First Christian Church, Fort Worth


By: Andrew Klooster

Type: General Entry

Published: November 17, 2021

Updated: November 17, 2021


The First Christian Church of Fort Worth, located at 612 Thockmorton Street, was designed by architects E. W. Van Slyke and Clyde H. Woodruff and built by Reinhart and Donovan, a construction firm from Oklahoma City. Work on the project began in 1914 but was not completed until 1915. Designed in a Beaux Arts style, the project embraced the Renaissance Revival design popular during the period. The First Christian Church is considered by some to be “the finest extant work” of the collaboration between Van Slyke and Woodruff. Designing the church for the third largest congregation of the Disciples of Christ in the world also likely influenced the architects’ decision to relocate their firm to Fort Worth.

The First Christian Church replaced the Old Rock Church at the same location and represents the fourth structure to house the Fort Worth congregation, founded in 1855 by A. M. Dean and recognized as the oldest church in Fort Worth. The congregation’s reverend, Leroy D. Anderson, spearheaded the project and helped secure funding from wealthy church members such as K. M. Van Zandt and Samuel Burk Burnett.

A copper dome on a high drum dominates the design of the three-story church and is as impressive an external architectural feature as it is an interior decorative element accentuating worship space. The building combines a steel frame with exterior walls of limestone quarried from Lueders, Texas. The church’s ambitious initial design allowed for additional seating in the main sanctuary by mechanically lifting the west wall to incorporate an attached meeting room for up to 250 additional congregants.

As Fort Worth grew, so too did First Christian Church, and in 1928 Van Slyke and Woodruff designed a seven-story annex connected to the main church. The annex was completed in 1929 and provided the congregation with additional meeting space, classrooms, a gymnasium, and even a swimming pool. The church experienced a decline in attendance over the decades, from 1,740 in 1963 to 550 in 2005, and the annex building was demolished in the early 1990s. The mixed residential and commercial neighborhood that surrounded the church in 1914 has given way to a continuously expanding central business district, while suburbanization has diffused attendance across several smaller denomination churches. First Christian Church received a Texas Historical Marker in 1970. Added to the National Registry of Historic Places in 1983, the First Christian Church of Fort Worth is one of the markers of the Disciples of Christ congregation’s significant contribution to the historical memory and cultural landscape of the city.

“First Christian Church,” Architecture in Fort Worth (https://www.fortwortharchitecture.com/1stchris.htm), accessed November 16, 2021. Fort Worth Star-Telegram, October 1, 2005. Historical Marker Files, Texas Historical Commission, Austin. Carol Roark, Fort Worth’s Legendary Landmarks (Fort Worth: Texas Christian University Press, 1995). “Texas SP First Christian Church,” National Register of Historic Places Inventory—Nomination Form, United States Department of the Interior, National Park Service (https://catalog.archives.gov/id/40973480), accessed November 16, 2021.

Categories:
  • Architecture
  • Churches and Synagogues
  • Religion
  • Christian Church
Time Periods:
  • Progressive Era
  • Texas in the 1920s
Places:
  • North Texas
  • Dallas/Fort Worth Region
  • Fort Worth

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Andrew Klooster, “First Christian Church, Fort Worth,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 23, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/first-christian-church-fort-worth.

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November 17, 2021
November 17, 2021

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