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The History of the JWC House

 

In 1904 property was purchased along Pennsylvania Avenue by James F. Moore who engaged architect Louis B. Weinman to design his family's new home.  Construction began soon after, and the Moore family moved into the house in 1907.  It was a large two-and-one- half story brick house consisting of 26 rooms, a carriage house and greenhouse with a wide circular drive in the back.  This original building ended at the point of the present library and storage room. 

 

James F Moore was a native Texan whose business was in real estate investments.  His wife, Willie Mae Jackson Moore, had been born in Alabama.  The 1910 Census lists their ages as 51 and 36, respectively.  At the time of the Census their two daughters, Ella Louise and Mary Davis, were seven and three.  Mrs. Moore’s mother, Ella Davis Jackson, also lived with the family at that time.  The family had three servants who lived on the property.

 

Mr. Moore died unexpectedly of a heart attack in February of 1911, and  Mrs. Moore died a few years later.  In 1922 the daughters, now Mrs. Ella M. West and Mrs. Mary M. Hollifield, sold the home to the Baptist Hospital for a nurses’ residence. 

 

On April 17, 1929 the house was purchased by Dr. Harold V. Johnson who sold it that same year to Robertson-Mueller-Harper for $41,000 to be used as a funeral home.  The funeral directors of Robertson-Mueller-Harper engaged the original architects, Louis B, Weinman & Son, to draw plans for converting the building into a funeral home.  Major additions were made which included a chapel, casket display rooms, and a men’s dormitory.  A pipe organ and elevator were also installed.  The second floor was converted into two apartments for the Muellers and the Harpers.  After the Muellers moved out, the Harpers took over the entire second floor and lived there until 1955.

 

The Woman’s Club of Fort Worth acquired the Robertson-Mueller-Harper Funeral Home in 1953 for $125,000 to be the new home of the Junior Woman’s Club.  The building was the eighth unit of The Woman’s Club as it now held the entire 1300 block of Pennsylvania Avenue.  The building was named Margaret Meacham Hall in honor of Mrs. H.C. Meacham, a charter member of The Woman’s Club and one of the five women who had helped to organize the Junior Woman’s Club.  Mr. & Mrs. Amon G. Carter (Minnie Meacham Carter) donated $50,000 towards the purchase price.  Again Louis B. Weinman, Jr. was asked to help with the remodeling.  The brick residence of 1907 was transformed as its façade was painted to correspond with the other buildings belonging to The Woman’s Club.  Mrs. Amon G. Carter donated money to buy paint for the entire block of buildings. 

 

Some of the artwork and furnishings that are found in Margaret Meacham Hall had been previously purchased by JWC.   Members of JWC also participated in a Ways and Means project to assist in furnishing their new home.  Every member cooperated in raising funds.  One result is the dining room furniture which is still in use.

 

The formal opening of Margaret Meacham Hall was on April 20, 1956.  Mrs. Simon W. Freese was president of The Woman’s Club of Fort Worth, and Mrs. Miller McClung was president of the Junior Woman’s Club president at that time.

 

The house at its beginning

 

If you were entering the small entry hall at the time of the Moore family, you would be startled to see a mammoth polar bear rug in the large living room, for its eyes would suddenly gleam at you.  The rug had been bought by the Moore family in Alaska in 1906, and they had the eyes wired to a battery to give it that effect.  The original staircase had two landings into the living room, not the wide sweeping one which exists now.  The staircase was changed when The Woman’s Club bought the building from the Harpers.  Where the stairs now go down into the informal room, there would have been a gas log fireplace.  If it was to be a musical evening, guests would adjourn to the music room with its parquet floor and the grand piano.  If there were too many guests, they could overflow into the living room.  Stained glass windows are echoed in every room in the house.

 

Beyond the living room to the west was the wood-paneled study of Mr. Moore’s room.  If you were here to see him, you might have been served coffee by the maid who occupied a room upstairs.  There would have been a corner fireplace in this room which was later removed when the room was remodeled into the current powder room.

 

To the east of the living room would have been the parlor with the dining room attached.  The fireplace in the old parlor is one of six in the house.  The picture which now resides over the mantle is “I’Yonee-Mailly La’Ville” by Georges Robin.  It was a gift of The Woman’s Club Art Department in 1972 to honor Mrs. Amon G. Carter, Sr. 

 

If you had enjoyed a dinner with the Moores, you might have visited the conservatory after your meal to view the plants.  This small room now leads into the present library which was originally a butler’s pantry.  In the hallway, you can see where the Moores’ house ended for there is a jut in the wall just where the library and storage room (butler’s pantry and breakfast room) ended.  Originally, there was a stairway here that went upstairs to the hall where the maid had her room.

 

The hall which leads to the west is now our Presidents’ Gallery.  The carved antique table and large antique gold leaf mirror were purchased by JWC in December of 1936.  The porcelain compote, “VEB Porcelain Works Plane, Thuringis, Germany,” circa 1890 was given by Margaret N. Morgan in 1990 to honor of Michelle Cyrus, then president of JWC.  At one time, this room had the only stair to the basement which is where the caretaker and his wife lived.  At that time, the basement was a labyrinth of small rooms which also housed a laundry room and a coal room where two furnaces heated the building.

