Friday, June 24, 2016

Benbrook Bound

View of Fort Worth from a hill in Benbrook
Ah, Benbrook, the mystique, the allure, the romance; where you might meet a handsome stranger and have all of your dreams come true. Particularly in the summer and particularly if you’re a young teenager just entering the age for dating – or at least that’s how it seemed way back then. Lake Benbrook was where all the ‘with-it’ teens went to watch the submarine races; it was every parent’s nightmare. Throughout the years the lake has been low enough that the boat ramps were closed because they didn’t reach the water; that’s not true this year

Friday, June 17, 2016

Gallivanting through Grandview

Top: Rain on the road
Bottom: Field corn
Springtime in Texas means that it can be raining buckets one minute and bright sunshine the next. It was just that sort of day when we drove about 10 miles south of Alvarado (see Off to Alvarado) to visit the small town of Grandview.   Governor Elisha M. Pease provided a land grant in 1850 to a group of settlers, one of whom was F. L. Kirtley. Some stories say that it was his son-in-law, John Whitmire, who upon arrival to the area said, ‘What a grand view!’, and that’s how the area was named. Not many years later, a church had been organized and a post office opened. However, as with many small towns in Texas, the coming of the Missouri-Kansas-Texas rail line, in 1883 meant that almost everyone moved closer to the train station. And that’s where Grandview was finally incorporated in 1891. What appears to be a school of higher education was briefly in business: Grand View Collegiate Institute 1897-1907. There do not seem to be any records about this institution available, which makes me wonder if it wasn’t a preparatory school that got swallowed up by a more traditional school district. There is also a record of the Emory House, a Queen Anne/classical style two-story residence built in 1907, by farmer and stockman, John Avery. It escaped the fire of 1920 that destroyed many businesses, churches, homes, and schools. Our brief wander through Grandville failed to turn up this historic home.

However, we did go out to the original Grand View town site that is now the Grandview
Grandview Cemetery
Cemetery. The cemetery was established at the same time as the Baptist church, in about 1856. Four years later, the town had launched several general stores, a blacksmith shop, a church building and a Masonic Lodge. These businesses were followed by several more stores, more churches and a saloon. Once the railroad came through, the main section of town moved to it and the cemetery gradually took over the entire town site. There are many historic graves in this cemetery, including one with a tombstone simply marked ‘Annie’. Evidently this unknown woman was murdered and her companion never found; mystery still surrounds this event.

Masonic Lodge
The Grandview Masonic Lodge was chartered on June 14, 1861. It is the oldest lodge in Johnson County’s oldest lodge that has been in continuous operation. Initially it shared a building with the Methodist Church on the original town site, but was later moved to where it stands today in downtown Grandview. The 1893 building was destroyed by the 1920 fire, but another was soon constructed. Although the building we saw isn’t pictorially historical, it is on the original site.

Surprisingly, there are several places to eat in Grandview, so we tried one of them. For information about my rating system, see Reading the Reviews.

Three carrots

The R & K Café (101 S First St, Grandview, TX 76050, 817-866-3969) is actually one of
Top L to R: Menu, bread
Bottom L to R: Chicken fried steak, Grilled cheese
three, with branches in Cleburne and Weatherford. It’s next to the railroad tracks and about a block from downtown. The building has a tin ceiling, so expect it to be noisy if the place is busy at all. The day we visited, there was a table of high school senior girls who were excited about it being the last few days of school; yep, they were a bit loud. Vince had a grilled cheese sandwich that he said was pretty good. The chips that accompanied it were probably Lays. Dave and I had the chicken-fried steak lunch special that came with three sides; we chose only two. This smaller steak was hand battered and very good. The green beans were tasty, as were the mashed potatoes. The cream gravy was very good with a bit of a bite, unusual for this sauce. The bread reminded me of Hawaiian rolls and was a good accompaniment to our meal. Lunch was quite reasonably priced and service was pretty good, particularly since this place was hopping.

Railroad crossing
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Friday, June 10, 2016

Flitting around Fort Worth

Fort Worth Botanic Garden Center and Conservatory
In the early part of the spring, when we had a break from the nearly daily rain that has fallen in North Texas this year, Dave and I decided that we wanted to see the newly re-opened Conservatory at the Fort Worth Botanic Garden. This 110 acre garden located is in a pretty part of the city, near the Trinity River, the Fort Worth Zoo, and the Will Rogers Complex. The oldest botanic garden in Texas, it was established in 1934 and has about 2,500 species of native and exotic plants in its 22 specialty gardens. The Conservatory houses the ‘tropical plants’ that can’t stand the vagaries of Texas weather.

