Montgomery Wards & Company – 7th

Montgomery Ward, founded in Chicago in 1872, located theft regional retail and mail order house in Fort Worth in 1928, after an extensive promotional campaign by the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce. Constructed in the record time of seven months, the huge eight-story masonry block contained 300,000 square feet of floor space. Thomas S. Byrne was the local contractor for the job which cost $1.3 million. Further construction in 1937 by Quisle and Andrews, contractors, added 230,000 square feet to the structure.

Of reinforced concrete, the main building is of rectangular plan; elevations of grid arrangement contain vertical bands of steel-framed windows. Four solid masonry stairwells p separate the bays; these rise over the flat roof in shaped Missionesque parapets. An arcade is formed by the arched window with iron balconies on the eighth story, while seventh-floor windows are topped with segmental arches. Early photographs indicate that the first-story windows originally formed an arcade which repeated the segmental arches of the seventh story and that the entry was formed by a one-story projecting portico surmounted by a two-story Missionesque parapet. With its concrete painted cream color, the parapet and flat coping painted brick red (portions of this remain), and the iron balconies painted black, the building was a surprisingly successful adaptation of the Mission Revival style to a multi-storied, industrial function. In 1963, modernistic blue tile blocks sheathed the first-floor arcade, and the Missionesque portico was apparently destroyed. Ornate lighting fixtures which once flanked the store’s main entrance are now installed on the southern University Drive gateposts of the Fort Worth Botanic Garden. A red neon sign was erected on the roof of the structure at this time. Complementing the larger structure, a 1936 automobile service station in Mission Revival style is located west of the main structure. A remainder of the importance that mail-order firms had in Midwestern rural life before the age of the superhighway, Montgomery Ward remains a landmark on the West Side. Upon restoration the structure may be eligible for the National Register.

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