens south of the Convention Center in downtown Fort Worth. This photo shows the location where 4 conventioneers drowned.

Directly south of the Convention Center is what may be Downtown Fort Worth's most impressive attraction. The Water Gardens. Designed by Phillip Johnson, they've been used as scenery in movies, like Logan's Run. The Water Gardens is a large area with several fountains and pools of various sorts. The Water Gardens has undergone a safety upgrade after 4 visitors drowned in the pool you see here. It is now supposedly significantly safer.

Another part of the Water Gardens in downtown Fort Worth.

Like a Mayan or Aztec Temple, this part of the Water Gardens gives a cliff-like view of the park to the above visitor. She did not appear to be suffering from acrophobia.

Let's go to the Stockyards and see some Cowboys and Longhorns...

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