Amon Carter never let an opportunity go to waste, especially when federal funding was available.
The Stock Show had grown on the North Side and needed more space. Carter knew that Federal Public Works Administration (PWA) funding was available and would eventually be used for the Stock Show, as well as for his 1936 Texas Centennial Celebration in Fort Worth (Fort Worth Frontier). We decided to take some of that money to build a usable building. fiesta.
The problem was that the head of PWA, Harold Ickes, didn’t like the idea. So Carter went straight to the top and lobbied his friend, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, for money. It’s all about connectivity. Ikes lost, Carter won. The project included a colosseum, a tower, an auditorium, and some animal-related buildings. Several sites were considered, but the winner was a large plot of land called the Van Zandt Tract on the west side of Fort Worth (owned by the family who built the Van Zandt Cottage).
The Great Depression made it difficult for professionals such as architects to work, so government projects often spread contracts among multiple companies. Two of his firms in Fort Worth, Wyatt C. Hedrick (architect and engineer) and Elmer G. Withers Architecture Company, have been named “Associated Architects.” So they shared responsibility.
Hedrick’s company and his chief designer, Herman Paul Keppe, were responsible for the design work. They started design work even before the contract was signed to speed up the progress of the project. Keppe created PWA modern landmarks (known as Art Deco) for the Colosseum design. Early versions of the Colosseum design did not have a dome.
But a little-known star of the show was Herbert MacDonald Hinckley (1897-1938). He is a self-taught structural engineer who grew up in Dallas, first working as a draftsman and then at Moser Steel, a Dallas company that supplies components. For many buildings and bridges throughout North Texas. Hedrick hired Hinckley as a structural engineer around 1933, and he and his family moved to Fort Heworth.
Hinckley’s son wrote a book about his father’s work to create the iconic Coliseum roof. Apparently, Hinckley had been to a wrestling match when he was younger and couldn’t see the action because the stanchions blocked his view, and his experience led him to develop the stanchion-free Coliseum design. I came to
According to Hinckley’s wife Sadie, he was a perfectionist and developed a system that used curved steel trusses, joined by ridge monitors. In other words, the beams connected at the top of the dome were a unique way of being able to flex, expand and contract in response to changes in temperature at the time. This was important given the extreme temperatures in the Texas summer.
Hedrick and the other architects who reviewed Hinckley’s design did not believe it would go wrong and might collapse. Hinckley’s repeated presentations eventually led him to approve that Hedrick would take a chance and use an untried design. Virginia Steel & Bridge Co. received a contract to manufacture steel trusses.
Hinckley went to Roanoke, Virginia in 1935 to oversee production work. He took the train home with the truss so he could keep an eye on it during his travels. When the contractor objected by saying that the trusses that arrived were too long, Hinckley was able to prove that the steel worked as expected and contracted when the temperature dropped. He spent most of his time on construction sites, literally living with the project.
Despite these efforts, things were always behind schedule. A groundbreaking ceremony was held on March 10, 1936, but bids for construction were not made until two days after him. Framing he began to rise in the spring of 1936 and work progressed through hot Texas summers and the opening of the Frontier Fiesta.
Will Rogers Day was held at the complex on August 24, 1936, and the Coliseum officially became the Will Rogers Memorial Coliseum. The dedication ceremony was held on September 21, 1936. The first event held at the Coliseum was the International Horse Show and Rodeo, held from October 2-7, 1936. .
A horse show manager called the Coliseum “the best I’ve seen in the world.” It must have been a great opportunity to watch the equestrian competition in a brand new facility with nothing to block the view.
Hinckley remained in Fort Worth until construction was completed, but then returned to Roanoke to work on the Virginia Bridge. So he designed the structural framework for a similar Coliseum in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Hinckley died of a heart attack on June 27, 1938, at the age of 40, so this would be his last project. Hinckley’s wife said she worked until he died.
Carol Roark is an archivist, historian, and author with a particular interest in the history of architecture and photography, and has written several books on the history of Fort Worth.