Stockyards Preservation and Revitalization Underway
What are the Fort Worth Stockyards?
The Fort Worth Stockyards is a national historic district approximately three miles north of the central downtown business district. The 98-acre district was once the largest livestock market in Texas and the Southwest and one of the biggest in the nation. Fort Worth became known as Cowtown after the U.S. Civil War as drovers brought cattle from South Texas to connect with the Chisholm Trail. Fort Worth became an important stop for supplies, entertainment, the railroad and eventually the livestock markets.
What are the plans to preserve this historic district?
In April 2016 the Fort Worth City Council created a historic district to protect the core of the Stockyards, including East Exchange Avenue that is home to the Fort Worth Herd, White Elephant Saloon and numerous other venues popular with visitors. Beginning in summer 2016, several crumbling, decades-old structures that could not be saved are being removed as part of a multi-million dollar redevelopment project. Many of these are located on the former Swift & Company meatpacking property, which has been fenced off and inaccessible for decades.
The early stages of the project included many hours of public discussion and debate. Developers, historians and preservationists have diligently collaborated on the $175 million project between the Stockyard Heritage group and the Hickman family. Materials including bricks, scales, various pillars, doors, mechanical tools and other distinctive features from the structures are being preserved and will be either displayed or reused in other areas of the Stockyard for historical context. Additionally, the grand entry to the plant on Northeast 23rd Street with the big “S” is being saved. Developers are also spending about $40 million to preserve the historic horse and mule barns along Exchange Avenue.
What are the plans to revitalize the area?
Preliminary plans call for additional lodging, residences, shopping, restaurants and more things to do, such as the Stockyard Heritage Trail. Much like the Freedom Trail in Boston and the Constitutional Walking Trail in Philadelphia, the app-driven Stockyards Heritage Trail is designed to feature educational information, historical storytelling and viewing areas. The American Paint Horse Association and Saddleback Leather Company have already expressed interest in moving to the Stockyards. Big box stores and drive-thru restaurants are not included in any plans.
Who is responsible for this preservation and revitalization?
Stockyards Heritage is the lead developer, working with the Fort Worth Hickman family that saved the Stockyards from ruin beginning in the 1980s. City leaders have worked carefully to preserve history while balancing the interests of private property owners. To ensure the project preserves and restores a significant amount of history, Stockyards Heritage and its construction, structural engineering, environmental and civil experts spent 18 months evaluating more than
two dozen structures to determine which could be save and which had to be removed. Preservation experts also surveyed each of these structures and assisted in efforts in documenting their history. The Hickman family has been involved with the preservation of the Fort Worth Stockyards for more than 25 years and has invested significant capital including the world famous Billy Bob’s Texas, Livestock Exchange Building, Mule Barns, Stockyards Station, Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame, Visitor Information Center and Hyatt Place.
Numerous other investors own land in the district. The City of Fort Worth owns the historic and beautifully preserved Cowtown Coliseum, home to the world’s first indoor rodeo. The Fort Worth Convention & Visitors Bureau owns and operates the Fort Worth Herd, the world’s only twice-daily cattle drive.
Will the legacy live on?
The Stockyards continue to be one of the most visited historic districts in Texas. The area celebrates Fort Worth’s long tradition as a part of the cattle industry and will continue to embrace that spirit and culture. Live auctions are scheduled to return to the district for the first time in a generation. The latest developments will provide more opportunities for visitors to learn about and celebrate Fort Worth’s popular western heritage for generations to come.
Are renderings, plans and details available?
More information about preservation efforts, construction updates and history is available at Stockyards Heritage (Fort Worth Heritage Development, LLC).