Step into the West

Fort Worth is the birthplace of the West, and the Fort Worth Stockyards National Historical District best embodies Western heritage. Every inch of the Stockyards shows Texas’s rich history, from the original brick walkways to wooden corrals.

The History

A drover led cattle up the Chisholm Trail from the railheads to Fort Worth, Texas. He had one last stop for supplies and rest: Fort Worth, Texas.

He’d cross the Red River into Indian Territory beyond Fort Worth.

Fort Worth was home to more than 4 million cattle drovers between 1866-1890. Soon, the city was known as “Cowtown”.

Fort Worth was a major port for livestock shipping when the railroad arrived in 1876. In 1887, the city constructed the Union Stockyards two miles in the north of the Tarrant County Courthouse.

Meanwhile, the Union Stockyards Company was unable to purchase sufficient cattle in order to lure in local ranchers. As for president Mike C. Hurley, he has invited Greenleif Simpson, a rich Boston capitalist to Fort Worth to invest.

An investor had won the Stockyards because of a lucky fluke.

Simpson arrived to find the pens full with cattle. He realized that Fort Worth was a good place to invest and made plans. He didn’t know that the pens weren’t designed to hold this many cattle. Simpson arrived in Fort Worth just after heavy rains and a railway strike.

Simpson purchased the Union Stockyards back in April 27, 1893 for $133,333.33. He then changed its name to Fort Worth Stockyards Company.

Simpson invited other investors, including Louville V. Niles (a Boston neighbor) to invest with him. Simpson’s primary business was meatpacking. Soon they realized that rather than shipping cattle to other markets for processing, it would be better to build meat packing plants near the Stockyards to keep the business in town. They began to work to lure in large packers to Fort Worth. By 1900, Armour & Co. had convinced Swift & Co. that they would build plants close to the Stockyards.

The businessmen had a plan for construction – through a coin toss.

Swift and Armour held a coin toss in order to determine who would receive which parcel of land. Armour won the coin toss and chose northern site. Construction began in 1902.

Swift & Co. won the deal with the southern site. It contained a large gravel pit, which they used to build their plant. Some of the gravel was even sold to Armour.

Construction began on the pens and barns in the same year. The new Livestock Exchange Building housed many support businesses, including telegraph offices and railroad offices. It was known as “The Wall Street of the West.”

Because of the success of the Stockyards, the area required an indoor show venue. Construction began on a grand coliseum, now called the Cowtown Coliseum. It was completed in just 88 days and opened in time for the opening of the Feeders & Breeders Show. The Coliseum was the site of the first indoor rodeo.

Everything changed after the war.

The Stockyards survived droughts and floods, and were rebuilt with flame-resistant materials after two devastating fires that killed large numbers of the livestock. But the boom business didn’t last forever.

The Fort Worth Stockyards handled 5,277,496 livestock heads during World War II. This made 1944 the highest year for the entire operation. The decline of Fort Worth Stockyards coincided with the decline in railroads.

Newly paved roads were the catalyst for the trucking industry. They are more flexible and cost-effective than the railroads, and they also have a lower operating cost. The market moved to the seller and not the meat packer. Smaller local livestock auctions, feedlots, and other services began drawing customers away from the Stockyards.

It was a completely new way of marketing livestock. The Stockyards were shrinking and all major American packers struggled to adapt. Swift and Armour had large, old plants that were struggling to keep up with rising costs, wages, and administrative expenses. Swift survived until 1971, while Armour closed his Fort Worth plant in 1962.

Armour’s distinctive office building was destroyed, but the Swift headquarters building remained standing. Swift used it as the home for the Spaghetti Warehouse, a famous  restaurant in the 1970s, and now currently the corporate offices for XTO Energy.

The Legacy continues.

Charlie as well as Sue McCafferty created the North Fort Worth Historical Society in 1976 for the preservation of the livestock heritage of Fort Worth.

This venture established the Fort Worth Stockyards Historical District. It also restored landmarks such as the Coliseum, the Livestock Exchange Building, and the Swift & Co. headquarters.

The Stockyards Museum was opened in 1989 by the North Fort Worth Historical Society. It is found in the Exchange Building. The museum is now home to thousands of visitors each year from around the globe and continues to expand its collections and facilities.

The Stockyards hosts the only two-daily cattle drive in the world, true to its heritage. Fort Worth Stockyards National Historical District is one of the most visited tourist destinations in Texas.

We invite you to join us on our adventure, day or night. Brick streets will welcome you into an authentic Western experience.

Other Fort Worth Texas attractions – Fort Worth Water Gardens

Restoration Roofing TX
Fort Worth, TX 76137

Serving: Fort WorthKeller TXDenton County TXTarrant CountyArlington TXNorth Richland Hills TXRoanoke TXHurst TXSouthlake TXGrapevine TXFlower Mound TXHaltom City TXBedford and Haslet TXColleyville TXDenton TXLewisville TXEuless TXGrand Prairie TXAzle TX