FT. WORTH-Accolades continue to pour in for an ambitious historical preservation project being given top honors by Historic Ft. Worth and the local chapter of the American Institute of Architects.
The prestigious honors are being bestowed upon the city’s transportation authority and lead architect Robert Adams for the $1.4-million restoration of the 5,000-sf Grand Hall and ladies’ waiting room in the 1931 Texas and Pacific Passenger Terminal. The remainder of the building is being restored and converted into the four-star, railroad-theme Renaissance Plaza, a $50-million hotel project being undertaken by Renaissance Development Co.
A public-private teaming has the hall, waiting room and restrooms under the ownership of the Ft. Worth Transportation Authority while the bulk of the 12-story structure belongs to Renaissance Development Co., an investment group headed by Tom Blanton and Ed Casebier. Minority owner Halden Conner bought the property in 1978 and sold it last year to the developer.
“There’s no question it’s the most outstanding art deco building in the city,” Libby Willis, Historic Ft. Worth’s executive director tells GlobeSt.com. “The fact that the transportation authority took it on was outstanding. It’s deserving of recognition.”
The pride in Robert Adams’ voice is evident as he talks about the project, which faced the usual problems of asbestos and lead paint abatements common to historical restorations. “This is the largest and most prestigious as far as I’m concerned,” Adams tells GlobeSt.com, humbly acknowledging that his Thistle Hill restoration had won a historical award a few years back. “I refer to it (the Grand Hall) as Ft. Worth’s Sistine Chapel. It’s a great piece.”
To restore that “great piece” was a feat that took nearly 18 months, an accomplishment of general contractor Beckman Construction Co. of Ft. Worth, which pulled together a team of historic artisans for the undertaking. Assisting in the project was historical architect Donna Carter of Carter Design Associates in Austin.
The 90-foot by 60-foot Grand Hall boasts a 34-foot plaster-cast ceiling with gold leafing, 11 original frosted and aluminum glass chandeliers, floors of white, black and cedar color marble and red marble wainscoting. It also features floor-to-ceiling plaster pillars. The restored ladies’ waiting room is 32-feet by 30-feet with pink and brown marble floors. The French Art Moderne motif includes a gold and copper leaf plaster-cast ceiling. The ceiling design of fountains, flowers and leaves is modeled after a display at the 1925 Paris Exhibition.
Adams says maintaining the property’s historical integrity is foremost on everyone’s minds with such undertakings. Missing marble tile was cannibalized from another section of the building in an area targeted for changes by the hoteliers while hemp was used to reinforce plaster in place of horsehair.
When completed, the terminal will have 300 rooms and 12 sleeper cars built in the 1930s for guests. The developers are hoping to finance the bulk of the project through a redevelopment authority empowered to issue tax-free bonds.
The 180,000-sf structure is key to the transportation authority’s plans for its Trinity Railway Express, which ultimately will provide rail service between Ft. Worth and Dallas. In recent weeks, Trinity Railway came on-line with service from North Richland Hills to Dallas. The project’s last leg is under way to connect North Richland Hills to the T&P Terminal, considered as the anchor for Ft. Worth’s Southside redevelopment. The transportation project includes a realignment of Interstate 30, pushing it closer to the Lancaster Avenue terminal, the city’s main post office and the Ft. Worth Intermodal Center now under construction.
In addition to the transportation authority, Historic Ft. Worth also is honoring Ruth Carter Stevenson, the Amon G. Carter Foundation, Brent Hull of Hull Historical Restoration Inc. and Fernando Costa, the city’s planning and growth management director. On Dec. 1, the Ft. Worth AIA chapter will honor Adams’ project with the 2000 Excellence in Design Award.