This year’s Candlelight Christmas in Ryan Place, which takes place this weekend, marks a milestone and something of a victory lap for the neighborhood association.
In its heyday, Ryan Place — the first ever planned development in the City of Fort Worth — was home to the city’s cattle barons, bankers, and oilmen. After the stock market crash of 1929 and the subsequent depression, construction ceased and the area went into a long period of decline. By the 1960s, the former grandeur of many of the mansions was a distant memory with many houses abandoned and many in a woeful state of disrepair.
The absolute nadir of the neighborhood was a 1969 proposed scheme to convert 5th and 6th avenues into one-way arteries to ferry traffic in and out of downtown. The nadir was also the turning point for the community when 150 residents united to form the Ryan Place Improvement Association, which successfully defeated the city’s plan. In 1983, residents arrived at the idea of a Christmas home tour — Fort Worth’s first — to raise money for neighborhood projects.
The first project to be funded was the reconstruction of the distinctive gates designed by famed urban planner George Kessler whose large local footprint includes Fair Park, the all encompassing “Kessler Plan” for Dallas, and schemes to control the periodic flooding of the Trinity River.
Over its history Candlelight Christmas in Ryan Place has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for various projects to embellish the 1911 vision of developer John C. Ryan. And what a difference 35 years has made! With generous city funding the Near Southside continues to revive, with the City of Fort Worth an active partner rather than adversary.
As Candlelight Christmas chair, Chris Gee points out, “Not only does the tour draw attention to the neighborhood and bring visitors in, but also brings neighbors together.”
Advance tickets may still be purchased online through Friday or in person at Old Home Supply at 1801 College Avenue.
Eric Prokesh is an interior designer whose work has appeared on HGTV, and in books and publications including D Home, Southern Accents, House Beautiful, and House and Garden. In January 2005, HG named Eric one of the 50 tastemakers in America and D Home has included him as one of Dallas’ Best Designers for 10 years. Having lived most of his life in Dallas, he now calls Fort Worth home and is one of our experts on beautiful Fort Worth Dirt.