Application was made to the National Register of Historic Places and can be viewed online. It is an interesting, if extensive document, in that it gives the history and physical structure of
Red veined bracts
all the small gardens within the Botanic Garden. I actually downloaded this document and have read much of it for background for this blog. The Garden was entered into the National Register on January 29, 2009. The rose garden, constructed in 1933, is cited as ‘one of four excellent examples of the classic period of the municipal rose garden, an era from 1927 to 1937’. Its formal style was influenced by Italian and French formal gardens of the 16th through the 18th centuries. The other historic parts of the garden are the Rock Springs area, the vistas and adjacent woods, the horseshoe and the original Garden Center building and greenhouse. Construction of the public rose garden and other parts of the garden was unusual because approximately 750 artisans and laborers were hired through relief programs of Herbert Hoover's administration and Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal. Construction was expected to take years. With the Reconstruction Finance Corp. labor force, the garden was finished in nine months. The Botanic Garden is a great place to wander around in a fairly natural setting – they have omitted the poison ivy and undergrowth of a completely natural Texas woodland. We’re looking forward to going back to visit the Japanese Garden and to see some of the other smaller gardens.

There are plenty of things to see and do in Fort Worth, as well as lots of places to grab a snack! For information about my rating system, see Reading the Reviews.

What we did:

Four carrots
Fort Worth Botanic Garden (3220 Botanic Garden Boulevard, Fort Worth, Texas, 817-392-
White flowering plant
5510) is open daily. An admission fee is charged for the Conservatory and Japanese Garden; the other gardens are free. There is plenty of free parking.

What we ate:
Three and one-half carrots
The Gardens Restaurant (3220 Rock Springs Road, Fort Worth, TX 76107, 817-731 – 2547) is a pretty little place with seating both indoors and out. The day we were there, it was full outside but seating was available inside. They were also hosting a luncheon of some 
Left T to B: Gardens menu, Reuben sandwich
Right: Apricot chicken sandwicn 
sort in one of the private rooms. This made service horribly slow; apparently there were only two waitresses. It was also irritating to see the chef sitting at a table next to us talking at length with a colleague when the servers were so obviously rushed off their feet; adding insult to injury was another person who seemed to be drifting around aimlessly, neither cleaning tables nor taking orders. We were finally told by the hostess that even she had been called in to help with seating, since they had not expected such a rush. We were still irritated by the time our food arrived, which made it difficult to enjoy the meal. Why didn’t we walk out? I had heard good things about the food and really wanted to taste it. Dave had the Classic Reuben; it came with corned beef, melted Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and Thousand Island dressing on rye bread. I had Apricot Chicken Salad on Toasted Ciabatta; this was homemade apricot chicken salad, with mixed field greens and tomatoes. The sandwiches were very good, as were the fries. The food almost made up for the long wait. We both enjoyed our lunches and would go back, again. Prices were reasonable.

The City of Fort Worth has sprawled in all directions, having a rather lace-like quality to its
Fort Worth skyline
eastern boundary. Although you may believe that you are in Keller, Watauga, Haslet, Saginaw or some other small town, you’re actually in Fort Worth. And that’s why this entry is included in this blog: we were in Fort Worth and didn’t know it.

Four carrots, but only for the food!
Tom + Chee (#137, 8901 Tehama Ridge Pkwy, Fort Worth, TX 76177, 817-847-7635) is all the things I don’t like in an eatery. The menu is on the wall, you order at the counter, you 
Top L to R: Menu, Crunchy BBQ sandwich
Bottom L to R: Drink, Build Your Own sandwich
have to seat yourself, it’s loud, and it’s a chain. So why did I actively go looking for this place to introduce it to Dave? Because the food is very good. You can Build Your Own Grilled Cheese sandwich (or half sandwich) and that’s just what I did. Mine was gouda and goat cheese on wheatberry bread with sautéed mushrooms and basil pesto. The bread was buttery and toasty, the cheeses nicely melted, there were plenty of mushrooms, and the pesto was just the tang it all needed. I asked for a fork to scoop up the melted cheese and mushrooms that dripped out. The half-sandwich is plenty, but you can also get tomato soup and/or dessert. Dave had the BBQ + Bacon Crunchy Grilled Cheese. It had barbecue potato chips, bacon, and American cheese on white bread. We both got soft drinks and were able to refill them a couple of times before we left. We spent about $15. This group prepares amazingly good sandwiches. Happily, you can order online and pick up in the store – I wish it was closer to my house!

Spores on the underside of a leaf

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Friday, June 3, 2016

Finding Egan

Field of cattle
Egan, Texas is on some maps and not on others. It’s at the corner of Farm roads 2280 and 917, 25 miles almost due south of Fort Worth. Settled by M. J., J. P., and W. E. Miller during the Civil War, the town site was surveyed in 1883, when the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railroad built tracks through the area. The town was named by a surveyor, but records don’t show who that was. A post office began service there in 1883, and within two years there were 50 in the population; there was also a store, a school, and two churches. There was once a winery in Egan, but it closed during prohibition. By the mid-1920s the population had risen to 115. Egan's post office closed sometime after 1930, and the population fell to back to 50 by the late 1940s. By 1990 the population had drifted down to about 21 and has remained at that level.  The Near-Normal Travelers went back to this area to sample the burgers at the Best Burger Barn (previously reviewed in Looking around Lillian in April, 2016). Parked in front of the restaurant was a 1937 Ford business coupe, harkening back to just after Egan was in its heyday. For information about my rating system, see Reading the Reviews.