A Poetic Project to Redeem the KKK Meeting Hall in Fort Worth

Transform 1012 N. A coalition of arts nonprofits called Main Street has purchased a building in Fort Worth at the address that served as the meeting hall for the Ku Klux Klan. This is how we treasure the past, and there is no better day to talk about it than today, when we honor the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

About a mile north of the Tarrant County Courthouse, the building was constructed in 1924 to serve KKK Clavern Number 101. It is a beautiful brick structure that once consisted of a 2,000-seat auditorium in which minstrel shows were held. In 1927, it was sold to a department store. According to Coalition Board President Daniel Banks, it has also been a concert hall, a boxing venue, and a ammunition and packing warehouse for the Ellis Pecan Company.

The group envisions a “state-of-the-art cultural centre”. It plans to offer space for art exhibitions, services for LGBT youth, meeting space for workshops and community events, and an outdoor market promoting urban farming and local artists. They’re calling it the Fred Rouse Center for the Arts and Community Healing, named in honor of a black stockyard worker who was killed 100 years ago by a white mob about a mile east of the site.

The coalition includes eight nonprofits: the Opal Lee Foundation, Soul Ballet Folklorico, Tarrant County Coalition for Peace and Justice, DNA Works, LGBTQ Saves, Wellman Project, Window to Your World and 1012 Youth Council.

The purchase was made possible by grants from the Rainwater Charitable Foundation and several other contributors, the banks said.

The vision is for black, Jewish, Hispanic, Catholic, immigrant, and LGBT populations to use the building – in other words, people terrorized by the KKK.

Opal Lee, founder of the Juneteenth Museum and 2021 Dallas Morning News Texan of the Year, tells us she is “enthusiastic.”

“I dream that the building comes to life with all these different groups addressing unity and freedom. I see it as a model for other cities,” she said.

Banks said that very few former Klan halls remain, and they are not aware of any others custom-built for such a group.

According to a 2015 project at Virginia Commonwealth University called Mapping the Second Ku Klux Klan, this organization spread like a virus in the first half of the 20th century, especially in the early 1920s. Between 1915 and 1940, the KKK established over 2,000 chapters with a presence in all 50 states and an estimated membership of over 2 million.

This would likely turn Klan members into their graves to learn how their old meeting halls were being used, which would be reason enough to support the effort. But we think this project is much more poetic than that. Instead of erasing or angering against the history of racial terror in North Texas, this is an opportunity to build something creative in a former sanctuary of destruction, something beautiful from the ashes of a dark history, looking forward to some lessons from the past. .

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