I’m no historian, but I love to hear and read the histories of people. That makes travel to “historical sites” challenging, as they are often too sterile to be interesting…at least to me. But a recent trip to Fort Worth, Texas, has changed my perspective a bit.
Greg had to go to Fort Worth for a conference, so I joined him. We opted to save on the rental car and just hang around the downtown area that surrounded our hotel, Sundance Square.
WHAT A TREAT! I looked up the website and it doesn’t say anything about a specific effort to make the whole area a little piece of Art Deco design, but that’s what is happening there.
Physically, the 35-block zone around a central plaza is almost like a trip back to 1920.
Our hotel, for instance, was built in 1929. The inside of the Courtyard by Marriott Blackstone was completely modernized and looked a lot like any other nice hotel, but the outside was just like it had been when the hotel was built. Dozens of buildings in the area were that way.
There was a flat iron building that looked just like the one I had seen in Chicago.
Bass Hall, a performance center, touted trumpeting angels on its façade.
Around every corner I spotted another little art deco treasure.
Even the AMC theater looked like a trip back in time.
The detail on the buildings was amazing. Brick patterns adorned the edges, copper accents gleamed in the Texas sun.
Even the business signs had that great historical feel.
This is not some attempt to be a re-enactment city like Colonial Williamsburg or Salem, Massachusetts. Those places are historically accurate, but have a TOTALLY fake feeling. Fort Worth isn’t trying to make you experience life in the 1920s. The merchandise in the stores is modern; even the stores are modern.
There’s an Ann Taylor Loft, a White House, Black Market and other national chain stores that sell the same things as other stores in the chains, but they are set in buildings that are decidedly art deco.
There were a couple of hints of the past in this uniquely western town. In the front window of Leddy’s Ranch at Sundance Square, a man was shining a businessman’s cowboy boots. The buffing and polishing that happens on a shoe shine chair seems limited to airports and train stations these days.
At Peter Brothers, a haberdasher was fixing the brim of a hat using tools from a different era. He was an interesting combination of modern and historic in his khaki shorts and a t-shirt.
The store still makes western hats and fedoras the same way they’ve been made for a century.
Even the Christmas decorations that were going up had a throw-back feel.
What an utter delight! As a non-historian, I never felt like someone was trying to teach me about the history of the area or, for that matter, the history of design or architecture.
Instead I just enjoyed the views, the details, the simple beauty of another era – all while I strolled and shopped with all the modern conveniences.
I had no idea this gem was there … not exactly hidden, but not very well advertised, either. I hadn’t known what to expect when I decided to spend a few days in Fort Worth with Greg, but this is why I love to travel. You never know what you’ll find that isn’t in a guide book.
So pack your bag and go somewhere. Remember: There’s a whole world out there, go see it.