“Where the West (Still) Begins”

Lest you think Fort Worth has nothing more to offer than cowboy culture and steak, here’s the lowdown on its Culture, Characters, and Community!

A Dash for the Timber, Frederic Remington, Amon Carter Museum

A Dash for the Timber, Frederic Remington (wikimedia.org)


Fort Worth’s Cultural District includes three art museums notable for their architecture as well as their art. The Amon Carter Museum of American Art, designed by Philip Johnson, was founded to display Carter’s collection of pieces by Frederic Remington and Charles M. Russell.

Boatmen on the MIssouri, George Caleb Bingham

Boatmen on the Missouri, G. C. Bingham (wikimedia)

It now houses more than 200,000 objects, many of which are classics. They run the gamut of American artists and include a newly acquired full-length portrait of actor Edwin Booth by John Singer Sargent. A special exhibit on the work of George Caleb Bingham (through 1/18/15), documenting 1800s life on the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers uses modern Xray techniques to discover how these iconic paintings were assembled.

Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, Louis I. Kahn

Kimbell Art Museum (wikimedia)

The adjacent Kimbell Art Museum comprises two buildings—one with beautifully vaulted spaces designed by Louis I. Kahn, which opened in 1972, and the other a Renzo Piano-designed pavilion used for special exhibitions. Currently on view in the latter is a popular showing of Impressionist portraits. There simply wasn’t time to visit the visually striking Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth or much of the Will Rogers Memorial Center.

Bass Performance Hall, Fort WorthThe downtown has preserved some of its rich architecture, including an impressive collection of Art Deco buildings. Helpful plaques explain many of these buildings’ history and interesting design elements. However, the three-dimensional exterior of downtown’s  Bass Performance Hall has to be the most jaw-dropping, with the angels’ trumpets extending waaaaay out into the street.



Two daytrips took us away from Fort Worth. In one, my cousin and I revisited the tiny town of Loving, Texas, where our great-grandparents settled in 1906, and a classic “wide spot in the road.” There’s little left but the cemetery, although the town claims a population of about 300. Loving is named for the family of Oliver Loving, who with Charles Goodnight developed the Goodnight-Loving Trail, used to drive cattle from Texas to New Mexico for the Army and on to Denver. Oliver Loving was wounded in a Comanche attack on one of these expeditions and died at Fort Sumner in New Mexico.He extracted a promise from Goodnight to bury him in Texas, and this episode was one inspiration for Larry McMurtry’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, Lonesome Dove.

Sam Rayburn museum and library, Bonham, Texas

Sam Rayburn museum and library

Our second sidetrip, through some beautiful north Texas countryside, was to Bonham, Texas, and the library, home, and burial site of Sam Rayburn. Rayburn, from an American political era that now seems almost unimaginably collegial, served 48 years in the U.S. House of Representatives and was Speaker for 17 years. Brochure: “Rayburn’s fairness and mastery of the political process earned him respect from both sides of the House floor.”

And, another reason to go to Bonham that shouldn’t be discounted is the opportunity to have lunch at the Hickory Bar-B-Que on Sam Rayburn Drive!

President and Mrs. Kennedy spent the night of November 21, 1963, in the Presidential suite of our Fort Worth hotel (which our room’s windows looked out on). It was raining on the morning of the 22nd, but the President saw a crowd gathering, and went downstairs to greet people. Seeing them standing there in the wet, he said, “There are no faint hearts in Fort Worth.” Those words are inscribed on a memorial to Kennedy adjacent to the hotel, and the hotel itself contains numerous photographs from that visit. He and Mrs. Kennedy attended a breakfast at the Chamber of Commerce before leaving on the disastrous trip to Dallas.

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Fort Worth - Loving 11-2014 024Philip Johnson designed a spectacular water garden in the old Hell’s Half Acre district, behind the Fort Worth Convention Center, a surprising urban feature that includes a quiet pool, cataracts of water (photo), and a sure-fire winner for any “most delightful use of fountains” award. The Japanese Garden at the Botanic Gardens is another urban getaway, with elegant vistas at every turn.

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Even the best laid trip plans sometimes confront the unexpected, and so we learned that Fort Worth’s annual holiday “parade of lights” would pass the back of our hotel on the day set aside for museum visits. This meant we had to return to the hotel early before the streets were closed. We watched the parade for more than an hour and over a hundred entries before requiring nourishment. It was amazing that there were any Fort Worth residents left to crowd the street as onlookers, there were so many people in the parade—on horses, in cars (antique and sports), on floats, in bands, in informal marching groups of indeterminate origin, in Shriner assemblages, on fire trucks, you name it. But the most hilarious entry was the one that led the parade: the black-pompadoured “World Famous Wheelie-ing Elvi.” Good Rocking Tonight!

(photo: twfwe)

(photo: twfwe)