Armour & Co. Packing and Provision Plant – Exchange

In 1901, after several unsuccessful attempts to locate meatpacking firms in the area north of Fort Worth, the City of Fort Worth offered a $100,000 bonus to any meat packing concern that would set up business in the area. Two such firms, Swift & Co. and Armour & Co., both based in Chicago, answered the call. The following year the rival firms determined to merge their holdings under one control with one set of directors, yet operate as separate plants. Located at the east end of E. Exchange Avenue, the main office buildings were only 150 feet apart, with Armour on the north and Swift on the South. Groundbreaking for the Armour plant began in February; the plant opened for business in November, 1902, and the formal opening took place March 5, 1903. Armour & Co. engineers were, on all probability, responsible for the design of the structure; a number of construction personnel worked from temporary offices on the site. R.C. Clark was superintendent of construction. Local firms were awarded contracts for supplying building materials; these included Acme Brick Company of Milsap and William Barr Stone Quarries of Dublin, Texas. William Bryce’s construction firm is credited with work here as well. Extensive planning brought five railroad lines to the packing district; streetcar services for the employees were provided also.

The Armour plant was constructed originally as eight connected brick structures arranged on both sides of a central avenue with rail lines. A ramp led up to the top floor of the slaughtering building from the stockyards pens. Power was centrally located and refrigeration machinery was close by. Other meat by-products such as blood serum, oleo, and lard were also made at the plant. By the mid-twentieth century, continuing growth made a complex of overwhelming size visible for miles around; relatively few of these structures remain. The sides of the five- and six story structures were painted as huge signs of the company name, servicing as advertisement as well as a continual reminder of the wealth that the packing concerns brought to the city.

The volume of trade at the plants constantly increased: in 1932, the Armour plant had a daily processing capacity of 1200 cattle, 1400 calves, 2800 sheep, and 1850 hogs. Additional surges of prosperity took place during both world wars. Construction of additional buildings took place until 1950; a number of later contracts were awarded to architect Wyatt C Hedrick and contractor Thomas S. Byrne. During the 1950s, the growing trend towards decentralization of meatpacking operations made the plants obsolete. The Armour plant closed its meatpacking division in 1962, although its cooking oil refineries continued business for a number of years. Now used by various firms which have made additions to the structure, the original buildings are unified by their utilitarian brick cornice detail. The red brick paving of the ground, though weed covered now, harmonizes with the red brick structure. The Armour & Co. structures are within the boundaries of the Fort Worth Stockyards National Historic District.

Lard Refinery/Tank Room/Oil Hardening Plant. Probably one of the primary structures of the initial 1902 building phase, this Armour & co. three-story red brick building features a flat parapeted roof with a corbelled cornice. A four-story section is raised over the southeast corner, and a one-story section extends to the south. A 1927 Sanborn Fire Insurance map indicates that this building contained a lard refinery, tank room and oil hardening plant. Now owned by the Bunge Edible Oil Corporation, the structure has been altered by additions from the 1960s.

Industrial building. This two-story brick structure features a stepped parapet and corbelled cornice over a row of small paired, double-hung windows on the second story. It very likely dates from c. 1902. A bricked in arcade on the west side, now covered with a later canopy, opens onto a later loading dock. Part of the main processing complex of the Armour & Co., the function of this structure is not identified on the fire insurance maps. Still in use by Bunge Edible Oil Corporation, the structure is surrounded by later additions.

Industrial building. This tall, one-story brick structure of rectangular plan has a three-story tower on the south side. Regularly spaced buttresses rise from the ground level and match a corbelled cornice. Probably one of the original structures that was built in 1902 as part of the meat processing plant, it is still in use by Bunge Edible Oil Corporation. Several of the segmentally arched windows have been bricked in and the entire north garage door has been altered. Further research may indicate the original use of this structure.

Ice Plant/Storage/Canned Meat/Peanut Butter Factory. Probably built around 1902 during the initial phase of construction, this huge structure of four and five stories was apparently built in two phases. Both portions of the structure have identical brick cornices and corbelling; the west cornice of the southern section has a stepped parapet. A 1927 Sanborn Fire Insurance map indicated that this building contained an ice plant, storage, and a canned meats and peanut butter factory.

Crude Cotton Seed Oil Tank House. Presumably one of the original eight brick structures built by Armour & Co. in 1902, this two-story brick structure of generally rectangular plan has its southwest and southeast corners angled to accommodate railroad tracks. A corbelled brick cornice and stepped parapet cap the high walls, and a small, segmentally arched doorway on the west façade is one of the few openings. A 1927 Sanborn Fire Insurance map identifies this building as the Crude Cotton Seed Oil Tank House.

Hay Barn/Stables. This structure of heavy post-and-beam construction feature a monitor roof over a second-story space used for hay storage, and horse stables on the first floor. Now covered with asbestos siding and corrugated metal sheathing, it most likely dates from the first decade of the Armour building campaign, and may have been used to house the delivery carriages and horses for Armour & Co.

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