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and life along the winding road

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Leonard's Department Store Museum

Tucked away on Carroll Street, near the Montgomery Ward Plaza (another Fort Worth building with a history) is the Leonard's Department Store Museum. The store was long gone when I arrived in Fort Worth in the early 1990s, but the subway was still running, which once led from the parking lot, through a tunnel and emerged below the Leonard's store. In the 1990s it was known as The Tandy Center with shops surrounding an ice rink. Downtown workers continued to use the free parking and the subway trains until it was closed around 2002. Entry to the museum is through the M&O Station Grill. I found the artifacts reminiscent of department stores I visited as a child and it was fun to browse.
The Leonards brothers were very influential around Fort Worth (the Jr. High School is named after them) and during the depression when banks were closed, Leonard's began printing its own store currency and minting coins. They cashed paychecks with a combination of store currency and cash so that people could purchase things they needed. At the time they were baking over 7,000 loaves of bread a day.
Before the Civil Rights Act the Leonards Brothers chose to desegregate and removed any signs separating races. One young black man was unaware that the cafeteria served people of all races and sent a letter to the Fort Worth Star Telegram stating that he intended to sit in the cafeteria until he was served. When he arrived he was surprised that he was welcomed and a cup of coffee sat waiting for him.


Joanne said...

I have never heard or read about this. Wow - very interesting. I'll have to check it out. Glad you posted this

Mason Canyon said...

Great history. Sad that we don't have places like that anymore. Sounds like they cared about the community.

L. D. said...

It looks like a great place to visit. I like the photo where the barrels are used as supports for the wooden counter. That is quite a picture with people in hats. I wondered if they were customers at the time or the owners of the store.

Peggy Ann said...

Very interesting. I'd love to visit this if ever out that way. I had an uncle Obie.this is the first time I've come across another Obie!

TracyK said...

This sounds very cool. I love old department stores. There were two big ones in Birmingham (Alabama) that I remember and wish I could revisit: Pizitz and Lovemans. And my father worked for a smaller department store - Yeildings - in downtown Birmingham for most of his working life. I thought your tour of East side Fort Worth sounded interesting too.