Architecture in Fort Worth


Swift & Co. Meatpacking Plant

600 E. Exchange Ave. - 1902-1955 (NRHD, RTHL)


In 1901, the City of Fort Worth offered Swift & Company and Armour & Company the opportunity to open meatpacking plants adjacent to the Fort Worth Stock Yards.  Both companies accepted and constructed their plants on the east end of Exchange Avenue.  The two office buildings were located directly across the street from each other.  Ground was broken for the Swift Plant in February of 1902 and several of the buildings opened for operations on November 1, 1902.  In order to support the transfer of beef to the country, five rail lines were extended to the plants.  To bring in workers, a streetcar line was extended to the area.  Both plants were constructed from the Acme Brick plant in Bennett, Texas, approximately 45 miles to the west.  Buildings to produce dressed meat and meat by-products included a slaughterhouse, smokehouse, power plant, cooling rooms, sweet and salt pickling equipment, a lard and oleo refinery, fertilizer plant, a cooperage, a box factory, and the office building.  Fifty cottages were built on the east side of the property to house temporary workers.  In 1909, the plant was nearly doubled.  Historic photographs of the site show how large the plant became with the two story office building being dwarfed by five, six, seven, and eight story buildings.  Many of the buildings of both plants had their blank walls painted with advertising for the plant. Swift closed the plant in 1971.  There were two large fires in the complex during the early and mid-1970s.  In 1975, most of the plant was demolished, but several buildings and elements did remain on the site.  Some completely intact and others in ruins.  Over the years, the site has become abandoned and overgrown, with further deterioration of the remaining structures.  Demolition of the remains of the plant began in July of 2016.  The Laboratory building will be saved as a part of the redevelopment of the site.

Below is a brief description of the remaining buildings on the site:

Office Building - Since this structure has been occupied by businesses most of the time since the plant closed, and has been fully restored, there is a separate building description. 

Auto Garage - This garage was constructed just to the south of the office building to house executive's cars.  The stalls step down the site with the grade.  The building features brick end walls and infill and the front facade features fluted columns supporting concrete panels. 

Fertilizer House - This building sits on the southern edge of the site.  The building is windowless and is three stories tall with buttresses.  The style building and its construction indicate that it dates back to the original phase of construction.  The building is shown on the 1912 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map.  It also indicates that fertilizer was manufactured inside the building.  In 1925, a one story loading dock was added that faced NE 23rd Street. 

Killing Tank/Beef Cooler - RUINS DEMOLISHD JULY 2016 - This partially demolished five story structure reveals concrete mushroom columns, double wythe brick walls and reinforced concrete floors.  It appears that cattle were killed and the carcasses were cooled in the building by the name. The building was constructed in 1949, but the partially standing west wall, appears to be part of the original plant construction from 1902.

Lard Making/Warehouse - It appears this five story building was constructed around 1940.  The building has an exposed reinforced concrete frame with brick infill.  The building was used for making lard and for storage.

Wall and Stairway Entrance - Other than the office building, this wall and entrance on NE 23rd Street, is the most architecturally unique element on the site.  It appears that the wall was part of the initial construction of the plant and it once was present on the west, south, and east sides.  Unfortunately, the wall has not been maintained, and it has slowly been falling down over the years.  The wall is in very poor condition, and it is constructed of cast concrete piers and lintels with polychrome brick panel infills.  One of the entrances into the complex is at a curved double stairway on NE 23rd Street.  The stairway is constructed out of concrete and includes a mixture of textures and colors.  Roughcast, buff colored concrete is framed by smooth concrete.  A red, white, and blue "S" medallion is set into the wall of the landing.  Photograph Detail of Wall



Auto Garage
Swift Auto Garage

Fertilizer House

Swift Fertilizer House

Killing Tank/Beef Cooler
Swift Killing Tank/Beef Cooler

Lard Making
Swift Lard Making/Warehouse

Stairway Entrance
Swift Stair