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Bike-based architectural tour of Fort Worth, Texas

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On Sunday, I decided to take my new bike and meet up with the Fort Worth Bicycling Association for their planned ride - a bike-based architectural tour of downtown, the Near Southside, and the Cultural District.

The ride was led by John T. Roberts, local architect and the man behind Architecture In Fort Worth, a grand resource for local architecture geeks and history buffs. Never having been to an FWBA event, I wasn't sure what to expect, but it wound up being a wide variety of cyclists on a wide variety of bikes. I was about the only person on a full-fendered city bike, with most of the riders being on more racing-inspired skinny-tired road bikes, but there was a smattering of mountain bikes and single & fixed-gear riders as well. A lot of folks were doing the spandex & jerseys thing, but there were some like myself riding in street clothes as well. It was an interesting cross-section, much like all my other favorite Fort Worth places and events.


The crowd began arriving just before 2:00 PM at the starting point, the historic Santa Fe freight depot (now a UT college campus) on downtown's east side. As it turned out, "crowd" was right - John tells me that a total of 77 people signed the check-in sheet, and there were likely some beyond that. It was a huge turnout, larger than had been expected.



At 2:00, the event began as John talked about the history of the Santa Fe depot and the neighboring Ashton Depot, the former passenger terminal that is now an event space for the Ashton Hotel. After gathering the group together and going over some of the ground rules of the ride, we were off.



I hung out in the back of the group for some time, snapping photos as we headed north. We pulled over in front of the Intermodal Transportation Center at the terminus of 9th Street, where John talked about that building and also gave the group a history lesson on the great Fort Worth architects Sanguinet, Staats, and Hedrick.


We made our way west and then north up Main, circling through Sundance Square and then back over to the intersection of 5th & Main, where John filled the group in on the stories of the Kress Building, Blackstone Hotel, Caceria Building, Shamrock Building, Sinclair Building, Sanger Building, Chase Building, the Carnegie, and The Tower. Then, it was back on Main, where we rode through Sundance Square again and up to the end of Main, where John talked about the Tarrant County Courthouse, the Tarrant County Family Law Center, and the new Tarrant County College campus under construction. He also talked about the unfortunate Civil Courts Building attached to the courthouse, which will be demolished soon. We rode around the north end of the Courthouse and then headed south on Houston.





We stopped at the Water Gardens, where John talked about the park's history. While there, he hit the Fort Worth Convention Center and the new Omni Hotel, and filled the group in on the area's former history as Hell's Half Acre, downtown's old red light district which was wiped out by the Convention Center. At this stop, a few people peeled away, wanting to do just the downtown portion of the ride. The rest of us headed to Lancaster, home to the Texas & Pacific Lofts/Terminal, United States Post Office, and the Texas & Pacific Warehouse, before turning south on Jennings and heading into the Near Southside.


We wound our way around Daggett and the surrounding side streets, checking out some of the new infill construction and some of the district's historic schools like Trimble Tech before getting on College and riding through the historic Fairmount neighborhood. Fairmount gave the group a feel for a pre-war urban streetcar neighborhood and the Prairie School, Arts & Crafts, and Four Square bungalow architecture popular at the time. After circling Daggett Elementary, we headed down Elizabeth to Fairmount and back up to Park Place, which took us into Forest Park.


In Forest Park, another small group broke off to ride back to Benbrook, while the rest of us headed north through the Trinity Trails to Trinity Park. We wound our way through the park and over to the Will Rogers Memorial Center, where John talked about the Cultural District's museums. We started wrapping up by heading down 7th Street, where we talked about the new developments going on between the Cultural District and downtown all along 7th, before swinging by the Eddleman-McFarland House downtown. John took this opportunity to give the group an education on historic preservation in the city.

After a few of us who were less well-toned caught our breath after coming up Quality Hill, we rode back through downtown and ended over at the Santa Fe depot once more.


According to John's bike computer, we covered 14.27 miles on the trip. It's been a long time since I've had a bike, and this was easily the longest distance I've ever ridden. This was also the only big group I've ever ridden with. The whole outing was a blast - the FWBA members are very friendly and everybody seemed to be enjoying both the ride and the architecture lesson. These architectural rides happen every so often, and if you're interested in our city's history and architecture and want a great workout while learning about it, I highly recommend getting in touch with the FWBA the next time one comes about. A big thanks to John T. Roberts for the work he put in to making the ride educational, safe, and fun.

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