Updated: Sep 22
The Tarrant County Courthouse is located squarely in the middle of Main Street in Fort Worth. From its perch on a bluff by the Trinity River, it bestows its attention onto the Stockyards in the north. To the south, the courthouse has a wonderful view of the strange disc that is the city's Convention Center (now slated for demolition, though).
Until the 1960s, the courthouse left an imposing impression on those plying their trades in old Hell's Half Acre, Fort Worth's red light district. Once featuring saloons, gambling halls, and bordellos, it would in later years house pawn shops, strip joints, betting parlors, and pubs. Its dilapidated glory was obliterated during Fort Worth's urban renewal project. The only thing left from Hell's Half Acre is the 1880's St. Patrick Catholic Church, which no doubt had heard many a confession during Fort Worth's sinful days, and the old Santa Fe train station on the east side.
The neighborhood that once housed "Hell's Half Acre" was actually a black business district. African Americans were not the proprietors of the saloons and brothels, though. Vice establishments tended to open in areas that the city neglected, which in the South was invariably the "Black Ward." Thus, when the city demolished the urban density of the district at the beginning of the 20th century, it also displaced African Americans. This is a VERY COMMON THEME throughout the South.
But the vice district reappeared. The reputation for this quarter, plus its location as a "black business district," left rents depressed. This meant the establishments Fort Worth desperately tried to remove continued in some form or another, until the entire infrastructure was wiped out in the 1960s to make way for the Convention Center and the Fort Worth Water Gardens, designed by Phillip Johnson.
Today, many tourists mistakenly believe that the Fort Worth Stockyards was the location of Hell's Half Acre, mainly because the famous White Elephant Saloon relocated there. The sign at the front of the saloon tells of a gunfight that happened out front, but note that the original shoot-out occurred at Hell's Half Acre.