Established in 1849 as an army outpost, Fort Worth is, rather surprisingly, the sixteenth largest city in the US. It’s also the fifth largest city in Texas. It covers nearly 350 square miles which is even greater than the sprawl of 314 square miles covered by Greater Paris. Its nickname, for rather different reasons, used to be ‘The Paris of the Plains’.
Its main claim to fame in modern times is as a rival to its very close neighbour, the smart, slick and oil-moneyed Dallas which stands in complete contrast to Fort Worth’s own countrified, unpretentious image. A long-running soap opera having made Dallas a household name, supporters of Fort Worth are anxious to point out that their city isn’t just a sidekick of Dallas. Locals would say that it’s cleaner and greener than Dallas and how it has a spirit of its own. It’s often been called ‘Where the West begins’ and has a distinct cowboy feel about it.
Fort Worth was one of the beginnings of the Chisholm Trail. It was where cowboys could stock up on provisions and have a last night out on the town before weeks of enforced abstention. The town had an area which came to be called Hell’s Half-Acre because it had a concentrated collection of saloons, dance halls and bordellos. It grew and grew, became off-limits for normal citizens, and was a hotbed of shootings, muggings and brawls. It had outgrown the gentler implications of its nickname ‘Paris of the Plains’.
Eventually the Acre lost its unpleasant character although the name persists for the southern part of town. In the early years of the twenty-first century, Fort Worth was the fastest-growing large city in the US and was voted one of ‘America’s most Liveable Communities’. Recently it has started promoting itself as the ‘City of Cowboys and Culture’ and it boasts the world’s first and largest indoor rodeo.