First Baptist Church / Calvary Cathedral – 1600 W. Fifth Street

1600 W. Fifth Street, First Baptist Church/Calvary Cathedral, 1964-65.  First Baptist Church has had a long history in downtown Fort Worth, and several notable pastors including J. Frank Norris and Homer Ritchie.  Two previous church buildings burned, and the 1931 church which stood on the block bounded by Throckmorton, Third, Fourth, and Taylor where Tandy Center is now located, was sold to help finance the construction of this building.  The church purchased this 13-acre tract overlooking the Trinity River on the western edge of the central business district in 1957. A portion of this land had previously belonged to the M.A. Spoonts family.  Mrs. Spoonts, a master gardener, installed an extensive terraced garden on the property which held several private homes and two apartment buildings.

Although plans for the late Moderne style structure were drawn by architects Birch D. and Kenneth V. Easterwood (Easterwood & Easterwood) in the late 1950s, construction did not begin until 1964.  Cain, Brogdon & Cain were the general contractors.  The building was dedicated on Sunday, May 2, 1965.  Homer Ritchie, the pastor who led the effort to construct the 120,000 square foot brick and cast stone building, was in charge of the service.  Omer Ritchie, Homer’s twin brother, was co-pastor of the church. The circular auditorium has a domed ceiling “whose [86 recessed] lights seem to glitter like stars at night,” according to an associate pastor who wrote a Fort Worth Star-Telegram article about the dedication.  The sanctuary could accommodate 3,000 persons.  The church complex also included a fellowship hall and day care and recreational facilities.  Since 1976 the building has housed Calvary Cathedral.  Although a later building, the structure is an important contributor to the urban design of the western edge of the central business district. This building has been demolished.

Leave a Comment