I spent a few of my teen years in Texas, suffering through the heat, humidity, and cowboy hats. As soon as I could, I headed elsewhere. For the last 25 years, I’ve haven’t been the least tempted to go back.
And yet here I was, with a trip to Texas on my calendar. To visit friends, I told anyone who asked. I mean, I certainly didn’t want to do any sightseeing or anything.
I was so wrong.
Since I was “only” going to see friends, I didn’t do any research about the city itself. I shamefully admit I’d painted the entire state of Texas with the same (big) brush, and deemed it unworthy of my time. So it was a huge surprise when I actually fell in love with it.
Fort Worth is a remarkably beautiful city, and full of surprises. Well, surprises to people who come here without any idea what it’s like. There’s a wonderful mix of old and new buildings that speaks to the history of the area.
My first surprise was finding this glorious Art Deco interior when I arrived at T&P Station. It started to dawn on me that maybe this visit would be a lot more than I had bargained for.
It shouldn’t have surprised me that Fort Worth has just as many beautiful buildings as say, Seattle. Then again, it also surprised me to learn that not only is Fort Worth the older city, it’s also bigger.
Fort Worth is full of beautiful buildings, both old and new. The Land Title Building dates to 1889, and features a darling owl, reportedly the first stone carving in Fort Worth. Just across from it is Bass Performance Hall, a magnificent limestone structure built over 100 years later.
Another impressive building is the Tarrant County Courthouse, made from pink Texas granite. With its classic Texas “Lone Star” carvings and intricate details, it felt like it had stepped out of an old European city.
I don’t often see American cities with such a strong cultural identity – something on par with the “liberté, egalité, fraternité” and depictions of the Republique, which I find so striking in France. The courthouse architecture was a reminder that Texas was not simply one of the United States of America, but that it had once been, however briefly, the Republic of Texas.
There are other reminders of the area’s history. Trains, cattle, and oil have all played a large role over the years, and echoes of all of them remain. I didn’t get a chance to visit the Stockyards or tour the Cattle Baron Mansions, but they are on my list for next time.
Of course, Texas history goes back much further than a few hundred years ago, when the Spanish and French arrived and started squabbling over territory. This is the hardest part of traveling for me. History is messy, and the great stories of one group are all too often a reminder of the earlier groups they conquered. Texas is no different.
The next time I visit, I want to learn more about the full history of the area. Perhaps a side trip to the the Bullock Museum in Austin, where a new exhibit opens this December.
What else did I fall in love with this visit?
As a city, Fort Worth was unexpectedly youthful, vibrant, and cultured. At every turn, my dusty old conceptions about Texas were challenged. A display of Balenciaga gowns from Paris? You bet! Pride parades alongside steak and beer festivals? Yep!
The Trinity River is just a few steps away from my friend’s condo, and the walking trails stretch out for miles. We spent some time each day exploring the river and the city on foot. I would love having trails like this literally outside my door.
The folks at West 7th Wool were incredibly helpful, and some new yarn, needles, and stitch markers ended up coming home with me. Vaquero Coffee Co. has wonderful staff and even better coffee. If you’re looking for a sweet treat, I recommend their iced horchata latte.
And last but not least, the weather! OK, maybe not the heat. However, a dramatic lightening storm viewed from my friend’s rooftop balcony was one of the highlights of the trip. The next day, dazzling piles of clouds stretched out over the open countryside. The scenery tugged at my heart and hinted at what olden-day cowboys sang about. If I had to pick a place to ride off into a sunset, I’d pick Texas.
I’m pretty sure Texas hasn’t changed much since I lived there, but I have. It was always old, beautiful, complicated, and worth exploring. Thanks to this visit, I’ve opened my eyes and my mind to discover a small part of its beauty.
Do you have any Fort Worth and/or Texas favorites? I’d love to hear about them in the comments, so I can add them to my list for the next time I visit Fort Worth. Because there will definitely be a next time.