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Livestock Exchange - Fort Worth, TX
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member Benchmark Blasterz
N 32° 47.354 W 097° 20.803
14S E 654817 N 3629131
Quick Description: Built in 1902, this historic Livestock Exchange building was once known as "The Wall Street of the West." Today, it still anchors the historic Fort Worth Stockyards, only differently: with a COOL Stockyards Museum and satellite livestock auctions!
Location: Texas, United States
Date Posted: 3/20/2013 8:41:25 PM
Waymark Code: WMGMMG
Published By: Groundspeak Charter Member BruceS
Views: 11

Long Description:
FAIR WARNING: Mama Blaster is from Fort Worth, and her Texas pride in the historic and double-extremely cool Fort Worth Stockyards will show in this waymark in a BIG WAY!! HA HA ):>

The Livestock Exchange in the Fort Worth Stockyards was built in only 88 days back in 1902, when Fort Worth already had a well-established identity as a major cattle hub.

In the late 1860s, Fort Worth was an important stop on the Chisholm Trail. From 1867-1884, cattle were driven north via the Chisholm Trail to rail hubs in Kansas. See (visit link)

When the Texas & Pacific Railroad arrived in Fort Worth in 1876, the city's already-healthy cattle industry exploded. Fort Worth's good fortune to be the westernmost railhead for cattle ranchers ensured a big flow of money "on the hoof", as the old time ranchers say.

In the 1870s a stockyards complex was built just a few miles north of downtown Fort Worth. Originally designed to serve the Chisolm Trail, this area quickly became known as "Hell's Half Acre" because of the noise, stink, and crime that went along with lots of cattle, lots of cowboys, lots of "loose women" and lots of money. See here for some true stories of Hell's Half Acre (the more lurid stories are more fun, but less family-friendly!): (visit link)

A few murders, rampant drinking, open gambling and notorious whoring wouldn't curb the dreams of the Stockyards boosters, who saw the marriage of cattle and railroads as a recipe for sure-fire success. A Union Stockyards was formed in 1889. Soon afterwards, Fort Worth quickly became the dominant cattle market in the southwest.

But what really cemented the area as the center of the Texas cattle industry was the decision to not just buy-sell-trade live cattle for shipment to northern meatpackers, but to lure meatpacking plants TO the Stockyards.

In 1902 giant competing meatpackers Swift and Armour & Co. built huge packinghouses next to the stockyards right across Exchange Avenue from one another. Cattle walked in on the hoof or rode in on rails, went to auction at the Livestock Exchange, then rode out of town on the rails in cans or on ice.

The Stockyards boosters realized early on that much of what worked for cattle would work for horses and mules too (without the meat-packing component, of course!) By the time America entered World War I in 1917, Fort Worth had become the largest horse and mule market in the world. The huge horse and mule barns built to accomodate this market fill several city blocks of the Stockyards, and remain today.

The period from 1917-the late 1940s was the heyday for the Livestock Exchange. In 1944 over five million head of cattle were auctioned here. Several technological innovations at this market assured its dominance for decades. Early auctions were held and theoir results transmitted throughout the country by tickertape. In the 1920s the auctions were broadcast live on radio station WBAP, and in the late 1940s could be seen on televsion. But eventually instead of being able to harness progress to grow the central livestock auction business, progress rendered this business model obsolete.

The old system had worked to perfection until the construction of the interstate highways and growth of the trucking industry meant that cattle buyers did not have to ship cattle by rail (which was expensive) to big central markets anymore. Cattle buyers could easily and cheaply go to ranches, local feedlots, or smaller auctions and buy direct. The large central cattle auctions declined as many smaller local markets and feedlots siphoned off cattle that would have been shipped to them for sale.

The changing ecomomies of the cattle industry led Swift and Armour both to close (instead of renovate) their old, outdated, and obsolete packing plants. Armour left in 1962, but Swift hung on until 1971.

A few years later, the weekly cattle auction at the Fort Worth Livestock Exchange had dwindled to a tiny fraction of the size it had been just 2 decades earlier. The regular weekly auctions were discontinued, and the entire Stockyards area declined. By the mid-1970s, the Stockyards was a deserted, spooky area of cavernous vacant buildings and leftover bad smells from 80 years of cattle operations.

