Ludwig “Louis” Bernhardt Weinman, architect, one of Jacob Weinman and Dorothea (Minter) Weinman’s nine children, was born in Rutlingen, Germany, on March 14, 1867. He attended the Stuttgart preparatory school where he became interested in architecture. Weinman could have attended the Prussian Military Academy on a scholarship but instead decided to emigrate to the United States on the advice of an older brother in the Prussian Army. In 1883 Weinman left Bremen, Germany, aboard the Fulda and arrived in New York City on May 19. He joined another brother, Karl Weinman, in Atchinson, Kansas, in 1884. While in Atchinson, Weinman studied architecture at Saint Benedict’s College and interned with architect Alfred Meier. In 1890 Weinman left Kansas to pursue a career as an architect in Texas.
Weinman initially worked with James Riely Gordon out of San Antonio. Gordon provided architectural services throughout Texas, but his unwillingness to finish work clients had already paid for led to consistent harassment. The animosity towards Gordon quickly spilled over to Weinman once people made the professional connection. In 1891 Weinman made the acquaintance of A.N. Dawson during a work trip and abandoned San Antonio to work for Dawson in designing and supervising the construction of the new Fort Worth City Hall building located at Monroe Street and Tenth Avenue. The stately stonework of the city hall gave the large building a traditional elegance that borrowed a sense of history from well-established architectural techniques. After the city hall project was completed, business tapered off for an extended period, and finances got bad enough that Dawson fled from his mounting debts and left Weinman the office at Tenth and Thockmorton in lieu of back pay.
Weinman went into business for himself in 1895 and received a contract to design the Central Fire Station at the intersection of Thockmorton, Eighth, and Monroe streets. The fire station, completed in 1899, utilized a similar stone architecture that complemented the nearby city hall. The fire station also incorporated a large stone tower that used carefully keyed stonework to accommodate an unsupported partial overhang which made Weinman’s design so original and notable.
In 1899 Weinman married Mary Lillian Ostertag and brought her from Atchison back to Fort Worth. The two had met at Saint Benedict’s College and eventually had three sons and a daughter—Louis, Arthur, Elmer and Lillian. Weinman’s early work on such visible public buildings provided an excellent foundation for a successful architectural firm, and he went on to design many early homes and businesses throughout the city. Yet, the public animosity towards Germans that came with America’s participation in World War I almost drove Weinman out of business. He survived, but his business never thrived like it had before the war. In the 1920s and 1930s Weinman tried to bring his sons Louis and Arthur into the family business with limited success. Louis B. Weinman, Jr., eventually remodeled some of the buildings that his father had initially designed but never regained the success his father had achieved in the earliest years of his career, and the family’s firm petered out around 1970. However, one of Weinman’s grandsons, Arthur Wallace Weinman, was a practicing architect into the 2020s in the Fort Worth area, carrying on the family’s architectural legacy.
A shift away from traditional architectural styles toward the modernism of Art Deco complicated the pioneering architect’s legacy. Furthermore, the economic difficulties of the Great Depression created an incentive for public work projects that effectively marginalized the earlier work of architects like Weinman with an avalanche of government spending. For instance, in 1939 the city tore down the fire station’s picturesque stone tower to modernize the building. Weinman claimed that replacing the building was for the best and stated, “It’s the new deal. It will give work to other men.” A prolonged period of war hysteria, modernist architectural design, and economic crisis took its toll on Weinman’s contributions to the character of Fort Worth’s built environment. Buildings that were not entirely demolished were quickly overshadowed by the proliferation of modernist architecture that came to increasingly define the city’s public spaces toward the end of his life.
Weinman retired from his architectural firm in 1942 at the age of seventy-five. He died three years later in Fort Worth on August 14, 1945, and was buried in Greenwood Cemetery in Fort Worth. Louis B. Weinman, in the most literal sense, helped build up Fort Worth around the turn of the twentieth century.