Fort Worth

Fort Worth Considers What to Do With Old Ku Klux Klan Building

Should building built by KKK in 1924 be demolished or salvaged?

UPDATE: On July 8, the Historic and Cultural Landmarks Commission voted 5 to 1 for a 180-day demolition delay. The owners said they are open to the idea of selling and renovating the space for something else like a cultural center.

Along North Main Street, just a few blocks North of downtown Fort Worth, an old brick building built by the Ku Klux Klan is falling apart. The question now: Should it be demolished or rebuilt?

For seven years beginning in 1924, the KKK held rallies there and even cross burnings. The building itself was once targeted with a firebombing.

It later became the Ellis Pecan Co. but has been vacant for years and clearly has seen better days. Windows are shattered. The roof is caving in. 

But the owner is asking a city commission to take the building off a list of historic landmarks, the first step to tearing it down.

But some community groups want a delay to see if they can work out a plan to salvage it.

"We're all coming together and putting our heads together," said Daniel Banks, founder of DNAWORKS, an arts and service organization.

History buffs would also like to save the building.

"It's valuable and its story is worth telling, but in a new light, not in an old way," said Jerre Tracy, executive director of Historic Fort Worth Inc.

City Councilman Carlos Flores, who represents that part of North Fort Worth, supports taking a hard look and notes the brick exterior appears solid.

"It needs a lot of work, as you can see," he said. "But I don't think it's so far gone it can't be brought back by the right organization or combination of organizations. And there are a lot of ideas."

Ideas like a space for artists, a farmers market or maybe a museum.

Civil rights leaders said they don't care if the building is torn down or re-built -- so long as it never returns to the symbol it once was.

"There's a difference between reverence and remembrance," said Rev. Michael Bell. "What we're concerned is that this not be a monument to our mistakes."

Tracy agreed.

"You don't really want to gloss over some of the bad things from the past because people are still learning from those and you don't want people to forget," she said.

The building is owned by a holding company "Sugar Plum" which is owned by another company with ties to billionaire Geoffrey Raynor.

Raynor could not be reached for comment.

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