Mama Blaster remembers this era of the Stockyards. It was thrilling and creepy to wander around here then -- and a little bit dangerous and daring too! I used to come here exploring with my Dad. We'd eat buffalo burgers at Wadeen's on N Exchange Ave. At the time, she was the only person in town that offered them. Wadeen's little restaurant operated on the bottom floor of a three-story building, whose upper floor housed a variety of women who wore skimpy clothes and had no apparent jobs. They'd eat at Wadeen's as part of an "arrangement" with the landlord. Whores, cops, downtown FW workers, and hungry locals all ate at Wadeen's, side-by-side, with a "live and let live" understanding. <-- ALSO TRUE!!

After lunch, Dad and I would explore the old vacant buildings, and get lost in the maze of cattle pens. We'd look for meatpacking plant bricks that weren't too stinky to take home (and found very few). We'd wander through the old mule and horse barns. (Another one of those don't-tell-your-Mom adventures, since I was 12, and should have been in school.)

Around the time I was having burgers with a side of seamy underbelly, the North Fort Worth Historical Society was formed to preserve this important piece of Fort Worth's history. See more here: (visit link) and here: (visit link)

Now the Stockyards buildings are part of the National Register of Historic Places, many of the signature buildings have been restored, and the entire area is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the area. The Livestock Exchange, Swift Headquarters, the Coliseum, and the old Mule and Horse Barns are all restored, but of these, the real gem (in our opinion) is the Livestock Exchange.

From the city of Fort Worth's tourism website: (visit link)

"Located in the Fort Worth Stockyards, this adobe-style building was constructed in 1902 as a center for cattle traders. It was the central location for all activity in the Stockyards and often referred to as "The Wall Street of the West.” Today, the building houses professional services and the North Fort Worth Historical Society Museum, which features artifacts from the beginning of the development of the Stockyards" [end]

More specific information on the architecture of this wonderful building comes from a local architecture site: (visit link)

"The Fort Worth Live Stock Exchange Building was constructed in 1903 as a replacement for an older exchange building at a different location. This building served the Stock Yards area from a central location.

It was constructed by the Fort Worth Stock Yards Co. to house their offices along with other live stock commission companies. The building is of the Mission Revival style and is U-shaped in plan. An arcade runs along the front of the building connecting the wings of the "U". Octagonal cupolas and mission styled parapets adorn the roof line. The roof is clad with Spanish tile and the facade is stucco.

There is not much known about the construction of this building. The architect is unknown and it is believed to have been built by William Bryce. Although the building does not serve as offices for the cattle companies today, it still is used as an office building." [end]

And -- the cattle auctions at the Stockyards still go on today (2013), only they are held on-line and by satellite-link. ]:0 MOO!

In the years when the regular auctions had ended (1986) until the satellite and on-line auctions began (around 2003), the Livestock Exchange still hosted periodic specialty livestock auctions, for cutting horses mostly, but also for other kinds of livestock like llamas and bison.

Today (2013) Superior Livestock Auctions operates a thriving business selling horses and cattle in outer space and in cyberspace. (visit link)
The Fort Worth Livestock Exchange is therefore still an operating exchange, just in a different way now than it used to was (again as the old timers would say!).

If all that wasn't enough to make you stop by, one of the odder reasons to come see the Livestock Exchange building is to see the 1908 Palace Theatre lightbulb, the second-longest burning lightbulb known. It has been carefully kept alight since it was turned on for the first time in 1908 for the opening of the then-famous Byers Opera House. The bulb had a humble job lighting the back door, which may be why it has lasted.

The Byers was renovated in 1919 into the Palace Theater, but the renovations did not disrupt the power to the backstage bulb. Then when the Palace was going to be transferred to the Stockyards Museum without a flicker! The bulb glows dimly in the Stockyards Museum to this day (Mar 2013). <--- TRUE!!! See here: (visit link) here (visit link) and here: (visit link)
Name: Fort Worth Livestock Exchange

Address:
131 E Exchange Ave Fort Worth TX 76164


Country: US

URL: [Web Link]

Is this exchange still active at this location: yes

Activity Period: 1902-present

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WalksfarTX visited Livestock Exchange - Fort Worth, TX 10/5/2019 WalksfarTX visited it
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