[This is a five part story that explains the Rosedale Renaissance project in various stages. Please read all the stories to fully understand this process.]
Like many parts of the country, integration brought a change to the Polytechnic Heights community.
Dr. Sara Horsfall, associate professor of sociology, has a book of collected articles she edited with her students. The book A Neighborhood Portrait: Polytechnic Heights of Inner City Fort Worth is located in the West Library.
“Suburbia development happened in Polytechnic Heights and across the country in the ‘50s,” Horsfall said.
In her article, she describes the area as being a “respectable and prosperous middle class neighborhood” for most of the 20th century. It wasn’t until the 1980s that it became “an area of high crime, high poverty, racial tensions and general decay and decline,” she said in the article.
“In the mid 1980’s Polytechnic Heights was one of the worst inner city areas in the nation, according to the 2000 census,” Horsfall said.
Currently, the Polytechnic area is much safer despite how it looks. Horsfall said she would walk down any street in the neighborhood during the day. She also points out that current statistics show much less crime happening in the community.
“People have the idea that it’s a crime-ridden area, but it’s not,” Horsfall said.
“My student’s work shows that women are not afraid to live here,” Horsfall said. “If [crime] was an issue women would be afraid.”
Dunson said Wesleyan has always had an important part in the Polytechnic community.
“Texas Wesleyan, although it has changed in appearance over the years, always played a vital role in the neighborhood,” Dunson said.
Originally farmland in the 1850s, the family that cultivated the land made way for a college named after the area called Polytechnic College. The college eventually paired with Wesleyan because of hardships after the Depression. As the neighborhood grew, more businesses were erected, according to the article.
The Dillow home has been a recent topic regarding a demolition project proposed by Wesleyan. The Star-Telegram has released articles describing the Dillow house situation. A student article describing this in more detail is scheduled to be released in the Rambler.
Dillow made other contributions to the community in addition to the historic Dillow house as outlined in the City Council meeting report.
One block west of the Dillow house is Burge Hardware. It has been there since the Polytechnic area was built. Paul Meadows, the current owner, says he think they have managed to stay in business because they belong in the area.
“We have a particular niche of just the neighborhood in general,” Meadows said. “We own the building and everything in it so we make all the decisions.”
Dunson said he remembers going to the hardware store with his dad.
“I would visit the hardware store with my dad,” Dunson said. “I recall sitting around an old cast iron wood stove on cold days listening to the old timers tell stories.”
Burge Hardware has been on Rosedale, across from Wesleyan, since 1913. Currently the windows are boarded up and “yes we are open” is spray painted on the outside of them.
Meadows said after repeated complaints to the owners of the other properties about their windows being broken out and after vandals broke one of his, he boarded his entire storefront.
“I wrote the president of Wesleyan and the mayor about the broken windows on all the other properties but there was no response,” Meadows said. “After one of my $400 windows was broken, I went and bought $1500 worth of wood and spent an entire weekend boarding them all up.”
Meadows said after he boarded the windows, the fire department, health department, mayor and other city officials and government departments came out the get him to take them down. He said he refused to do so.
Meadows said took full ownership of the store after Paul Burge, the last generation of Burge family owners, died about two years ago.
“Paul Burge and my parents were friends,” Meadows said. “I was told that I was named after him.” “I came in the store a couple times, he told me he had an offer I can’t refuse and said I could have the store if he ever left.”
Meadows remembers businesses that once surrounded the hardware store. He said there was a bank, Ashburn’s ice cream, Mott’s, and a dry cleaners (currently where the Boy’s and Girl’s club is). He also remembers when the neighborhood changed.
“I think the demise of the neighborhood happened when there was white flight,” Meadows said. “Which I thought was ridiculous because my first girlfriend was black.” “I think both races [white and black] could’ve worked together to keep the area alive.”
Meadows said he would take the boards down if more businesses come to Rosedale alongside his. He would feel like his store is not a target forvandalism because the storefront wouldn’t look so abandoned.
Meadows says he look forward to the plans of rebuilding Rosedale and would like to see the roundabout in front of Wesleyan. He says the plans to rebuild the areas have been initiated many times and hopes they follow through with this one.
“I went to see a roundabout in north Texas and thought it was a pretty amazing sight,” Meadows said. “It looked like people were going to run into each other.” ‘But I have seen these plans to rebuild the area come and go many times.”