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Fort Worth – A Century’s Worth of Change

The Texas Section ASCE getting ready to celebrating their 100th Anniversary in 2013. While the Fort Worth Branch ASCE was not founded until 1932, let’s take a look at how Fort Worth was shaping up around 1913.

According to the Texas State Historical Association, North Fort Worth businessmen founded the Texas Dressed Beef and Packing Company, the Union Stockyards Company, and the Fort Worth Stockyards Company. When Swift & Company and Armour & Company began to look for Texas sites for branch plants, Fort Worth citizens pledged a bonus of $100,000 for the two companies if they would locate there. Because of this incentive, and because the town was served by railroads, Armour and Swift decided to locate a meat-packing plant in Fort Worth.

The city decided to begin the construction of a new county courthouse in 1893. The first Fat Stock Show was held in 1896. In 1903 the first livestock was slaughtered in the new Armour and Swift plants. The leaders of Fort Worth also caught the reform spirit of the Progressive era in 1907 the city government was restructured to the commission form.

The rise of the stockyards and packing plants stimulated other livestock-related businesses. In 1908 the Northside Coliseum was built to house the Southwestern Exposition and Fat Stock Show (later the Southwestern Exposition and Livestock Show). A devastating fire in 1909 motivated the construction of a dam on the West Fork; the resulting Lake Worth provided a reliable water supply and that same year the Fort Worth Gas Company was formed serving 3,840 customers. The North Fort Worth Historical Society records that a new town, Niles City, was chartered and grew up around the Stockyards and packinghouse properties in 1911. Niles City was known as “the richest little city in the world” with a property value of 30 million dollars (until Fort Worth annexed the area in 1923).

At the height of World War I in 1917, the Fort Worth Stockyards was the largest horse and mule market in the world. Military officers from Allied countries came to purchase the animals to support their war efforts. According to the ByCityLight.com website, oil was discovered in West Texas in 1917 about 90 miles west of Fort Worth. The gusher meant another boom for the city and helped meet the fuel demand created by World War I. Five refineries were built by 1920 and the city became a center for oil operators. Oil-rich ranchers and farmers moved to Fort Worth and built luxurious homes and towering office buildings.

Over the last century the city limits of Fort Worth have grown from about 17 sq. miles to 340 sq. miles; and the population has grown from about 76,000 to over 750,000 (to become the 16th largest city in the U.S.). What a difference a century can make!

- John P. Wier, P.E., R.P.L.S., Historical Chair, Fort Worth Branch ASCE, November 2012

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