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Travel back in time to the Fort Worth Recreation Building

In its heyday, the Near Southside venue hosted stars like Mahalia Jackson, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, and Joe Louis.


The landmark Fort Worth Recreation Building faces I-30 at 215 W. Vickery Boulevard.

Photo by FTWtoday

Picture this: It’s 1946 and you’ve just been handed a cardboard carton of fresh, salty popcorn. You ascend the bleachers and take your seat to listen to the soulful voice of Mahalia Jackson.

Where are we? In a large red brick, gabled building on West Vickery Boulevard — the Fort Worth Recreation Building.

Commissioned by the City of Fort Worth, “The Rec” was designed by E.W. Van Slyke & Co. in 1927 to serve as a gymnasium and auditorium for music, theater, and public meetings.


Featherweight boxers Clyde Daniels and Billy Lawson competed in a practice round for the Golden Gloves District Tournament at The Rec in 1947.

Photo courtesy of UTA Libraries/Al Panzera

Also known as the South Side Recreation Building, the multi-use space had concessions and ticket offices along its northside, topped with a set of bleachers. The elevated center of the building included courts for basketball, handball, or other sports. A double proscenium concealed the dressing rooms on the south wall and framed the stage.

In its heyday as a community attraction, the 8,000-sqft venue hosted famous visitors including heavyweight boxer Joe Louis and jazz legends Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker.


Sometimes the steel truss roof leaked, and the Texas Wesleyan College Rams had to play around buckets.

Photo courtesy of UTA Libraries/Wilburn Davis

In the afternoons, school children took baton twirling lessons, and local teams like the Texas Wesleyan Rams men’s basketball dribbled across the court — unless rain dripped through the leaking roof.

Despite its popularity, the community hub didn’t last.

In 1983, the building was sold and used as a factory and warehouse. By 2007, The Rec was empty and for sale once again.

The city designated the building as Highly Significant Endangered in 1999 before it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2014.

Currently sitting vacant, The Rec is owned privately by local developer Tom Reynolds, who is working with Bennett Partners on designs to restore the building and return it to a public event space. No formal plans or timelines have been announced.