 

The next room to the north was the breakfast room but is now our storage area.  At the time of the Moores, there would have been a view of the back gardens.  The mirrored room adjacent to the present formal meeting room was the Moore’s kitchen with an outside stairway.  There would have been no room overhead at the time.  Beyond was a screened sun porch where the Moores liked to sit.

 

As you go up the stairs, the first room to your right is now the conference room where the JWC Executive Board meets once a month.  In the early 1900’s, it was a guest room with a screened sleeping porch for warm weather.  When Ella Moore married, she and her bridegroom shared this room.  They laughed at how they had to cram all of their personal belongings into one small closet.  The picture presently on the east wall is a past executive advisor, Mrs. Staley T. McBrayer. 

 

The next room is now the Sunshine Room, but it began as Mr. and Mrs. Moore’s master bedroom.  It boasted one of the first stained glass windows in a private home and was one of the most photographed rooms in Fort Worth.  The east door opened out onto a spacious balcony overlooking the city.  The room also had an ingenious master switch.  When pulled, the switch turned on every light in the home and caused bells to ring, making it a very effective burglar alarm.

 

In fact, this was not the only up-to-date feature of the house for it was an electronic miracle for its day.  Intricate wiring made it possible for anyone going through the house to turn out the lights in that room as they passed through.  A master plate in the basement had a switch for each member of the family, and when flicked, it would ring the appropriate phone for each.  This plate from 1907 can still be seen in the basement. 

 

Next on the right is the dressing room with the powder room beyond.  Again there are stained glass windows.  The next two rooms were the bedroom of the two Moore daughters.  Ella’s was on the left with an adjoining dressing room, and Mary’s was on the right.

 

Just down the hallway is a door which opens onto the staircase for the attic.  Mr. Moore proposed to redo this area into a ballroom, but he died before he could complete his plans. There was another stairway to the attic from the master bedroom.  Although the bottom of these spiral stairs can be seen behind the corner door of that room, it has been permanently closed at the top.

 

The current office was the ‘mother-in-law room’ for Mrs. Ella Davis Jackson, and the

next room was the maid’s.  At the end of the house was a staircase that went to the downstairs hall.

 

The next stage

 

When the Robertson, Mueller & Harper funeral directors acquired the building in 1929, the first floor lecture room was the chapel.  The arch to the east was the location of the organ.

 

Today you will find the beautiful landscape, “Spring in Picardy,” in this room.  It was painted by Frank Townsend Hutchens and bought by JWC in June of 1929.  It was the first picture purchased by JWC as a start to their art collection.  The payment for the picture was to be financed over a period of years.  The picture was exhibited in several important galleries in Europe as well as America before finding its home in Fort Worth.  Also, in 1929, The Woman’s Club gave the grand piano to JWC as a Christmas gift.  

 

Over the fireplace is a portrait of Mrs. H.C. Meacham, the Margaret Meacham for whom the building is named.  It was painted by Emily Guthrie Smith.  On either side of the picture are Sheraton silver candlesticks given in 1935 by Miss Anna Shelton, the first president of The Woman’s Club.  The gateleg table was purchased by JWC in December of 1936.  The Sheffield Tea Service, which is of the Georgian period, was given in 1933 by then JWC President, Mrs. Bennett Smith.  The two love seats were purchased by JWC when they met in Shuman Hall.

 

Our present kitchen was built as a dormitory for the ambulance drivers and mortuary attendants, but the arrangement proved unsatisfactory.  The men were transferred to quarters in the carriage house, and the dormitory was converted into a business office.  This area and the pantry were redone in 1988 by Lila Parker under the Presidency of Jeri Jo Blackmon.  Lila’s husband Ron donated half of the total cost of the renovation.

 

Upstairs the Muellers occupied the front apartment with the E.G. Harpers occupying those in the rear.  At the time they moved in, the Harper’s kitchen boasted a newly installed dishwasher.  The Harpers also put in a rear entrance to their apartment. 

 

The funeral home also added to the downstairs.  The current Informal Room was the casket display room with a room off of it to display infant caskets.  Two tiled embalming rooms were added, and the present sketch room was built as a receiving room.  It is in this room that an elevator was installed and where it remains today, screened by two painted wooden doors.  It is still stuck between the two floors, midway between our present library and kitchen (the elevator is no longer there, the mechanism having been removed).

 

The building serves as the home of the Junior Woman’s Club of Fort Worth is located at 1326 Pennsylvania Avenue.  It was designated as a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark in 1967 and was awarded the Pinnacle Award by the Historic Preservation Council in 1989.  In 1990 the building was designated a City of Fort Worth Cultural and Historic District Landmark.

 

Our thanks to by Margaret Wilson, past president of The Woman’s Club for the information about Margaret Meacham Hall.  It was provided by her daughter Michelle Cyrus, past president of JWC.

 

 

Plans for the carriage house that stood where the parking lot is, in the rear of the house. The carriage house was designed by the original architect to compliment the house.

 

 

 

Architectural Archives

University of Texas at Austin

Photos taken by Melissa Moorman, JWC President 2008-09