From Sunday, July 21 through Friday, July 26, Sweetums and I drove 2,150 miles from Huntsville, Alabama, to Fort Worth, Texas, and back again. I am posting the stops in order of the trip. The map is below. Most sites will be included in my upcoming Guide to Southern Oddities.
Road-Trip Stop No. 12: Stockyards Hotel, Fort Worth, Texas
When Sweetums and I arrived in Fort Worth, he had a surprise for me. I had no idea what it was until we reached the door of Room No. 305 in the Stockyards Hotel.
There, on a brass plate, was etched the name of the room, “The Bonnie & Clyde.” It turned out we would be sleeping in the same room where outlaws Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow had stayed in 1933. Just to be clear: I don’t romanticize Bonnie and Clyde. They were criminals, through-and-through. But their story does fascinate me, as it does many people, as a study of human nature and how two people could become so single-minded in a life of crime. But delving into the psychology of the lover-criminals does not lessen the impact of the fact that the young couple killed numerous lawmen during their infamous crime spree.
Staying in the Bonnie and Clyde room was like being plopped down into the Wild West era. It was furnished with simple wooden shutters at the windows, a pull-chain toilet, the simple desk and armoire. No phone, no visible television (it was hidden in an armoire). On the walls were memorabilia from Bonnie and Clyde’s crime spree, including a Colt double-action .38-caliber pistol that belonged to Bonnie, photos of the couple and copies of Bonnie’s eerily prescient poems. The most famous poem, “The Ballad of Bonnie and Clyde,” ends with the verses:
They don’t think they’re tough or desperateBonnie PArker
They know the law always wins
They’ve been shot at before,
but they do not ignore
That death is the wages of sin.
Some day they’ll go down together
And they’ll bury them side by side
To few it’ll be grief, to the law a relief
But it’s death for Bonnie and Clyde.”
History of the Stockyard Hotel
The traditional western hotel opened in 1907, conducting business for nearly three decades before Bonnie and Clyde came to Fort Worth. According to VisitDFW.com, the couple chose Room 305 because “it offered great lookout views on the two major Fort Worth streets.” The website also says Bonnie left the gun behind that now hangs on the wall but, according to documentation framed with the gun, it was purchased later from an antique firearms dealer.
In addition to the Bonnie & Clyde room, the hotel offers themed rooms such as The Geronimo and The Davy Crockett, although those men lived years before the hotel was built.
The Stockyard Hotel was constructed in 1907 by Col. T.M. Tannisch, an early developer of Fort Worth, according to the hotel website. It is located in what is now the Historic Fort Worth Stockyards District, a few miles from downtown, where visitors can learn the history of the Texas livestock industry by watching daily cattle drives with longhorn steer, posing with a steer for a photo, watching rodeos and shopping in buildings where livestock was once bought and sold.
The three-story brick Stockyards Hotel was constructed on Exchange Avenue and initially featured a lush lobby and offices on the first floor, as well as a saloon and pool hall, and lodging on the second and third floors. An expansion in 1913 brought additional community bathrooms to each level and eventually each room would have a private bath.
Today, the hotel features Booger Red’s Saloon, a western bar decorated with the taxidermied hind-end of a horse, taxidermied buffalo heads, wildcats and more and cool with a pulley-system ceiling fan, coupled with more modern air conditioning. The restaurant next to the saloon, H3 Ranch, serves up plenty of oversized steaks, of course, as well as roasted ears of corn, spit-roasted pig and ribs.