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A thing of beauty and a joy once more

It's as if someone removed the old shutters and finally let the light in.

Or maybe it's more like one of those phenomenal stories in which someone carefully scrapes a layer of paint from an old picture to reveal a once hidden masterpiece.

I don't want to go overboard, but as I've watched the old downtown Interstate 30 "overhead" freeway come down chunk by concrete-and-steel chunk, that's the way I have felt.

For the first time that I can remember, I can see Fort Worth's old Main Post Office on Lancaster Avenue. I mean really see it.

And what a sight to behold!

As I marveled at the new unobstructed vista, I wondered how anyone could have ever thought that widening the overhead was the right idea. That's almost what happened, but luckily, clearer and smarter heads prevailed.

I spent part of Sunday afternoon standing in a drizzling rain across from the grand white building.

The sound of demolition machinery was stilled, but what a piece of work the equipment and their operators have performed in methodically bringing down the 1.4 miles of highway that have divided downtown Fort Worth for 40 years.

It appears that the project is more than half complete and will soon make way for a make-over of Lancaster Avenue, which has been in the shadow of the elevated stretch of freeway for two decades. It will also give a fresh, new and more commanding look to the Fort Worth Water Gardens.

Even with the rain, I got a real good look at the Main Post Office Building, which I've admired for years. But this new vantage point gave me an opportunity to really notice some of the intricate detail in the outside ornamentation.

Sixteen majestic columns adorn the front of the building. At the top of each column are sculptured longhorn skulls and heads of cattle, which, according to the historical marker out front, reflect the significance of the cattle industry to the area.

Designed by the Fort Worth architectural firm of Wyatt C. Hedrick, the interior is beautifully adorned with marble, bronze and gold leaf. Green-tinted marble columns and antique bronze lamps greet the visitors entering through the revolving doors.

I've always admired the heavy bronzed-base tables that patrons use in the ornate lobby.

By the way, the Fort Worth Post Office was established in 1856 by pioneer Julian Feild, who served as the city's first postmaster, the marker states.

The central office moved to the Main Post Office building on Lancaster in 1933, and in 1980 it received the status of a Texas Historical Landmark.

In addition to giving us a new view of the post office, Texas and Pacific Terminal Building and the T&P Warehouse, demolition of the overhead brings another magnificent building into view.

If you travel west on Lancaster from downtown, you can see the Masonic Temple standing majestically over the street.

It, too, is graced with large columns - 10 to be exact - that catch the eye.

Also designed by a Fort Worth firm (Wiley G. Clarkson & Co.), the Masonic Temple was completed a year before the Main Post Office and was declared a Texas Historic Landmark in 1984.

Thanks to a tenacious drive by a few Fort Worth citizens in the 1980s, the city is taking off the blinders. In doing so, it is revealing a few of its glorious wonders.

Bob Ray Sanders' column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. (817) 390-7775 [email protected]


Copyright 2001 Star-Telegram, Inc.

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram
Bob Ray Sanders